My last blog introduced the topic teachers and the aides that are sometimes in their classrooms who are there to help support an autistic child. I call this aide the “inclusion aide.”
What can be one stumbling block?
Well, as I see it, one stumbling block can be the teacher’s acceptance that an aide is in their classroom every day to support only one student.
I bring this up because I have had to deal with one or two “old school” teachers who could not handle this situation.
The bottom line is the inclusion aide is in your classroom to assist one child with their autistic behaviors.
They are there to help that child fit in with your class. Therefore, they are there to try to help you.
Typically, the child is on the “mild” end of the autism spectrum and the IEP team has agreed that the child can handle an inclusive environment. They can keep up with the grade-level work and act appropriately. And, if they have difficulty at times acting appropriately (they have some behaviors), then the aide is there to render support to that child.
When is the decision made to put an inclusion student in a classroom?
In my experience, that decision is made over the summer, and, as far as I know, with the teacher’s input.
Now, what I’ve done in the past is scout the teachers in the next grade level toward the end of the year. I volunteer at the school a lot so I’m present enough to make decent observations.
Usually, after the last big school event of the year, open house, I will introduce myself to the next grade level teachers and ask them a few questions. One question is, “Have you ever had an inclusion student in your classroom?” Another is, “Have you ever had an inclusion aide in your classroom?”
Then, I send an email to the principle requesting my son’s next teacher. Note that I said “request” because there are no guarantees.
Now, here’s a scenario I’ve come across from a teacher:
“I had never had an aide in my classroom and wasn’t too sure about how to teacher with the aide there. However, by the end of the school year, I was quite thankful that that aide was there for that inclusion student. I really am not sure what I would have done without her.”
This came from our son’s second grade teacher.
So, teachers, how do you start? How do you approach a new situation such as this one?
First, the aide is there to help the classroom environment by supporting a child that may have behaviors that may affect your smoothly run classroom.
They should not be there to work against you, but with you.
Second, you’re both adults. In an ideal world, the teacher and aide should get along and respect each other. They need to work together for the benefit of a child, and all of the children in a classroom.
Third, now that I’ve been through a few teachers, I can honestly say that, as a parent, I’m hoping a teacher brings a positive attitude. They may never have had an inclusion aide before, but let’s accept it and move forward.
Remember, I’m the parent and I want what’s best for my child. I also want his classroom experience to be best it possibly can be, and this includes a reasonable classroom experience. I have expectations that teachers are qualified, motivated, and want what’s best for all of their students.
So, the teacher may ask…how do I incorporate an inclusion aide into my classroom?
The first part, I believe, is logistical. Where is the inclusion student going to sit? Because wherever that inclusion student sits, the aide typically sits nearby.
If the student doesn’t need a lot of hand to hand support, the aide can be further away from the child. We’ve been trying in 5th grade to have the aide sit further away to help my son begin to get a feeling of independence.
The location of the student and the aide will have to be worked on and it will probably have to be tweaked more than once throughout the year.
The aide should know the daily schedule. They will need to know, for example, when to prepare their student for a P.E. class because they may have a student who responds to transitions better with a few minutes’ notice (autistic children sometimes have trouble with transitions).
The teacher should also be aware that an inclusion student may need props or tools to help them in the classroom. These include fidget toys, visual pictures, gummy bears for OT issues, or schedule reminders taped on their desks.
Plus, the aide may want to be responsible for these items or the aide many need to take them out or put them away when she feels it is necessary. These things should also be discussed between aide and teacher.
What’s important here is that there may be more activity at the desk of an inclusion student due to the need for the aide to step in or the need for the child to get out a fidget toy.
In my next blog, I will plow forward with more about teachers and inclusion aides.
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