When your Aide or Para is Absent

This issue has me really ticked off lately. Mostly because of how often it is happening.

“I’m so sorry {mom} but I still don’t have a nurse for Student for tomorrow, Fri 9/7. Please know I reached out to all of our nurses, as well as 6 sister offices. I looked into multiple switches to get Jenny, but unfortunately, none of them worked out. Again, I’m so very sorry, and feel horrible that {Student} is missing his 2nd day of school.”

That is an email that one of my clients received last week. After we had already listed this as one of Mom’s Parent Concerns for our upcoming IEP meeting. When we submitted that concern, we were told “it’s really not happening that often.” Uh huh. Our email collection says differently.

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nurse para absent

Ok, so this has been happening to you too, huh?

If you know me, you know I love public schools, and I really empathize with them. I do! And I know that there is a nurse shortage nationwide. Aides and paras don’t make much money. It’s an entry-level job. They come and go often, unfortunately. I get that, really I do. But my job is to advocate for my own kid and my clients. And too many of them are missing school because of this!

First, this blog post makes the assumption that your child already has a 1:1 aide, para or nurse on their IEP. If you do not, you need to read that post and get working on getting one, if that is your concern.

I also am not going to go into a diatribe about how essential attendance is, how our kids thrive on routine and how detrimental it can be for both kids and parents. You know this.

Aide, Nurse, Para on the IEP

I say in the post that is linked above, ‘you must get everything defined on the IEP.’ Stating that the child has a 1:1 is not enough. You want their duties, responsibilities, qualifications, description of daily tasks, what data they will gather and anything else you can think of.

You also need to get it defined on the IEP who will be with your child for lunch breaks or other short-term things that may occur during a school day.

I also recommend adding, as an SDI, that you get the absence procedure defined.

  • Who does the nurse/aide call in the evening or morning if they are going to be out?
  • And what does that person then do?
  • Who do they call?
  • What backup agencies or substitute lists are there?
  • Who will call them, and how many agencies are on the backup list?
  • At what point does the school contact make the decision that they are unable to find someone?
  • Are there reasonable and safe modifications that can be made to the school day so that the child can still attend? If so, list them on the IEP too.
  • What is the child to do?
  • What will happen if they miss therapy hours that day?
  • Who will ensure that the child receives the missed instruction from that day?

All of these items need to be on your IEP. Where? Eh, it could be an SDI. Or, put it in the description under Related Services or add it to the child’s health or behavior plan. You also need to make sure that you don’t have any specific preferences listed. I know lots of parents do this:  Your child responds really well to a certain aide or person, so you request them. But, if those requests cannot be met, it might mean no support person that day.

I did all that! It’s still happening!

It’s so stressful. I have clients who literally cannot miss any more work without risking their job, due to this issue.

Bottom line, they are not implementing the IEP. The child has a service added to the IEP and it’s not happening. So take the steps you would when your school is not following the IEP. The IEP process is slow, though, I get it. You can’t miss any more work and your child missing school may be causing major disruptions.

I also would consider formally asking for homebound instruction. Ask for one 5-hour day of instruction for every 3 days missed due to this problem. Also, ask that all therapy sessions missed on these days be made up.

Document, document, document. I know it’s a pain.

Should I send them anyway?

No. I gave this advice last week in frustration. “Send him anyway, let them deal with it.”

First, of course, we never thought that he’d be in harm’s way. We’d never do that. But second, if things go well, that can work against you for needing a nurse or aide in your IEP.

Whoever is paying for that nurse/aide is not going to want to keep doing that, if the child is fine without it.

Other suggestions I’ve been given:

Call the agency that supplies your nurse or aide and ask them what can be done. (I didn’t want to just write “call them and complain” but yeah, that’s what you’re doing.)

Go up your school’s chain of command, contacting a school board member if necessary.

Use the IEP complaint options that you have and start filing complaints. And at some point, you may need to contact an attorney.

You should also read the following posts about Aides/Nurses/Paras.


This post was recently updated to check links. 

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