Autism Parenting: Has Your Child Outgrown An Aide? (Part 2)

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In my last blog, I discussed when to consider weaning off
your autistic child’s aide. I also mentioned how to begin the process.

How do you begin the
process?

I believe the parents must meet with the entire the IEP team
and discuss beginning the process of weaning off the school aide. Make sure to
have a thorough plan in place by the end of the IEP meeting. This includes
concrete strategies that can be put into place within a reasonable period of
time.

I suggest you make sure the aide’s hours are not simply cut – especially
without your knowledge. The best approach is to keep using the aide but in a
modified way, slowly pulling the aide back more and more each week.

What strategies can
you try?

First, try slowly beginning to adjust established routines.

Here’s an example:

My child is used to taking care of his body in a certain
way. He would go out to the yard during the school day for five minute breaks.
His aide would have him runs a few sprints, do a few jumping jacks, or stretch
on the monkey bars. After five minutes, they would return to class.

Without an aide present, he can no longer go outside because
he cannot go out alone.

This was a routine that had to change if my son wanted aide
independence.

I discussed this change with my son and he understood that
he would have to find a way to leave his old routines, and possible begin new
one inside the classroom or maybe the hallway.

Second, if your child still needs those breaks, you would
have to find new classroom-friendly replacement options. Don’t assume their
issues with a “high engine” will suddenly disappear.

However, the child now has to find quiet ways – inside the
classroom – to take care of his/her OT-related issues.

Third, you’d also want to try to reduce the number of engine
breaks needed throughout the day.

My son was used to having three or four engine breaks a day.
We had to find a way to reduce that number. We worked on it slowly, three, two,
and now he only needs one or zero!

What are some
strategies that can help keep a child inside the classroom?

Besides some of the strategies I’ve already mentioned, there
are other ways you can begin the process of weaning your child off of their
aide.

First, keep in mind that any strategy needs to be discussed
with the IEP team but most importantly with the teacher. This is their
classroom. Their input is invaluable and they need to feel comfortable with the
changes.

Second, try a different chair if you feel your child has
trouble sitting in the classroom. He/she may be requesting outside breaks
simply because of their chair.

For my son, the OT person arranged for him to begin using a special
chair with a yoga ball as a seat. This helped him tremendously since he sits on
a yoga ball at home all the time. All we did was find him a substitute at
school.

A third suggestion from my own experience is to try
something called a “fidget box.” The fidget box has quiet toys that a child can
squeeze. The theory is that when a child’s body feels stressed but the teacher
is in the middle of instruction, the child can pull out a fidget toy and help
himself get through the lesson. Later, he/she can take a break at a more accommodating
time.

Fourth, you might need to create a list of in-classroom
exercises he/she can do quietly in the back of the room. Examples are push a
wall, hug themselves, or shake their hands while taking deep breaths (they can
incorporate “smell the flowers”).

The process of weaning off your child’s aide will probably take
some time. Please don’t think this process will be completed two or three
weeks. I’d shoot for two or three months (minimum), just to be on the safe
side.

You don’t want to get rid of your child’s aide and then have
the child backslide.

I believe the process of weaning off an autistic’s aide is a
positive step toward independence for your child. Look for the signs that your
child may be ready for this step. I believe it can help the future of your
child’s school situation, but should be handled with care. 

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