Guidelines and Justification for a 1:1 Aide/Para on an IEP.
Some schools call them 1:1 aides, some call them paraprofessionals. Here in my state, we call them PCAs. Yes, another special education acronym. But, regardless of what your state calls it, you landed here because you think that your child needs a 1:1 during the school day. So, how do you get the school to say yes to adding it to the IEP?
I cannot believe I have not done a post on this already. I meant to, I think I even had a draft at some point, but not sure what happened. This is one of the most common questions I hear from parents. What I find is that most parents have the right ideas in their head, they just have trouble translating their thoughts to IEP language and process. Let’s dig in to “how to get a paraprofessional for my child.”
Because one of the most common answers I hear to this question, from other parents, is: “Have your doctor write a note!” Very well intended, but there is much more to it than that. (I actually have that bit of advice under my 12 Worst Pieces of IEP advice.)
It’s not a totally terrible piece of advice, just in isolation, not really worth it. I chuckle to this day when I think of the day my son’s neurologist said, “Just tell them he needs to be in ABA.” Right. I’ll just walk into an IEP meeting, tell them that and I’ll get it. If only it was that simple!
But, I digress. Back to “how to get an aide for my child at school.”
How to Get Your Child a One on One Aide at School.
Remember, IEPs are based on what a child needs.
- Define the need. First thing is, you have to define it. I’ve blogged many times before about what I think is the most important part of the IEP, the Present Levels section. Present Levels is what drives the IEP services. So you need to make sure that your child’s PL is thorough and accurate. In your head, visualize what you see a 1:1 doing with your child. What areas of need will they address? Attention to a task? Focus? Behavior redirection? Preventing autism elopement? Teaching and redirecting social skills or executive function skills? If your child is in an inclusion setting, perhaps they have a modified curriculum and a para is needed to teach/re-teach the curriculum while regular teacher is teaching the rest of class. Think about what skill deficits and behaviors that your child has that would warrant a 1:1 and make sure they are clearly identified in the Present Levels section or in you ER/RR.
**A doctor’s note supporting the areas of need/skill deficits may help, but it should not be your only documentation. It is not the slam-dunk that many parents think it is, as far as getting an aide.
- Define the tasks/responsibilities. Now that you have the areas of need identified and documented, think about what a 1:1 could or would do with or for your child, to help them with these skill deficits. You need to have the responsibilities and tasks of the 1:1 clearly defined on the IEP. This will prevent any problems later, should your child not make progress or find themselves in a disciplinary setting due to behaviors (behaviors you wanted to be addressed by having a 1:1). You also do not just want someone doing these tasks for your child. The whole idea is to guide and ultimately teach the skills and “fade the aide” as they say. The goal is that your child can do these things on their own, right?
- Approach your team. Once you have the areas of need and the tasks defined and written out (by you or your advocate) I would approach the IEP team. No surprises. If this is a genuine need for your child, there is nothing to be gained by springing it on them at a meeting. Request an IEP meeting and say, “I wish to discuss my child having a 1:1 to address the following issues.” And list them. Then list what you see the 1:1 doing during the school day.
- Ask to see the form. Many districts have internal documents and forms for teams to fill out, requesting a 1:1. Ask to see it, so that you are aware of how your school determines need. If they refuse, you can do a FOIA request.
- Define the 1:1 Paraprofessional. Areas of need, check. Tasks and responsibilities, check. Now, what type of aide is best suited for this? Do you need someone who really knows behaviors? Autism? ADHD? ODD? Reading and literacy? Read your district’s and your state’s websites on what qualifications they look for, as far as a paraprofessional, a PCA, a BHT or a teacher’s aide, just to name a few. You are not getting a babysitter! The ultimate goal is to “fade the aide” and so you want someone who can teach and guide your child towards independence.
- Be Prepared to Hear NO. First, think of it from an administrator’s point of view. You basically are asking them to add another full-time or part-time staff person to the payroll. That’s expensive, so in reality, they shouldn’t just be handing them out to anyone who asks. They may offer some other steps before leaping to a 1:1. This is where you have to decide “is this my hill to die on?” so to speak. How far will you take this? Whatever they offer as a result of the meeting, make sure you get it on a PWN. Then take your full ten days to think it over and decide, will you accept this, take to mediation or due process? The special ed world is a culture of NO anyway. So take some time, regroup, gather more data and documentation and keep pushing.
- If at first you don’t succeed…If you are told no, go back to the drawing board. Remember, things like “We don’t do that here” and “we don’t have the money for that” are not valid reasons. It’s about the child and their individual needs.
Types of Special Education Aides/Paraprofessionals
As I stated in the first paragraph, different schools and different states call them different things. If you are not having success looking it up online to get more ideas, try changing your wording.
- one on one aide
- one on one paraprofessional
- behavioral support aide
- behavior support professional
- special needs aide
- autism aide
- autism support staff
- PCA-personal care assistant
Is a 1:1 Aide LRE for your Child?
LRE or Least Restrictive Environment is something to consider as well. For a kid, it’s really just not too cool to have a grown up hanging around you all the time.
Having a 1:1 is considered a more restrictive environment. Depending on your child and their individual needs, moving them to a different setting (such as a private school) should be considered.
You have to think about your child. What is more restrictive:
- having an adult shadow them all day, every day in the regular ed setting?
- or a private setting, which on paper is more restrictive, but the child would be able to walk around the building and campus without an adult, thus enjoying more freedom?
- Or, is having a 1:1 allowing a child to remain in the regular ed setting, as opposed to a pull-out or self-contained classroom, thus more LRE?
A 1:1 can be considered more restrictive or less restrictive, depending on what the other options are for the child. But IEPs are supposed to be Individualized, so you have to weigh your own child’s situation and pros and cons.
Getting a 1:1 added to your child’s IEP is a serious decision. But hopefully, I have given you enough of a framework to help you get to YES with your school, if your child needs a one-on-one.
How to Request a One-to-One Paraprofessional for your Child
But I really want them there. What can I do?
Ask. Put it as part of your parental concerns when you send that in. Some schools have a 1:1 aide justification form. That usually is filled out by school staff, not parents. Still, if you can find it on the school website, you can use it to craft your parent concerns letter.
Since you specifically asked for it in writing, they are required to address your request via a PWN. So if they say no, ask for it on a PWN and take it from there.
Use the information on my website, as well as what you can learn from your Parent Training Center…to remain professional, child-focused and someone your team looks forward to seeing.
You can maintain a positive relationship with your district.
Remember, there really are only a few bad apples in the bunch, most want to help your child and are doing the best they can with what they have.