Former Special Education Instructional Aide at Paradise Unified School District
almost 2 years ago
That would depend on what age group you are working for. At my first school, I worked in the K-5 Special Day Class with children whom had mild to moderate Autism, ADD/ADHD, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, and even Emotional Disturbance. My day would typically be revolved around my kindergarten-second graders whom needed the most round-the-clock supervision/assistance. I would begin by escorting them off their buses and bringing them to the cafeteria for breakfast. Their day would be 20 minute rounds of work then play, with each of them having a certain time of the day to push out into general education classrooms. At the end of the day all students in every grade would come together for a group activity, usually an art or science project, then they would go out for PE. It is my job as an aide to make sure all students feel supported when doing work/play and to assist managing their behaviors as they come.
My second school was also elementary level, but with the Functional Life Skills classroom. This means that we had students again K-5 whom had moderate to severe Autism, ADD/ADHD, and Down Syndrome. Since this class is more about teaching them how to function by themselves, our days were much different. We would again start the day by escorting them off of the bus and taking them to get breakfast. We would then give them about an hours worth of group playtime to encourage social skills with their peers. Then they would go back to the classroom where students did several round of 5-10 minutes of work then play, with the work being reiterating basic skills such as ABC's, basic counting and sight-words. We would then go back to the cafeteria for lunch and more outside group playtime. At the end of the day we would bring the kids together to do an art project that is aimed to sharpen fine motor skills. Most work during the day has to be hand over hand, meaning that you would put the pencil in their hand, put your hand over theirs and guide them when writing. Same goes for using other tools such as scissors. The children in the functional life skills room typically have little to no speech and we have to use a book full of numerous pictures that help the children communicate their needs. It is also our duty to assist with any bathroom needs. One super important thing to remember is to be incredibly vigilant. Children in this classroom are more likely to elope (term used meaning to flee or run) and it is important when traveling in open areas to hold the students hand at all times. These children also have high sensory needs and are more likely to put things into their mouths (to try and feel them) and we have to watch for any choking hazards.
At my current school, I work in a 7th and 8th grade Special Day Class. My students have mild-moderate Autism, ADD/ADHD, Oppostional Disorder Disorder, and various learning disabilities, some paired with health impairments. My day starts with coming into the classroom and entering scores into the grade book from the previous day. We have the students do Warm-Ups then work, with the available choice of opting out of any assignment in the moment if the student gets too stressed out. I make my rounds around the room and assist students as needed. I then push out to a PE class. I personally manage three of our most defiant students whom were put into the same PE class, and my job is to support/ encourage them to participate while tracking any behaviors displayed. I then go back to the main classroom where I help the students set up on their Chromebooks to do computerized math programs, each tailored to their own level. After lunch, I push into a general education history class then into a computers class next. When pushing into general education classes it is my job to make sure the students do not get overwhelmed, track their assignments, and confer with the teachers to be sure that assignments are modified as needed. The last two periods of the day are Academic Support and the students may use this time to catch up on work, seek help, or even rest if needed. Daily tasks typically include, answering phones, grading papers, filing, running errands around school, tracking /managing behaviors, and helping any of the students with whatever problems they may have. At the end of the week, the students have the opportunity to purchase out of our classroom store that I usually open up, and if all work if complete we can either watch a movie, play group games, or walk to the nearby park where students can get some free outdoor time. My job also can require me to sit in on IEP Meetings (Individualized Education Program). These meetings are to tailor any needs and create goals for each student to meet during each semester. These goals can be anything from academic, social, or personal such as accepting disappointment. These meetings are usually attended by: the student (depending on age), the students parents/guardians, the special education teacher, all the students general education teachers (if any), any or all of the instructional aides, the school psychologist, and the case manager.
Another thing that has occurred at two out of the three schools I have worked at is having to file CPS reports. There are many reasons to file reports, and as a mandated reported I am required by law to file them if needed. If something occurs, I have to file a report and also call in and speak to someone who does intake at the county. Unfortunately, there are numerous reasons to file a report and it has to happen often. Some of the reasons I have had to file a report are: suspected homelessness, suspected domestic violence, suspected drug abuse in home, and suspected molestation. Unfortunately these things do happen, and I have personally had to witness the aftermath of children being taken from their parents.
Overall, this job is equally rewarding as it is stressful. There are a lot of reasons people would not want to do this job as there are a lot of very difficult duties that come with it. I will say though that if you are a person who wants to major in psychology and wants to give back, then this job is incredibly life changing.