Special Education/role of a aide


What is the role of a classroom aide?
We thought our son's class aide would help "simplify" some of the language in the classroom as our son does very poorly with fast speech? He has a serious auditory processing disorder and SLI.  It's like five minutes after, it goes through. We were told this would get better with age but it hasn't yet. It hasn't gotten worse either. The aide seems to us to do nothing. When she does talk. it's giving orders like the teacher, for him to stay on task.  Some days he complains he hates her. I don't think she's a bad person but bonding is not important. I know kids exaggerate.  I have never seen her once talk to him until the task has already started and he's very confused! She doesn't help prepare him. How can I fashion out a letter to explain what would be helpful to my son and what we expect. Is this normal to expect of an aide? I just don't know. Thank you.

Dear Jamie,

Thank you so much for writing to me!  I neglected to tell the system that I was out of town and so please forgive my brief delay!

The role of an aide is a complex issue. The first thing I would look at is your child's IEP (goals and providers for each goal and accommodation).  Many aides are not trained so I usually advocate for staff training by the appropriate professionals such as speech language pathologists, teachers, special education staff or others.  The best way for you to see what the aide is doing or not doing is to arrange a classroom observation, by you (if you think your child will behave typically while you are there) or by others you trust and have knowledge of his needs.  

The aide's role can be an addendum to the IEP, but it is best defined within the IEP.  For example, if there is a goal for your child to start his task on time, or to paraphrase what the teacher said, etc., then the aide is listed as a provider, supervised by the special education teacher (usually). When the child 'hates' an aide, it is usually because the aide is 'nagging' or the child perceives 'nagging', or the aide and the child are in conflict for some reason.  

A letter from you should be entered into the section of your child's IEP called "present levels of academic achievement and functional performance", but the letter is not enough.  The IEP must be crafted to indicate your son's needs.  

Also, please consider whether your child needs a new set of evaluations.  A functional behavior assessment can target attention issues.  It is a group problem solving activity involving you, so that your son's prompts by adults, interventions, and instruction are integrated with the behavior intervention plan.  

Is a new speech language or audiological evaluation needed to help drive forward the right interventions?  An evaluation process can usually be helpful in answering diagnostic questions such that lead to collection of data about your son's progress and the needed interventions.  Just repeating what the teacher said or cueing is unlikely to be effective.

If you would like to give me more information, please do.  I am happy to take a follow up.  In the meantime, here is a presentation I did on FBA.  I also have a book out, School Success for Kids with Emotional Behavior Disorders.  It is all about learning behaviors and how to fashion the right interventions.  My Special Needs Advocacy Resource Book has sample letters you can use and in general, I hope will help you advocate for your son.  

If you would like to consider my services, please email abc4success@msn.com

My blog:

Thank you so much again for using this service and for writing to me.  I hope my response has helped you and I wish you all the best as you advocate for your exceptional child's education!

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Michelle R. Davis, M. Ed.


I can answer questions about disability definitions and criteria for services, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 2004, No Child Left Behind, 504 plans, how to craft an IEP that drives the appropriate services, school placement, dispute options, and least restrictive environment. I worked in the public school system as a special educator and am now in private consulting practice where we assist parents as they navigate the special education process. I have expertise in all educational disabilities except blind/visual impairments and deaf/hard of hearing. This includes ADHD and other health impairments, medical conditions, dyslexia and learning disabilities, Autism, emotional disabilities, language processing problems, and interfering behaviors.


10 years as special educator and administrator in public school system; Director of ABCs for Life Success since 1998; Expert services such as analysis and testimony; Author: Special Needs Advocacy Resource Book: What you can do now to advocate for your exceptional child's education; Special Needs Advocacy Training Institute; internet radio show Teach Your Children Well: Hot Topics in Education; author School Success for Kids with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders released March 2010 (Prufrock Press).

Masters in Special Education with Emphasis on Inclusive Education (Johns Hopkins University); B.S.in Special Education (James Madison University); Conduct training for Universities, public and private schools, parent groups. Adjunct professor current George Washington University and prior George Mason University.

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