What is the Right Number of Aides for Your Child with Autism?

by Kimberly Kaplan

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What is the right number of aides for your autistic child?

In this blog, I’m discussing one-to-one or respite aides and not therapists or facilitators.

Ideally, these aides have some training in autistic behaviors. They are assigned to one child yet they are not necessarily with that child to work on goals for a specific program. Rather, they are with the child for support.

These aides are not babysitters. They are meant to help keep a child safe, handle negative behaviors, and broker social situations.

How many aides should I have for my child?

This question may be a matter of personal choice. Or, it may also be dictated by your child’s program. For example, your child may need an aide wherever she goes.

With a situation that needs lots of support, you may have multiple aides.

Conversely, if your child doesn’t always need an aide, you may have only one or two.

How many aides should we have?

Currently, our child has three aides.

First, there is the one-to-one aide provided by the school district. These aides are also referred to as “shadows.” My child’s school aide only accompanies my child at his school, and she is assigned only to my child. She is not a classroom or teacher aide.

Second, our child has another aide during his after school program. This one-to-one aide is provided by the regional center (in California). From this aide, we ask for three things; assist our child with homework, broker social situations, and step in if our child has negative behaviors.

Third, we have a regional center funded respite person would comes to our home and stay with our child while we go out. She comes to our home a certain number of hours a month.

What is a respite person?

I find that many people have never heard of a “respite” person. I have heard people call their respite person the babysitter just because they don’t feel like explaining “respite” to a lay person. I may have even done that myself.

A respite person is a qualified aide who is paid (again, in California they are paid by the regional center) to assist and shadow your child while you are unable to be with your child for whatever reason. They typically work in your home. The respite is meant to give the parents a break (a respite) from having to parent a special needs child 24/7.

Typically, a respite person is either a person who has a background in special needs who is trained to handle negative behaviors or a family member who knows the child. Or, the respite person can be a combination of both.

In regards to a family member, since we have never had one as our child’s respite person, I can only discuss what other people have told me. It has been explained to me that the person has to be able to handle the child if they are alone with the child. They must have attended a training program or be able to prove that they can properly intervene with the autistic child.

How many aides are the correct number?

Again, I believe this is a personal choice. We have three. Other parents may have more. Yet, other parents may have their kids in a special day class and only have a respite person.

We want a balance of more than one person as an aide for our child. We believe that more than one aide allows our child to have to respond to more than one behavioral approach. Our child has to respond to more than one person and, in return, has to respect each person.

We feel that it’s better for our child to learn to accept authority from multiple sources - not only from parents, teachers, facilitators, or therapists. They must also respect their aides.

Can the aides be in more than one location?

Our child’s school aide can only work with our child while he is at school. The after school aide, however, is technically a respite aide and has, on occasion come to our home to be with our child. Others can be just as flexible.

What should we expect in an aide?

Having an aide means you must be comfortable with that person. The aide will be working with your child. You have to feel comfortable with this match. And, you have to be comfortable talking with this person. If not, you must consider finding a new aide.

You have to like your child’s aide and you have to be able to smoothly communicate with that person. For the benefit of your child, you must be on the same page with all of your aides.

I’m talking about assisting your child in the best way possible. Your child has to be comfortable with her aide and so do you. If a situation with an aide is simply not working, do not be afraid to change the aide. It’ll end up better for everyone, especially your child.

To Find Kimberly Kaplan:

www.kimberlykaplan.com
www.smashwords.com or Amazon Kindle ebook “A Parents’ Guide to Early Autism Intervention”
Twitter: @tipsautismmom

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