My son finished fifth grade with a new aide. The new aide began in March and was with my son until the end of the school year. During fifth grade, the teacher, RSP person, and the principal all agreed that he had made tremendous progress and that he was “ready” to go without an aide.
How long was the original aide with my son?
My sonʼs original school aide had been with him for almost six years. She got assigned to him at the end of kindergarten and the district just kept assigning her. When she started with my son, she was nineteen. When she left last March, she was twenty-six.
At first, it was rough for her to be an aide to autistic child. She had had no experience with special needs kids. The school sent her to training and I worked with her on my own.
By first or second grade, she had a decent idea of how to work with a child with behavior issues. She had a working knowledge of autism, and she had the desire to keep learning.
How were you able to keep the same aide?
First, we liked this person. Once we saw some progress, we were all on the same page. Plus, we felt she was a good match for our son.
Then we just requested her each year. I would personally do it with the principal at the end of each school year.
And, luckily, the aide kept coming back to the job each year.
She was available and requested, so we got her for six years.
By fourth grade, the teacher commented about my son and the aide. “Sometimes itʼs like theyʼre brother and sister. Some days they get along just fine, while others….”
For the most part, my son and his original aide developed a nice working relationship and even had a shorthand way of communicating with each other. It was comforting for all of us.
So, how did I approach a change?
The aide had been working while putting herself through college. Finally, she graduated the year my son finished fourth grade. She had worked for a college degree that was NOT in the field of education. Therefore, I knew the day would come when she would get a new job and leave.
I guessed that the aide would transition the summer before fifth grade. However, the job market was still tough and she returned to be my sonʼs aide for fifth grade.
It was a delight for her to see my child’s accomplishments and growth in fifth grade. He really was becoming more independent.
She knew we were working toward leaning off the need for aide. With instruction from the RSP person, she began a modified schedule where she began to back off during certain times of the school day.
A few months later, the day came when my sonʼs aide got a new job.
How did I tell my son?
In one way, we were losing a good friend of the family. She wasnʼt going away forever (she still lived nearby), but it did sort of feel like that.
We had grown comfortable with this aide. She was sweet and caring and adored my son. Plus, she wanted him to succeed.
And, yet, I knew she was a young woman who had plans for her life. She had put herself through college for a reason. When she was ready, I knew we had to let her go.
And, so did our son.
I told him that his aide had found a new job and she was going to be leaving. I stressed that she had put herself through college for a different field of work and now she had to move forward with her own life. She was getting married in the fall and she now had a new job. She was getting all she deserved.
Mostly, I stressed that none of this change was his fault. It was natural change that happens all the time.
I told him his aide loved working with him and cared about him.
He was accepting of this change. He understood. It helped that he was feeling independent, too.
Next week, Iʼll discuss how we transitioned from the old, long term aide to a brand new aide. And, after that I’ll discuss how we’re dealing with the question, “Do we need an aide to start middle school?”
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