Why a 1:1 Aide May Not Be the Answer

Many students that struggle are assigned a 1:1 aide as a form of support to access their educational and social needs. While some can truly benefit from consistent 1:1 support, others can be negatively impacted.


Many 1:1 aides are wonderful people dedicated to the children they support. They want only the best for the school and the families that they work with. They may assist in the provision of special education and related services under the supervision of a qualified teacher or related service provider, such as:

  • provide instruction for small group instruction
  • implement positive behavior support interventions
  • facilitate social interaction between peers with and without disabilities


The expanded utilization of paraprofessionals in instructional roles is NOT based on data that suggest students with disabilities do as well or better educationally with paraprofessionals than they do with special educators or general education teachers. Nowhere does the literature present a strong conceptual or theoretical rationale that explains the practice of assigning the least qualified staff member (aides) to make critical decisions and provide primary instruction for students with the most complex needs (Downing, Ryndak, & Clark, 2000); Giangreco & Broer, 2005).

Well-meaning assistants tend to maintain too close proximity with students.  They often maintain regular physical contact, sitting immediately next to a student, and accompanying the student everywhere. While select students may need this level of help, many do not. Such proximity can be detrimental to the students. They may learn to rely on this level of assistance and peers avoid students due to the presence of an adult.

If the IEP does not teach the student skills to become independent, it may be denial of FAPE. Especially if the aide’s constant presence fostered learned helplessness, which prevents student from learning to function on their own.

Individual 1:1 help can have far-reaching effects on the following:

  • Classroom teacher’s ability to assume ownership for the student
  • The frequency and types of peer interaction
  • The student’s ability to become an independent learner
  • Interfere with natural supports (peers)
  • Loss of privacy
  • Isolation

Teacher Role Becomes Clouded

When the 1:1 aide is seen as the adult in charge of a supporting the student, they can easily turn into the adult in charge of every aspect of the child’s school experience. Many times teachers, counselors, administrators, and parents resort to addressing the aide and not the child.

  • Experienced, skilled teachers defer important curricular, instruction and management decisions about a student to the paraprofessional
  • Curriculum modification and adaptation may be left up to the paraprofessional
  • Extra paraprofessionals may be viewed as the “expert” in understanding the student’s needs.

Change the Conversation

  • Focus on the needs of the student to develop independence. Identify when the aide is necessary and teach specific support strategies to eventually fade the aide when/ if appropriate.
  • Implement instructional/behavioral strategies prior to considering additional assistance.
  • Can the support be provided by sharing an aide with another student? This will allow for more independence while still having staff available when needed. If the students are in the same class and have similar levels of needs, this option can be very beneficial.

Independence Plan

Develop a system for addressing a request for assistance (not a 1:1 Assistant).

  • Current supports
  • Schedule for assistance
  • Goals
  • Fade assistance as soon as independence increases

Every Child is Unique

Every student has has unique needs that will need to be addressed on an individualized basis. When making decisions it is important to understand that their are often many solutions to help overcome challenges. While a 1:1 aide may help some, it may over support another. Finding balance is often the largest challenge in helping our children become happy adults.

What are your experiences with 1:1 support?

Does Your Child Have A Positive Behavior Plan?

Does your child struggle with behaviors that others may not understand? Is your child constantly being punished?

All IEPs allocate a portion to discuss behavior plans that may be needed for a student. More often than not, many of the strategies are progressively punitive. This means that the first step is moving from green to red, the the next consequence will result in removing a portion of the day that the student finds enjoyable, and so on. While a small group of students may find this effective, there is very little research that punitive actions will replace bad behavior.

Here are tips to consider if your child’s behavior is impacting their education.

  • What is the function of the behavior? Many behavioralist would argue that all behaviors have an antecedent. This means that behaviors (good or bad) are done for a reason. In and ideal situation, if the antecedents are addressed, the behaviors should no longer be present. Consider having an Functional Behavior Analysis done to help identify the function of the behavior. These assessments can be done by a behavioralist and can be paid for by the school district. The observation component will be done in various settings.
  • Is the behavior a result of the child’s disability? Many factors should be considered when making this determination. Do not wait until the behavior has become an issue and the student is now being considered for school-wide consequences. This can be considered during an FBA and sharing information about the disability that impacts your child’s behavior can be helpful. This is when a good relationship with the CST helps. Don’t be afraid to provide additional research to parents, teachers, and case managers. No one can possibly read every piece of research that is available. Having discussions prior to a manifestation determination meetings can be very impactful.
  • Is your child ever rewarded for doing what is right? More and more schools are moving towards Multi-teired Systems of Supports (MTSS). One of the models is Positive Behavior Supports in Schools (PBSIS). This program should be done on a school-wide level and then additional supports should be provided to students, classified or not, to help them find strategies for replacing negative behavior with positive. Many schools use a token reward system where students are provided with a ticket when they are “caught” following the school rules. This reinforces positive choices.
  • Be consistent! One of the major struggles with parents and teachers is to find balance between everyday unavoidable occurrences and structure. If the behavior was wrong yesterday, it is wrong today, and it will be wrong tomorrow. Work with a behavioralist to determine the best method of building continuity between home and school.
  • Teach your expectations. Teaching expected behavior is often over looked, especially as children become older. It is assumed that they should know appropriate behavior. Teachers, school staff, and family members should teach and model appropriate behaviors in a variety of environments.

To help your child, communication is invaluable. Sharing inform about your child and how their disability impacts their behavior will help to avoid unnecessary punitive consequences. Focus on your child’s strengths and reinforce when they exhibit appropriate behavior.

Remember that a child’s worth is not determined through their behavior. Identify the behavior as good or bad, if necessary, but never the child.