When parents request a “one-to-one” aide or paraprofessional for their child with a disability, they are often left frustrated and lost in knowing how to disagree with the argument made by the IEP team or a PWN denial from the school district.

School staff is trained to quote scripted denials such as:

“You don’t want your child to look different than the other children, do you?”
“If your child has an aide, they will become prompt dependent.”
“Our district doesn’t have the staff or the funding to afford an aide for your child.”

When parents request an aide, you need to have your argument ready to convince the district to grant your request and you need to know what kind of aide support your child needs.

Does your child need one aide assigned to work with your child for the entire school day (bell to bell)?

Or can your child be successful if several individuals rotate during the day?

There are cases in which children share an aide so you need to be sure the IEP specifies that one aide will be assigned to work with your child for the entire school day or for specific settings of the school day, depending on the needs of your child. Your child may only need an aide during certain classes or during transitions. In this case, the district will most likely utilize existing classroom aides to support your child.

It’s very important that the classroom teacher understands if your child’s aide is an “individual aide” or a “classroom aide”. If the IEP states classroom aide, the teacher can “pull” the aide away to work with another child or group of children.

Schools assign one-to-one-aides to children for various reasons:

  • behavior management
  • instructional support
  • social skills training
  • task completion
  • discrete trial training
  • activities of daily living (i.e., toileting, dressing, hygiene, eating, etc.)

If your child needs the support of a one-to-one aide to receive a free appropriate public education, the aide should be assigned to your child, no matter what the task or the need.

It is important that you request an aide who is highly skilled and qualified. Request the aide be trained in “Evidenced Based Practices.” This will ensure the aide understands “least intrusive prompting” and behavior intervention. This will avoid having your child become prompt dependent. This is where you’ll get the runaround.

Although cost should not be the deciding factor to deny an aide, the district will try and cut corners when it comes to training an aide with fidelity. Ask that you be provided with the aide’s training and experience, especially if your child has specific needs that requires aide support. The district cannot deny your child an aide because of the significant expenses they will incur to fund a full-time one-on-one highly trained aide.

It is important to understand that hiring decisions do not fall within the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Hearing officers and courts are reluctant to challenge an aide’s qualifications. That’s why it is important to be very clear why an aide must have specific knowledge and skills for your child to receive a free appropriate public education.

A specialized behavior aide who will implement an applied behavioral analysis (ABA) program to an autistic child requires specific training and ongoing supervision. Similarly, an aide who will provide instructional support needs knowledge and skills in the methodologies delivered by the classroom teacher(s).

Your success in obtaining a qualified aide will be dependent upon how specifically the IEP defines the child’s needs and how specifically the IEP defines the aide’s role in addressing these needs.

Remember that the school district is only required to provide the services, program, or placement that the child needs to receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Your child’s IEP is the legal document that outlines the supports, services and placement required to deliver a FAPE.

All supports and services are determined by assessment, the foundation on which the IEP is developed. Therefore, you can use the evidence that is identified by an evaluation of your child to advocate for the school district to agree to award your child an aide. An evaluation includes standardized tests or assessments, parent input, classroom observations, and teacher input.

If an evaluation is not thorough and comprehensive, it is unlikely that the IEP will meet the child’s unique needs. Since the evaluation describes the child’s needs, the evaluation should also define the services, program, and placement that the child needs. Conversely, district assessments rarely include recommendations for goals, supports, or services. Which is why obtaining an IEE is almost always warranted if you want to have your IEP developed properly and obtain the evidence you need to advocate for an aide.

Because standardized assessments carry such weight, you need to review these assessments carefully. Request clarification if you do not understand any part of the evaluation report. Because you cannot adequately review an assessment during an IEP meeting, you should always request the report(s) in advance of the meeting. The same is true of any draft IEP.

If you believe the school evaluation is inaccurate or insufficient, you may request an IEE. The school is required to “consider” any private evaluations you provide. However, “consider” does not mean the IEP team will accept or adopt the recommendations into the IEP. Moreover, if the school rejects the recommendations in a privately obtained evaluation or an IEE, the school must state the reasons why they denied to adopt the IEE recommendations. 20 U.S.C. §1415(c)

In California, you can request a SCIA (Special Circumstance Instructional Aide) Assessment. This evaluation is solely based upon determining whether or not the student requires an aide to receive a FAPE. Find out if your state has a specific evaluation to determine the need for an aide.

In summary, the decision about whether the school will provide your child with a one-to-one aide will be determined by evidence obtained through evaluation of your child. This evaluation may be conducted by school district personnel or by an evaluator in the private sector. Be sure the evaluation provides a complete description of the child’s unique educational needs and includes clear and specific recommendations that the child requires an aide to receive a free appropriate public education.

Here’s to your advocacy success,

Valerie Aprahamian

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