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TA Tips – Tips for Securing a TA for Your Autistic Student

Posted Sep 12 2008 11:32am

I am a lawyer and an active member of autism organizations in New Brunswick. Mostly I am the father of two boys one of whom is profoundly autistic. Like everyone else, I am continually fighting for a trained Teacher's Assistant to work with my autistic son; preferably one who has received the Autism Support Worker training course from UNB CEL. Many parents are fighting just to get a TA period. I offer these tips primarily for those who might need some guidance or who are just starting out. This is offered as parental advice and general information and is not offered as legal advice. For those seeking help in obtaining a TA I suggest the following and stress that you should seek assistance from other parents. I did. They were a big help in getting a TA for my son.

1. Document your child’s condition and school requirements. If your child is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder make sure that the school has a copy of the diagnosis. This may seem obvious but in some cases the school and district have been able to point out that they were unaware of any actual diagnosis of autism disorder.

2. Medical, Psychological or Therapeutic Assessments – If you think your child needs a Teacher's Assistant to learn in the school environment you should ask any pediatrician, psychologist, occupational therapist, speech language therapist or behavioural interventionist who is working with your child if they agree and would provide a written recommendation for a TA and present their recommendations to the school.

3. Be a Parent Advocate Most parents know their autistic child better than most professionals. Do not be afraid to speak up – politely – but without fear - to express your view of what your child requires.

4. Autism Advocates – If you know an autism advocate or fellow parent of an autistic child who would be willing to attend a meeting with the school you should bring them along. They can provide you with moral support and confirmation of your experiences as a parent in describing what your child requires.

5. Safety – For many autistic children a TA is a must for safety reasons alone and this must be stressed if it is true for your child. An autistic child may not appreciate the many dangers posed by school, playground and nearby streets.

6. Individual Learning Method – If your child requires an individual based learning method using Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) techniques, or other individual based instructions, emphasize this with the school. For ABA in particular there is a great deal of professional literature about the need for one to one instruction for autistic children.

7. IEP or SEP If the school or district refuse a TA for your child do not sign off on the IEP/SEP for your child or if you do sign put a note beside your signature stating that you still require a TA for your child. Otherwise the school and district will argue that you agreed that a TA was not necessary.

8. Appeal – If a TA is denied for your child be ready to appeal right away under the Education Act. The School should have informational pamphlets available and forms explaining the appeal process to you. You might also want to consider hiring a lawyer to work with you on the appeal process.

Conclusion – Preparation, pressure and persistence are all required to obtain and keep a TA for your autistic child. It is a long tough fight and it is one that almost all of us have to go through to one extent or another. Stay calm but firm. Do not overreact emotionally or unduly antagonize school officials. You need their help and most want to help. Getting overheated gives an excuse to the few who do not want to help to refuse what you are looking for. Stay calm and persist.

Harold Doherty

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