How Much Training is Required for a Classroom Aide?

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(Moved from the Community Helpline)

The school is proposing to have the majority of our autistic son’s special ed services provided by a classroom aide. They are saying the aide doesn’t need formal training or experience because he/she will be supervised by a highly qualified special ed person. How much training is implied by 1400 (E)?

No research supports using the least qualified staff – paraprofessionals – to teach students with complex learning needs. You need to educate those people who think using a paraprofessional to educate a child with autism is a good idea. You won’t do this by waving the law at them, although you can use it to frame questions. (You attended a Boot Camp – remember the Columbo Strategy?)

You need to provide information from acceptable sources – professional educators and people who train educators and administrators who have published articles about why this is a bad idea. Download and make several copies of these articles and provide each member of the team with a copy. If you use Google, you will find many more.

“The Paraprofessional Conundrum: Why We Need Alternative Support Strategies” by Michael Giangreco and Stephen M. Broer
“Although paraprofessional supports may relieve some pressures in schools and be supported by parents and professionals, serious questions remain. Is the model effective? Under what circumstances are paraprofessional supports appropriate to meet the needs of students with disabilities?
“Neither research nor common sense provides support for assigning the least trained personnel to provide primary instructional support for students with the most significant learning and behavioral challenges; yet, that is exactly what is happening across the country.

“… Some paraprofessionals are left to make daily curricular and instructional decisions without the benefit of appropriate training, planning, or supervision from qualified professionals. Some students with disabilities spend the majority of their instructional day with paraprofessionals. These practices are double standards that likely would be unacceptable if suggested for students without disabilities.” Read more

“Questionable Utilization of Paraprofessionals in Inclusive Schools: Are We Addressing Symptoms or Causes?” by Michael F. Giangreco and Stephen M. Broer
“In an era of increasing utilization of paraprofessionals, consider the following list of concerns associated with ensuring appropriate education for students with disabilities when schools rely on paraprofessionals as a primary support in general education classrooms:

  • The least qualified personnel are assigned to provide the bulk of instruction and support to students with the most challenging learning characteristics.
  • It is challenging to hire and retain qualified paraprofessionals because they are paid low wages, sometimes without benefits, and report receiving insufficient respect.
  • The scope and nature of paraprofessional work often is compromised by inadequate role clarification, orientation, training, and supervision.
  • Excessive one-to-one paraprofessional support has been associated with inadvertent detrimental effects (e.g., unnecessary dependence, stigmatization, interference with peer interactions, interference with teacher involvement, less competent instruction).
  • Virtually no student outcome data exist suggesting that students with disabilities do as well or better in school with paraprofessional supports.

Read more

  1. I am Teacher whom has four Instructional Aides. Only 1 has any formal training which is NCPI or Non-Crisis Prevention Intervention. Is this acceptable by law?

  2. Kathy
    If your son has an aide and you are worried about this support being removed, ask that the support be decreased slowly in a scheduled transition – like weaning to help ensure your son’s success. If your sons makes the transition successfully, it was time to end support from an aide. If he doesn’t, this will show that he needs the aide support. Sometimes an aide can support 2 students during the weaning process. Your child’s success is the goal….. Hope I have helped.

  3. The Aide is an important “piece” in the education of a Special Needs Child. The Aide provides a trust factor and very important a “port in the Storm” in the life of a Special Needs Child. This does not mean the Aide is capable of building a Ship.

    Most School Districts make this argument to the parents by their exclusion of Aides in the IEP process. Most Aides have never seen the IEP of the child they are charged with. Aides and Educators are not interchangeable in their responsibilities. In a classroom of 30 plus students, how much professional supervision by a highly trained Teacher is possible? The Aides namesake (Aide) is just that. Aides focus a Special Needs Child’s attention on the curriculum provided by highly trained Educators. I would very much like to get printed materials that support this opinion.

  4. I do not understand why a child on the spectrum needs an IEP. When something goes wrong, he is automatically to blame. Some paras are worse to deal with because many times they cannot even tell you what went wrong. (They are busy talking to others). The paras and teachers often do not know what to do when a child has a meltdown and so it becomes BAD BEHAVIOR. The parents get a letter saying that our child is behaving badly. I don’t think teachers and paras really understand autistic children. They do not treat these children well.

    It’s bad enough when your classmates make fun of you. Then you get a teacher with an attitude – and its all over for your child. I took my child out of school and am homeschooling him. He is happy. At school, he was REJECTED.

  5. I am a teacher in a TMR classroom I have a s. – c.p., visual impairment, ID, seizures- and he has an indiv aide He’s had the same aide for about 3 years, she has much info, but I’m afraid a line has been crossed? The aide has given mom her cell phone #, and calls mom 2-3 times a day from class to tell her about her son. She also writes detailed notes about the s. in a notebook everyday. Mom has bought the aide & son matching H’ween t shirts. When aide was out sick, mom called wanting the cell # of my other assist. who was helping out w/ son. Its gotten to where this aide tells me what needs to be done w/ the s. and gets huffy when I try to change it, like moving his daily PT (not IEP authorized) to our PE time, and not during instruction time. Should I try to encourage some separation, have s. work w/ other aids sometimes?

  6. My son is in 1st grade and has had a paraprofessional included in the IEP. They call her a classroom aide indicating some of the infor you have provided regarding one on one intervention can lead to dependance. My specific question is hard to describe but a few incidences have occurred where I feel if the aide were directly observing my child the situation could have been prevented. One incidence is while standing in line a child bumps into him, knowing children with Aspergers may have difficulty decifering what is a accident vs on purpose, I feel the aide could have interviened befor my child punch the child in line behind him,,,thinking it was on purpose. My child was sent to the principal.
    Could I get a clear definition of how the paraprofession may assist in the classroom with other children as well as my own, Not teaching but assist

  7. My son has autism and it is hard just to get the IEP followed. He is now in the 12 grade and he can’t even tie his own shoes they tell me that he is just lazy. I look at them and say no way it is his autism. He is high functioning but sometimes he has the mind of a ten year old. I had to change him to Occupational Course of Study because he was not getting his IEP met. In other words they just let him sit there and day dream and say that he was lazy. Why have an Individualized Education Program if they are not going to follow it?

  8. I have 2 disabled children attending in L.A District schools. I’m also an employee of the district. As a parent working in special ed, I encounter lots of criticism and judgmental remarks towards parents from staff. This is just one of several situations that occur in the classroom. As a parent, you can’t please anyone.

    At my work site there have been several cases where us paraprofessionals are pulled off our assignments to cover and give instruction while teachers attend meetings. At my site. it’s acceptable for aids to be alone with students, but when our teacher finds herself alone, immediately we are pulled out of our lunch, or our assignments. Will the school district retaliate against my children or me if i speak up?

  9. My disabled twins (14) have both had 1:1 aides their entire public school careers. Sometimes with good results, most times with problems. Outcomes depend on the what is expected of the aide, the needs of the student, teacher involvement and the aide themselves. A “natural” or well trained aide can be instrumental in your child’s progress… a untrained, unsupervised aide, left to their own devices can be extremely damaging to a child – particularly a non-verbal child. I ask to meet with the new aide first – with my kid. I demonstrate, using my kids to facilitate the scenerio, appropriate behavioral and prompting strategies. I explain the little quirks my kids have and how, and when, to address them (if at all.) Neither of my kids can make it without an aide, for completely different reasons – but a warm body isn’t enough – visit, observe!

  10. We started a new moderate-severe program for the district from the ground up. The district provided aides who not only were not trained, but had not been around students with the needs my students have. We started with 4 students. Sounds good, except for 2 of them have severe behavior problems that only I could handle and 1 needs full care. So, who teaches the class? I could only train by example. Then one aide bailed and was replaced by another who needed more supervision than the kids. And a principal who was constantly changing the schedule. Got another kid with a 1 on 1 who makes arbitrary decisions. The aide who made it through the year has to be constantly guided, but she is worth it. My reward? Non-reelection.

  11. Virtually no student outcome data exist suggesting that students with disabilities do as well or better in school with paraprofessional supports.
    Has data ever been taken? Most strategies take lots of repetition. How much training do you need to prompt someone to pick up there pencil 30 times per day.
    Schools are much more likely to give you a parapro. then one on one with a professional.
    I’m a parent and my son with autism has done very well with parapros. They need to know him not a bunch of text book crap.
    Do a study then decide.

  12. Can you please help me. I need to know how to justify an student with autism to have an aide with him. The county wants to remove his aide. The county is trying to say that he needs to be more independent. I know that. At this time he is really improving his academics. He will have an opporturnity to go to the Tech Center for Culinary Arts. His aide is doing an great job. What do I do?

  13. How do I get the school district to comply with getting my son who has Autism with Dev. delays a one on one aide? He has self-care issues and no awareness of danger. His pre-school teacher has informed me that he will no longer sit-down at table time to get general instruction. His appropraite needs are not being meet. He will not do the work put before him because he works in gross motor skill not able to write,or color in lineand does not understand certain verbal request He is visual learner. Has problems with sensory issues that is being addredsed with OT and Speech for his languagealso using PECS> Thank you

  14. I have been told by the autism expert at the Virginia Department of Education that they endorse the Skill Competencies document published by the VAC and they share it througout the state. They also offer funding to the VAC for tuition reimbursement and to develop new training programs across Virginia. You can access this document online at

    This document provides an overview of what skills and competencies are necessary for a paraprofessional or professionals who are working with children with autism in Virginia.

  15. I asked for and received a crash course from the spec ed preschool teacher on methods for helping our son for his 1:1 aide for Kindergarten. She said that it was a great help!

    You could always ask if the aide can sit in on a special ed classroom to learn techniques for a couple of days; the district saying “no” is the worse thing that can happen, right?

  16. Tammie: Yes, there is something else you need to do. Given the complexity of your child’s disabilities, I doubt that the school staff know what he needs.

    Does he see health care providers or specialists in the private sector? If so, you need to enlist their help. As the parent, you have less clout and credibility than specialists and educators.

    Get at least one provider to attend a meeting with the school staff. This person needs to describe your child’s disability, what he needs, and what will happen if the school won’t provide what he needs.

  17. My son has Cortical Vision Impairment and Spastic Quadraplegia and I am fight with the schools to get a one-on-one aide for him. He’s in preschool right now, and is unable to move his hands and arms at his will.

    I asked what determines eligiblity? they reply “need”.

    I feel there would be definite benefits educationally and additional therapy too it would enable him to “see” what he needs to do using other senses such as touch and also use the search mode to explore his environment.

    Is there something else I need to do to convince them of this need? Trying to get it listed on his IEP for the extended school year and also the next school year.

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