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What is a Special Education Aide?

Updated: May 25, 2020

What Is a Special Education Aide?

An Aide is someone who often puts the welfare of their students first before their own needs. One who will skip a staff break, because the student was ready to learn. Wait… almost ready. FIX THE SOCK! Fix the sock again. Fix the other sock. No wait…it’s the shoe! “Ok, are you ready to do your work?” Oops, an accident—water everywhere! “Let’s go change.” Found new socks; replaced the wet ones. “I don’t like blue socks; where’s my white socks”?

Time for OT. We have 20 minutes to learn how to write in those little boxes! No time for any socks. Oh man, the pencil broke. That was fun. Breaks another one. Laughing hysterically. Where’s my “quiet voice” visual cards. They were just here. Wait. I left them in the bathroom. Ok…just write it on a Post-it note. Cool. Voice is quiet; he is calm and self-regulated. He practiced writing, and I got the run down of how to support him to write the rest of the week. Or should we type? Break time. Worked a solid 16 minutes and he deserves this break. Every day brings another service or task to integrate.

The Gen Ed teacher is a gem. She always attends to my student. They have a special bond and I foster that by having my student share his work with her. I encourage my student to watch her read a story. To watch and pay atten….oh no, the door is open, it should be closed (at least in his mind). And I say,” I know that you want the door to be closed, but wait two minutes before closing it. ”… “Great Job! You may close the door now”. (tomorrow we will stretch it to three minutes.)

“Time for a five-minute break—I’ll set the timer for you” (and me!) I will prepare your math. Wait…” That paper is Joey’s; please give it back. Would you like one?” Ok. I will get some colored pencils, no—on second thought, you like to break them; then chew on them. I will get the crayons. Five minutes are up. “Yes, thank you for asking so nicely; you may have two more minutes.” Good thing, where is that math?

My student is having a melt-down. I try to figure out what triggered it. Fill out an ABC form to document it. Now what was he doing before the shoe hit the Smart Board? Was it the sock or the shoe…must be the shoe because the socks were wet and then not the right color.

My student has been dys-regulated every day at this time. Hmmm, I will make a mental note to see if a pattern develops. Actually, I need to write it on the Daily Sheet. I just noticed that there is a goal that we haven’t spent time on today yet. Hmmmm….. how can I incorporate “wh” questions with this math? Oh no! water everywhere! Hold that thought.

The peers at his table were so understanding even though he poured water on the table. Green raffle tickets for all! A chance to win a prize is a great reward for dealing with soggy papers! I notice that a peer is a bit sad. I will make sure to talk with her at recess and share a laugh.

Now I am running down the hall. He is so fast, also quiet ‘cause he slinked out the door and took off. “Thanks for the help!” The other Aides always seem to be right where you need them. “Let’s walk back nicely.” Time for a two-minute break at your desk, then read a Problem-Solving Sheet. I am always amazed at the care he takes to “solve his problems” and completes a task to show he is now in compliance and ready to work. He knows order and routines.

He is ready to work! It’s 10 am…let’s do this! Math…”WHere is that math!” WH- question: 1 tally!


Throughout my day, I am consciously thinking about my student. Even when it looks like he or I are not doing anything, I have made that decision and is it important that he isn’t doing something. The breaks fill the space between assignments. They are purposeful--preparing him to be ready to learn.

Often for my student, recess and lunch can be stressful. Social navigations can be overwhelming. The student is often emotionally exhausted by the end of the day. So am I, because, I was right there with him. I was on guard wondering if he might hurt himself, a peer or me. Impulsive violent behavior could erupt anytime. He doesn’t want to cause physical harm to anyone. I do believe that, but he might not be able to “not do it”. I have learned a great level of patience in my own quest for self-regulation.

I am here to keep him safe, protect his welfare and teach him so many things. I back off whenever I can to foster his independence. Even when I think he might not be ready I try anyway because I presume competence. I make many decisions daily and keep the state of his emotional regulation in the forefront of my mind to help balance demands while gently pushing for success. I take direction from many different people and I mold ideas into manageable teachable moments. Wait…did I say teach. Yep, I do things routinely that are typically at the level of a Para-Pro’s job description.

Since being outsourced to a staffing company nearly a decade ago, pay raises are rare, and meaningful recognition from the administration is fleeting. I have been effectively trained by highly skilled teachers and staff. I am working in a union environment without the benefit of being represented by anyone. The staffing company that I am contracted through does not provide any value added to my employment. Other outsourced companies within the district, such as food service, transportation and custodial have local supervisors that oversee and assist their employees as needed.

As a Special Education Aide, I have expertise and experience in the field of autism, however sometimes I feel that my ideas are not valued. I am the one who works with the student for the most amount of time and manage his educational day. I also take directions from up to seven teachers and ancillary staff.

Sometimes, I don’t get it right, but I always try my absolute best. My student is a beautiful child with a unique and clever mind. He shows me compassion and empathy, and he warms my heart with his smile. I will be forever grateful that we learned something new together with or without socks & shoes.

As an Aide, I am not trying to change the whole world,

but I am here to change the world

of one child!

Drawing by B. M. 2019

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