Autism Parenting: Losing A Long Term Aide

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My son has been with his school aide since kindergarten.
He’s now in fifth grade. He has had his school aide for well over five years.
That’s consistency.

Why is consistency so
important?

When you find a good aide the goal is to keep that aide for
as long as possible.

What are you looking
for in an aide?

You like the aide personally, he/she seems to connect with
your child, the aide understands what the parents want for their child, and the
aide seems to have some knowledge of behaviors of autistic kids.

It’s sometimes not easy to find these people. And, once you
get one, people have lives. They get married, move, and/or have babies of their
own. Life interferes.

I’m a big fan of consistency mainly because we’ve had some
excellent luck. The school aide, the respite person, and my son’s DDT
supervisor were all long term. And, all excellent.

My heart goes out to families who have trouble with aide consistency.
The more often you change an aide, therapist, or facilitator, the harder it is
on your child. You may be throwing challenges and changes at your child more
often than they can take it. Sometimes, the children are not ready for change.

Are there negatives
with consistency?

One negative I have had experience with was the time a teacher
pointed out that she felt there were times when the aide and my son treated
each other like feuding siblings. They knew each other that well and they knew
how to push each other’s buttons. At times, it was distracting to the class.

What happens when you
lose a long term aide?

My son’s aide worked with my son while also putting herself
through college part time.

Last spring, she finally earned her college degree in a
field unrelated to education or special needs. She put five years of education
(and the money) into forging a future for herself.

We worried about her finding a new job over the summer. But,
when that didn’t happen, she came back to our school and was again assigned to
my son.

Still, the news a few weeks ago that she had found a job and
was leaving did not totally shock us.

How did we tell our son?

The principal was the first to tell me the news at a school
function. Unfortunately, the timeline she gave me initially was
miscommunicated. The principal had originally told me we had two weeks for the
transition, however it turned out to be one week.

At home, I discussed the news with my husband and we decided
to wait to tell our son until we heard from the school officially. We wanted to
meet the replacement aide first.

It didn’t quite work out the way we had planned.

Two days later, the aide emailed us to inform us of her
departure. We told our son that day.

What did we say to
him?

We told our son that his aide had put herself through
college to be able to work in a different field. She had a strong passion to
work in this field, and we knew she had been looking for new employment.

We told him, first and foremost, that we were happy for her.
She is young and had worked hard to put herself through college, and now her
dream was coming true. But, most importantly, we believed she was doing the
right thing, and was not doing anything to purposely harm him.

We confirmed with our son that his aide adored him, and she
WANTED every year to be assigned as his aide. The school district knew they
were a good match and had put them together for that reason.

But, it was time for her to move on.

How do we thank our long
term aide?

I’m a gift card person so we bought the aide a very generous
gift card and a “thank you” card. My husband and I signed the “thank you” card.

We had our son go one step further. We asked him to write
her a letter. He’s eleven and writes well. I asked him to put his feelings down
on paper. He did a very nice letter, and asked us to NOT read it!

I bought the aide flowers that morning and sent everything
all with my son to school on her last day.

This aide was worth all the hubbub. You’re not always going
to get the good ones. And, when they do have to leave, try to feel good for
them. Usually, they’re moving on because they need to, not necessarily because
they want to. And, certainly not because of anything you or your child did.

When I began to feel comfortable around aides, therapists,
and facilitators, I learned one important thing, the good ones LOVE working
with kids. It’s in their blood. Even if they move onto something completely
different, I believe they have a connection with children. Be happy you had
them in your life, and your child’s life, for as long as you did. And remember
to thank them. 

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