One-to-One Support in the Classroom

December 19, 2019

In the classroom, some individuals with autism require personal assistance and continuous supervision to be safe and to learn.  In some instances, one-to-one support may be needed to achieve these goals.

What Is a “One-to-One” Aide?  

A one-to-one (1:1) aide is a type of paraprofessional or Educational Support Professional (ESP) who is assigned solely to one student. The student may need assistance learning social skills, transitioning between activities or locations, staying on task, completing daily living skills, or reducing challenging behavior. The role of any ESP should be to help the student develop these and other skills with the goal of maximizing the student’s independence.

Supports are based on each student’s specific needs, not on a diagnosis. Students are assigned a 1:1 aide when it is a necessary component of receiving a free appropriate public education (FAPE).  To meet the criteria of least restrictive environment (LRE), each student should have only the supports they need to meet their Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals. Some students with autism do not require a 1:1 aide, and providing one would be considered overly restrictive. For others, it is an essential component of their educational program. Thorough assessments can yield valuable information about the most effective supports for each student and if an ESP/1:1 is needed.

Determining the Need for a 1:1 Aide 

The IEP is the document by which a school district contracts to deliver the FAPE, so the IEP team (including parents) determines if an ESP is needed to help the student progress in his/her goals and at what level. Note:  if a particular support is not written into the IEP, it can be concluded that the team has agreed that it is not necessary at that time.

STEP 1: Identify Need

Understand the rationale for an ESP/1:1 by identifying the issues that need to be addressed such as:

  • Safety and behavioral concerns (elopement, pica, threats to self or others, self-injury, aggression)
  • Academic instruction (individualized or modified instruction)
  • Individualized intervention to facilitate peer interactions

Team members present their findings and observations of the student’s unique needs and strengths during the “Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance” (PLAAFP) portion that opens each IEP meeting. If parents have specific concerns, they should state them during this discussion and make sure that they are noted in the “Parental Concerns” section of the IEP.  The PLAAFP must be in place to make evidence-based evaluations for more effectively addressing parent concerns and the need for a 1:1.

STEP 2:  Consider Alternatives

The IEP team should examine the specific needs of the student to determine if there is another way to address them more effectively. Because of these different needs (safety, behavior, academic instruction, etc.), it is critical that the assigned ESP understands their role and the student’s goals and accommodations, and is trained in the specified procedures and strategies.

STEP 3:  Evaluation and Discussion

An evaluation must be conducted, including assessments, standardized tests, classroom observations, parent input, and discussion of the following questions:

  • What are the student’s specific and unique needs?
  • What assessments are necessary to clarify those needs?
  • Does the student engage in behaviors which impede him/her from accessing FAPE?
  • Does the student have significant needs in daily living skills such as toileting?
  • How does the student function in different classroom environments?
  • For what activities/settings would the student require ESP support?
  • Does the student need significant assistance to navigate transitions throughout the school day?
  • Do the teachers think he/she needs additional assistance throughout the day to receive FAPE?

Considerations for Moving Forward

Finding the right ESP:  Success in obtaining a qualified ESP depends on how specifically the IEP defines the student’s needs and the role of this professional in attending to those needs.  Consider specific qualifications that would make the ESP an effective member of the student’s team. For example, an aide who will be implementing Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) principles and techniques will need specialized training and supervision.  ESPs must be well trained in order to avoid any unintended effects of their presence such as reduced independence or peer interactions.

Ensuring LRE:  Also, it is important to note that a 1:1 aide should not be a substitute for a more specialized teacher and program – if that is necessary for a student’s FAPE. Placements and supports are highly individualized. For example, a student should not be in a self-contained classroom if he/she could benefit from a general education setting with supports. Conversely, a student may not be able to learn or make progress in a general education setting, even with a 1:1 aide. This scenario would be considered a more restrictive placement because the student is not able to benefit from the educational services. Some students may learn more in a self-contained classroom.

Fading:  In many cases, a 1:1 aide will only be a temporary support. If a student is progressing, the IEP team should develop a plan to gradually and systematically fade the ESP’s presence. Other ratios such as 2:1 or 3:1 (where the ESP is assigned to assist multiple students) are options, as well as having an ESP(s) assigned to the entire classroom. If the student is not achieving sufficient progress with the help of their 1:1 aide, other supports should be revisited and the process should begin again with a more focused purpose, all to better support the student’s abilities and independence.

For additional information about one-to-one support, contact Autism New Jersey’s Helpline 800.4.AUTISM. Our online referral database can connect you to behavior analysts in your area.