When Generic Isn't Good Enough

Surgeons are trained to operate, dentists are trained to drill and fill, why does the job description of classroom aides for children with autism say only that “ability to lift” is required? Surely lifting is a sign of failure when it comes to autism -- not success -- since by the time a child, or adult with autism needs to be man-handled, the system has truly failed that person. The absurdity of the lifting criterion is amplified when one realizes that many children with autism are already in behavioral intervention programs and have no use for a large aide capable in heavy lifting! They do, however, have a need for aides trained in behavioral intervention based on the field of Applied Behavior Analysis. Without expertise in this field, aides for children with autism are simply high priced babysitters. What a shame, since the money spent on untrained aides is completed wasted when the same money could be spent on treatment; spending hours with an untrained aide is also a complete waste of the child’s time.

Autism is one of the few disabilities where classroom aides currently learn on the job from people who have no idea what they are doing. A medically fragile child has a nurse tending to his/her condition under the supervision of a doctor. Would we have it any other way? No, we wouldn’t. Imagine if deaf children had to communicate with teachers who began the year not knowing how to sign. Almost everyone would agree that the ability to sign should be a prerequisite for teaching deaf children who sign. So why is it that school systems think nothing of hiring generic aides who know nothing about behaviorism to interact with children with autism?

It is time for parents to demand the bare minimum: trained aides for children with autism who work under the auspices of a case manager -- a
Board Certified Behavior Analyst with expertise in autism. Is that really too much to ask?