Sunday, January 6, 2013

A New Assistant!

About a month ago, I got an additional aid to help out in my classroom in the mornings with one of my students with higher needs.  I love the extra help, but always forget that also means training a new person during the hustle and bustle of my day!  I didn't want to overwhelm this new girl  by explaining everything to her in one moment either, so I decided to gradually introduce her to the aspects of my classroom she would be encountering.

First, I explained our schedule  (as you probably know from this post, this is SUPER important to me!).  Next, I showed her how the student she would be working with utilizes his individual schedule.  He uses a color-coded picture schedule on the wall (seen below).  

I even added this handy little key for setting up his schedule each day.  The colors correspond to the colors of his picture schedule.  This makes setting up his schedule so quick and easy!  And if he tries to change his schedule (sneaky, sneaky), it makes it easier to catch.  Next up, I will be teaching her how to take data on his schedule...see this post).

The main reason I needed this extra help, was because this student needs a one-on-one to do academic work.  He struggles to do any work without tangible reinforcers (mostly food) delivered constantly throughout the task.  Otherwise he runs away, hits, pinches, etc.  He works extremely well when given the reinforcement schedule he needs (about every 2-3 minutes).  So, I created this cheat sheet for my new assistant (who has no previous experience with kids with autism), as well as for me and my other aids so we would all be on the same page.  There are kind of a lot of components to this, but I figured it would be a helpful reference to have posted in the classroom.   I left some blanks so that we can make the reinforcement schedule less dense over time.  I also did some "dos" and "don'ts" for working with this student.

I "do" want the assistants to say "good job" while delivering the tangible reinforcer.  This is done so that the phrase "good job" hopefully becomes paired with the tangible reinforcer...that way, hopefully some day, the tangible reinforcers can be faded out and hearing "good job" will act as a reinforcer.

I "don't" want the reinforcer to be delivered when the student reaches out his hand.  He will be working just great and reach out his hand for a reinforcer...I don't want this to be the behavior that is reinforced, or he will start reaching out his hand more (and working less).  Instead, the reinforcer is supposed to be delivered as he is working appropriately (if he reaches to grab it as it is being delivered, that is fine).

I also included a list of his preferred items.  See this post to learn how to deliver a preference assessment (which may be some items you can use as reinforcers in your classroom).  One other note about these edible reinforcers...when my student receives them, he is not getting a whole bag of skittles, he is getting one skittle or half a gummy bear, or a mini marshmallow)...and believe me, if there is a toy or something healthy that is reinforcing, we use that first!  The last thing I want to do, is make these little kiddos fat or unhealthy!  

Any other tips you have for helping a new assistant adjust in the classroom??


  1. I have a very aggressive student who I've had some success with using candy as a reward for working. The hard part is sometimes he just wants the candy and not do the work. If he knows that I have it on me (in my pocket, etc) sometimes he will become aggressive toward me, or toward materials in the classroom, trying to get to the food. He also can become aggressive when I do not offer the "right" snack. Have you had any issues with your student in this respect? I am also wondering - do you provide your own food reinforcers? I have been feeding this student all day long - food often seems to be the only way to gain compliance.

    1. Ugh...that is so tough! My student does become more aggressive at times when he wants the edible (and doesn't want to work). I always re-direct him (by pointing or prompting him) to the work. Once he works for a short time (say 10 seconds), I'll give hime a piece...just to show him he will NOT get candy for aggression, but he WILL get it for working.

      My student's preferences fluctuate as well. If he pushes away my hand, I will give him an alternative choice (sometimes I like to keep a variety of snacks in a little zip-loc bag). Otherwise, I give him his communication book and see if he will make a choice from there.

      I do provide my own reinfocers (sometimes my aids help out too if they see good sales while shopping). Also, if parents are able to help out, I may ask them to send in some snacks as well. Occasionally, I turn in my receipts to the school and get reimbursed (we get $100 school supply money each year).

      Hope this helps!!

  2. I feel your pain. It's a blessing having the help, but a new person brings a whole new dynamic along with trying to help them figure out what they are supposed to do. I have had three different aides so far this year come and go because of staffing changes and reductions.

    I usually have a substitute guide for subs. When I get a new aide, I let them look over it. I give them a week to see how it goes after I give them the initial instructions of what I am asking them to do during their day. If I see anything that needs correcting I try to do it right away. I found that it is best. Usually they don't want to overstep their bounds or are unsure about what exactly to do. At the end of the week I have a mini conference with them. Tell them what they did well, what I would like to see, what needs to change, etc.

    I have found this to work best.

    BTW I love your blog. I wish I was as organized as you!

    1. Great idea about using a sub guide! I may need to whip up one of those for the future!! And thanks for reading!!