Not sure I’ve discussed this topic yet, so here goes:
My child has several aides.
He has a school district aide and a one-to-one aide for his after school program. He also has a respite person. Additionally, he works once a week with two social skills facilitators.
What happens when the aide talks to you about your child’s day?
Aides typically talk to you at the end of their time with the child. In my experience, they talk to you after a session and usually with your child nearby. They give you their report of the time spent with the child.
Again, in my experience, most of the aides I have worked with have been honest about my child’s behavior. If he behaved badly, the aide tells me. And, vice versa if he was good.
Over time and with much practice, I have learned how to talk to my son while also supporting the aide’s report.
What do I mean by “supporting the aide’s report?”
After getting to know an aide, I begin to trust their report. I feel comfortable that they are giving me accurate information.
With “bad” aides, the reports have sounded like the following: “Oh, he was just perfect,” or “I didn’t see him do anything bad,” or “He’s just so handsome.” (This last one was used often by a FORMER aide.)
My child can go long stretches without any negative behaviors. He has matured tremendously and has learned many appropriate behaviors.
The red flag happens when an aide only gives me “nice” reports. Over and over again.
How do I know I have a good aide?
Let’s say I receive a bad report. I talk to my son about the reported behavior right in front of the aide. I immediately support her version of the events, so of like a united front. I know she’s good, qualified, and has no reason to make stuff up. And, I know my son. I can usually tell by his response that I’m getting an accurate version of the events.
I am supporting the aide and doing it in front of my child. I am not questioning the report or believing my son’s report – because many times my son will tell me, “I was good.” Or, if something did happen, I get an abridged version. I also don’t get the details like what led up to negative behavior. What triggered it?
A recent example was a report I received from my child’s after school aide. She has tons of experience and is a very good aide. She told me that my son had ignored her several times.
In front of my child, I told the aide that I expected my son to follow her instructions. We do not approve of him ignoring an aide’s instruction.
Then, I told my son that behavior was unacceptable, and I did this in front of the aide.
Another example is when my child’s regular school aide makes the occasional modification on her own. This aide has been with our child for over five years. I trust her and I support her little tweeks. If the tweeks are small and they work for the aide, then that’s good with me.
The aide will make these changes during a school day and then send me an email about them. If I have a problem with a modification, I will tell her via email. I do not disagree with her in front of my child. (Again, united front.)
What if you don’t agree with how your aide is working with your child?
First, if you feel you are not getting along with your aide, for whatever reason, you can always ask for a new aide.
Second, try to talk to the aide about any personal issues you may be having. Try to do this away from your child. This is not a united front situation. It’s something between the aide and you and it should be private between the two of you.
Remember, communication is the key. The issue could turn out to just be a simple misunderstanding. Talk to each other.
Are there any things that should be made clear?
You have to be clear about a few things.
Number one is that the aide is NOT the parent.
Number two is the aide is NOT the teacher. The aide is with your child as a support. They are not teaching academics. They are there for support of behaviors and to assist with a child’s individualized program.
We have taken the support of the aide one step further beyond simply curtailing behaviors.
We ask the aides to not only help with behavior issues but to assist my child in broking play with his peers. If you ask them to take their involvement one step further, clear it with them first. Make sure what you’re asking for is clearly understood between the two of you. Clearly establish boundaries ahead of time.
What about talking to your child?
My number one rule is to never badmouth an aide in front of my child.
I have gone through many aides. My son has been in the regional center system for nine years. It is very possible to get an aide that just doesn’t “click” with you or your child.
However, discuss the aide, and your reasons that you don’t think it’s working out, away from your child.
When it comes to aides, it does take some experience to know how to get a “good match.” You’ll make mistakes and stay with an aide longer than you should. Or you’ll get the “perfect” aide who decides to leave because she’s getting married and moving to another state.
Either way, I’m a big supporter of establishing boundaries and a clear way to communicate. You must teach your child how to talk to adults while showing them how to talk to a professional. If your aide witnesses how you talk with your child, this will spill over into their working relationship with your child. It can be a win-win for everyone.
To Find Kimberly Kaplan:
www.smashwords.com or Amazon Kindle ebook “A Parents’ Guide to Early Autism Intervention”