Whether you are teaching a regular education classroom with a student with autism or an actual special education classroom, chances are you will require help. A teacher's aid working with autistic kids can be a great benefit to the classroom when prepared and utilized correctly within the classroom.
What is a Teacher's Aide?
A teacher's aide is is an individual who was hired to work under the direction of a classroom teacher either with multiple children or one individual. The required amount of education and experience will vary depending on the who is hiring, what skills are required and what type of classroom he or she will be working in. While some teachers are able to meet with and train their aides ahead of time, it is not uncommon for the first meeting to occur when school is in progress.
Defining Classroom Role
Establishing her general role in the classroom can help avoid conflict later in the school year. For example, discussing what situations you are okay with her making independent education choices for the student or students she will be working with and when you want her to consult you first will allow you both to be clear. Another issue to figure out in the beginning is what role they will play in communicating with the parents. Often times an aide will ride a school bus with the students and therefore interact with the students parents on a daily basis. Specific topics of discussion that you would prefer to only involve you should be mentioned to avoid a situation that will be hard to fix later. Organization is also required to make sure that the aide can come in each day and work without having to have direct instruction during one of the busiest times of the day, when students first arrive. Maintaining a known schedule will make this possible and allow everyone to work together.
When working with autistic kids, there are some techniques that are beneficial such as how to properly reward good behavior, setting up and following schedules and actual teaching through applied behavioral analysis or other methods. Although, these might seem like straightforward things to a teacher that has experience, it is likely that the teacher's aide is coming into the job with different experience. Providing proper instruction and the reasons behind why you want things done a certain way will allow the teacher's aide to do the job you need from her. For things that need to be done in an exact way, such as ABA instruction, behavior plans and data collection, it might be necessary to provide formal training and follow-up observation to insure that it is done properly.
Working with autistic children can be a stressful job that sometimes is difficult to handle. By working together, you can help each other through difficult times while having a productive year. In order to make the most out of the school year, be respectful of your teachers aide, and treat them as you would any co-worker. Be sure to listen to their concerns and suggestions and follow through whenever possible.