Frequently Asked Questions

Where in the IDEA law does it state that the school must provide my child an aide in class?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act ( IDEA 2004) does not contain law that states the schools must provide an aide to a student. However, the law does require the provision of Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) (300.101) and that the services be provided in the least restrictive environment (LRE).(300.114). Using these rights and the strategies listed in this article, IEP teams can determine the extent of the child’s needs and establish if there is a need for an aide or other support services.

A basic premise to begin with is that to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities are educated with children who are not disabled, and special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability of a child is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily. Be specific. Look at the IEP (Individualized Education Program) to ensure that the goals are written to help your child reach the outcomes for the end of the school year. Also, check to see if the goals written address all the areas of need. Areas of need might include behavior, organization skills, social skills, time management, language, academics, daily living and self help skills, among others. The TN Department of Education’s website has the Curriculum Frameworks where you can see what children in your child’s grade level are expected to learn.

Based upon the goals and objectives the IEP team has written for your child, you can demonstrate the unique needs of your child by making a matrix to show what the students school day looks like. For example, list the class schedule across the top, the IEP goals down the left side and all needed accommodations and modifications needed across the bottom. Designate on the form the person responsible during each segment of the day to ensure your child is actively engaged in the educational opportunities.

Here are some questions to ask so that supports are clearly defined to allow your child to participate and receive meaningful benefit from their education.

  • Who will repeat class instructions?
  • Who will assist with self care/bathroom needs?
  • Who will redirect and engage throughout the class?
  • Who will assist student to interact with peers and adults?
  • Who will modify the students work?
  • Who will provide sensory input and breaks if listed in the IEP?
  • Who will assist the student to demonstrate what they know?
  • Who will provide hand over hand support when needed?
  • Who will assist with the technology needs of the child?

Add questions depending on your child’s unique needs. The IEP must include all special Education, related services, supplementary aids and services, and appropriate accommodations to be provided to the child to assist the child to advance appropriately toward attaining goals, to be involved and make progress in the general curriculum, to participate in extracurricular activities, and to be educated and participate with other children with and without disabilities. These must be based on the child’s individual needs and not the service delivery model of the school or class.

In summary, the IEP defines the child’s needs based upon findings of the evaluations and assessments. Be sure the IEP is specific and addresses the areas in which the aide will assist your child. Is the aide needed for the whole day, or are there pockets of time that other personnel or a peer tutor can provide supports? Be specific about the needs and what time of the day an aide is needed. The team should also discuss and document any specific training that your child’s aide and other personnel working with you child may need, This could be seizure training, sign language, behavior intervention strategies, feeding issues, or others. An IEP developed in a team process with parent input and open communication about the extent of the student’s needs and support services required will be an IEP that ensures the student will make progress toward achieving their goals.

I received a note from school that there is going to be a change in the number of hours of resource my child gets. It said to “please sign consent below to the changes” and had a copy of the services page from the IEP with the “new” amount of time for me to initial and send back. Should I sign it?

It sounds like the school is trying to use a part of IDEA ‘04 that addresses making changes to a child’s IEP after the annual IEP meeting, without convening an IEP meeting. However, this type of change requires an agreement on the part of the school and the parent to amend or modify a child’s current IEP without convening an IEP meeting. First of all, parents need to know that they have a right NOT to agree to the change that is proposed. It sounds like the form you received did not clearly state your right to disagree with the change or explain that you have a right to call an IEP meeting at any time.


  1. Can my child’s IEP goals be met if this change is put in place?
  2. Do I understand what is being proposed enough to sign consent without a meeting that allows an opportunity to ask questions?
  3. Is this a change that will be of benefit to my child or is it a change for the convenience of school personnel due to scheduling conflicts?
  4. What is the “individual” impact of this change on MY child? Remember, the IEP is designed to be unique for your child with a disability, so be sure to ask lots of questions when there are “system wide” or “entire classes” of students for which blanket decisions are being made.


Situation A: A Resource teacher is being assigned additional classrooms and sends home notice that because of a scheduling conflict your child will only be receiving 3 days a week, 1 hour per day of Resource service instead of 5 days a week, 1 hour per day. This clearly is not being proposed because the child only “needs” 3 hours a week, it is being proposed because the teacher can only “provide” three hours a week given the increased demands on her time.

Situation B: An entire school system determines that inclusion is a great idea and that all students will be included. So, a note is sent out that beginning next Monday there will be no more self-contained classes or resource classes, all children will be in the regular classroom. The intent of including every child is good, but the individual needs of each child were not taken into consideration when sending out this “system-wide” change.

Situation C: As a parent, you have been talking with the speech therapist and she has mentioned that she thinks your child really needs to “practice” in the classroom setting some of the skills he is learning in one-on-one speech. She would like to add 30 minutes a week of speech that would be done in the classroom during a naturally occurring language activity. You think that would be a great idea, so instead of having an IEP meeting, the speech therapist sends you the change and says that if you agree, please sign and return it and she will send you an amended copy of the IEP to reflect the agreed upon change.

In each of these scenarios, if you ask the four questions we have suggested, you will have a better understanding of the process and be able to make an informed decision about whether to agree to an IEP change without a meeting or not. If you have questions that need to be answered before you feel comfortable with signing the IEP, ask for a meeting.

I have a son who is turning 3 years old on July 28. He has autism and has been served for 4 months by Tennessee’s Early Intervention System. He had his transition meeting with the school system in April and we are about to go to his first IEP meeting. I am hoping he can continue to receive ABA services at home like he has gotten through TEIS. He also will need to continue speech therapy and occupational therapy. How do I approach the school system about his continued need for those services? Another parent that I know said that the school system told her that they “don’t do ABA”….what does that mean for me?

I’m glad your transition meeting with the school system was timely; that means they know your son is coming and have had time to look at all of your evaluations and possibly have done some of their own. It is the intent of TEIS and your local education agency to provide “seamless” services as your child moves from one system to the other. As you approach the IEP meeting, it is important to remember that decisions about services are based on information from all team members (including you!) and rely heavily on information from evaluations and the experiences of those who have already served your child. The receiving school system has experience serving children with disabilities LIKE your son’s; they haven’t actually served your son yet—so those folks that have provided services will be called on, either in person at the meeting or through their written reports, to recommend services and discuss how your child has progressed so far. The LEA (local education agency) is responsible to ensure that your son has in place a program that allows him to make appropriate educational progress in the least restrictive environment. The focus will shift at transition time from the needs of the family to the needs of the child. The LEA will consider all the input from the team and will offer a set of services that will allow for this progress; if ABA services are necessary in the provision of appropriate services, they will be considered. One thing to think about is terminology; if you are saying that your child needs one-to-one direct instruction with a curriculum of sequential skills and an individualized reinforcement schedule delivered in a sound-quiet environment and driven by data—you might want to say THAT instead! ABA is really an overarching term that describes the intelligent search for what behavior means and how it is motivated and reinforced. What you want to say to the IEP team is that your son will need structured teaching on the basic elements of learning—that he is not yet ready to learn “incidentally” in the classroom (a weakness of many children with autism) and is overwhelmed by the sensory stimulation in an active classroom, and because of those individual traits needs to be taught in the manner mentioned above. The folks who have worked with him within the TEIS system will be able to describe (and show data supporting that description) how he learns, and the rate at which he can progress. The school may, upon hearing all of this, offer that type of teaching within the school day; you may all decide to see how his rate of progress is, given that level of support, before deciding whether he needs more hours of teaching to be delivered outside the typical school day. Remember—peer-reviewed, research-based methodologies have to be used to the extent practicable—so whatever the team decides to use to teach your son, it has to have the backing of research behind it. And don’t forget to note in your IEP a method for determining progress and a way to report that progress back to you! That will help you all decide if the rate of progress he has made through early intervention services is being maintained under the IEP.

P: Yo tengo un hijo que tendra su reunion de transcicion al sistema escolar en abril y nosotros estamos a punto de ir a su primer reunión de IEP. Yo espero él pueda continuar recibiendo ABAservices en la casa como lo ha estado recibiendo a través de TEIS. Él también tendrá que continuar terapia del habla y terapia ocupacional. ¿Cómo me dirijo al sistema escolar para que continuen con los mismos servicios que el necesita? ¿Un padre de familia me dijo que el sistema escolar le dijo que ellos “ no proporcionan” el servicio de ABA .…” que significa esto para mí?

R: Yo estoy contento que su reunión de transición con el sistema escolar haya sido oportuno; eso significa que ellos saben que su hijo está llegando y tienen tiempo derevisar todas sus evaluaciones y hacer posiblemente sus ppropias. E lpropósito de TEIS y su agencia de educación local es de proporcionar “ servicios sin complicaciones “ para que su hijo cambia de un sistema al otro. ¡Mientras que usted se acerca la reunión de IEP, es importante recordar que las decisiones sobrelos servicios están basadas en la información de todos los miembros del equipo que lo incluye a usted!) Y confíe fuertemente en la información de evaluaciones y la experiencia de aquellos que han servido a su hijo. El sistema de recepción escolar tiene experiencia sirviendo a niños con discapacidades COMO su hijo;pero ellos no lo han atendido en realida dtodavia, asi que son muy necesarias las recomendaciones de aquellos que han servido a su hijo, y se requiera su visita o proporcionen un inform por escrito, para recomendar los servicios que sean necesarios y discutir la forma de llevar su progress, y que usted sea informado. El LEA (agencia de educación local) es responsable para asegurarse que su hijo tieneun programa que permite que él progrese educativamente de una forma apropiada en el medio ambiente meno restringido. Elenfoque sera a la hora dela transición, de las necesidades de la familia hacia las del niño.LEA, considerará toda lainformacion del equipo y ofrecerá un juego de servicios que se tomaran en cuenta para el progreso; si los servicios de ABA son necesaris o en la provisión de servicios apropiados, se considerarán. Una cosa para pensar es sobre la terminología; ¡si usted está diciendo que su hijo necesita instrucción directa uno a uno con un currículo de habilidades secuenciales y un programa de reforzamiento individualizado repartido en un entorno silencioso y conducido por datos— usted podría decir, ESO en lugar de ABA es un términocomplicado que describe en forma inteligente elsentido del comportamiento y quiere describer lo que motiva y realmente refuerza. Lo que usted quiere decir al equipo de IEP es que su hijo necesitará la enseñanza estructurada en los elementos básicos de aprendizaje y que no está aún listo para aprender “ incidentemente” en el salón de clase (una debilidad de muchos niños con autismo) y abruma por la estimulación sensorio en un salón de clase activo y debido a aquellos rasgos individuales tiene que ser enseñado en el modo mencionado. La gente que ha trabajado con él en el sistema de TEIS podrán describir (y mostrar datos que sostienen esa descripción) cómo él aprende y la escala en a la que él puede progresar. La escuela puede ofrecer todo este system aeducativo en nla rutina diaria escolar; todos ustedes pueden decider y ver cómo se da su nivel de progreso con ese apoyo, antes de decider si el ncesita más horas de enseñanza afuera del día tipico escolar. Recuerd, e revisa,las metodologías basadas en investigaciones n para tener el debido conocimiento para cualquier cambio, no es solo por decisions del equipo de iep, SINO ES BASADO POR UNA INVESTIFACION.¡Y no olvide QUE EN su IEP DEBE de llevar UNA FORMA DE medir el progreso que su hijo ha tenido, asi usted esta informada y saben que el sistema utilizado en Intervencion Temprano ha sido efectiva y se ha seguido utilizando por el equipo de IEP.

I have concerns about how to tell if my child is making progress toward her goals. The IEP says that all the goals will be measured by “teacher observation” and I’m wondering, can you give me some examples of any other methods to measure progress that could be part of my child’s IEP?

Teacher observation may be one way to measure progress but it can be very subjective, which Webster defines as “placing an emphasis on ones own moods, attitudes and opinions”. An example of subjective teacher observation might be “I think Johnny has a better attitude today” or “I think Janie’s handwriting has improved”. Although it might be important to have the teacher’s observations as PART of the measure of progress, you will probably need additional “objective” information. Webster dictionary defines “objective” as “not influenced by personal feelings or prejudice, unbiased.” “Objective” measurement might look like this: “I know Johnny is making progress toward demonstrating a positive attitude in the classroom because he made eye contact with me 4 times today, raised his hand and asked 2 questions, “ etc. or “Let’s look at Janie’s handwriting work samples over the last 3 weeks to determine what progress she has made in writing legibly”. A way that I have used that is comfortable at an IEP meeting to address the issue of “teacher observation” is to say something like this: “Can you describe to me what you specifically will be looking for when you are observing to see if Joe is behaving appropriately in the classroom?” When the teacher lists that she will be looking for Joe to stay in his own space, ask permission before leaving the classroom, address the teachers by “Mr. or Mrs.”, use his pencil to write on his paper and refrain from peeling the outside off layer by layer, etc. you can respond with, “Can you keep track of how many times you observe each of those so we can document how well he is learning from your instruction?” (That then becomes “data collection” as another way to measure progress!) It is very important to make sure that you have a good Present Level of Education Performance in each area so that you can decide as a team what is “sufficient progress” in each area. For example if you haven’t established how many times Joe currently leaves the classroom without permission, it will be hard to determine if he making progress. Another important step is to write the goals so that they are measurable and specific.

So, in summary, we have talked about two ways in additional to teacher observation to measure progress; data collection and work samples. Here are a few others with a brief description:

Standardized Tests: This could be a specific test that is given at the beginning of each school year, such as the Brigance, that you could compare the scores to document progress.

Peer Interviews: If you want to know if Emily is making progress on her goal of “initiating play interactions with a peer” you might want to ask Emily’s classmates, “Mark, has Emily ever come up and asked you to play with her on the playground”?

Parent Observation/Data Collection/Interview: If Josh has a goal to feed himself with a spoon and Mom can observe him at home making progress, then we begin to see not only that he is mastering the skill but that he is demonstrating it in a variety of settings. Remember that your child has a right to make progress that is sufficient to enable them to achieve the goals by the end of the IEP.

I am very upset and need your help! At my daughter’s end of the year IEP meeting, we all decided that she needed to stay in a self-contained special education class most of the day at the school where she has been for two years. It isn’t her neighborhood school, and the bus has always transported her there. We love her teacher, and she has been making progress there. Shortly before school started this year, we got a letter from our school district saying that she would be at a different school this year, which is actually a bit closer to our home, but with a different teacher. The type of classroom is the same. I am worried because she doesn’t transition very well. Shouldn’t I have been involved in a discussion before they changed my daughter’s placement? Is it legal for them to just notify me this way?

I understand your concern; it is true that parents are part of the decision-making team in regards to eligibility, contents of the program, and ultimately the placement. But it is important to look at how “placement” is defined and regarded in the law. IDEA at 300.115 speaks about a “continuum of alternative placements” and suggests some of those as instruction in regular classes, special classes, special schools, home instruction and instruction in hospitals and institutions. So, at an IEP meeting when everyone is discussing placement, they are really talking about the type of classroom in which the child is to get the agreed upon services. Will that be a general education classroom? Will it be a self-contained class—or in a hospital setting? The other mandate (at 300.116) is that placements be determined at least annually, are based on the child’s IEP, and are as close as possible to the child’s home. It seems that what the school district has done in this case is to change the location of the services, not the placement of the child. If the type of classroom offered at the new school is consistent with what is listed in the IEP, and if the school is as close to the child’s home as is possible, the school system has done its duty—and parents would not have been mandated to be part of that decision. It would, however, be reasonable to ask for an IEP meeting quickly to discuss the specific transition needs that your child has, and to devise a plan to support your daughter as she gets used to a new school building, a new teacher, and possibly new classmates.


P: Estoy muy preocupada y necesito su ayuda. En el IEP de fin de año de mi hija decidimos que estaría en una clase de educación especial la mayor parte del día en la misma escuela donde ha asistido por dos años, aunque es fuera de nuestro vecindario ella se ha ido en bus y el transporte ha sido bueno, también ha tenido una maravillosa maestra, mi hija ha progresado allí. Poco tiempo después de iniciadas las clases, recibimos una carta de la Superintendencia de escuelas de nuestro distrito donde nos notifican que mi hija tiene que ir a otra escuela que está un poco más cerca de la casa, con otra maestra en el mismo tipo de aula. Me preocupa pues ella no reacciona bien con transiciones. ¿No debí de haber estado involucrada en la discusión del cambio de colocación Y no solo haber sido notificada? ¿Es legal haberlo hecho de esta forma?

R: Su preocupación es entendible, y sí es cierto que los padres son parte del equipo de decisiones sobre calificación, servicios del programa y hasta de colocación, pero en este caso hay que ver como define la ley IDEA at 300.1155 “colocación” (placement), habla de la continuidad de colocación alternativa, y sugiere que sean instrucciones en aulas regulares, aulas especiales,escuelas especiales, educacion en casa, educación en hospitales O instituciones. Así que cuando en la reunión de IEP, se discute la colocación estan hablando en realidad en el tipo de aula en que se ha acordado estará el niño recibiendo servicios. Podría ser, un aula regular, aula especial o algún hospital, el otro mandato (at 300.116) dice quela colocación debera ser decidida anualmente en el IEP del niño, y deberá ser lo más cerca de la casa, parece ser que la superintendencia de escuelas de su distrito ha cumplido con su trabajo, ha cambiado la colocacion o lugar, pero no los servicios, si va a tener el mismo tipo de aula estipulada en el IEP, y la nueva escuela está lo más cercano possible a su casa, el sistema educativoha cumplido con su obligación y no es necesario la participación de los padres para esta decision. Usted puede pedir una reunión de IEP, lo antes possible para verificar que su hija tenga los servicios y planificar una transición y apoyo de adaptación para la nueva escuela, maestro y hasta posiblemente nuevos compañeros.

I see my daughter struggling with paying attention and staying on task at home but when I try to discuss these issues at the IEP meeting and how they might be affecting her in the classroom, I don’t seem to be making an impact and am not getting my point across. What would you suggest?

Become an effective participant at IEP meetings by systematically observing your child and documenting facts. Since planning an appropriate program for your child requires specific, documented facts rather than generalized impressions and concerns, you will need to collect your own facts. To convey personal knowledge of your child to school personnel — people accustomed to dealing with test scores, specific behaviors, goals, and objectives —written, concrete facts will be most influential. One way to collect these facts is to observe your child in a formal way. “Observe!” you say. “When? How?” You think of the days you barely have enough time and energy to brush your teeth before turning in for the night. But observations can be made. Gathering and organizing information is a vital part of becoming an effective educational advocate for your child.


Step back. Suspend for a brief time (three to five minutes) your normal role. By not intervening where you normally would, you may see your child’s abilities and problems in a new light.
Start fresh. Try to be open to new aspects of behavior you may have overlooked before. Observe behaviors that are happening now. Although reports on the past are important in describing a child’s development, school personnel are interested in fresh, up-to-date information on what she can do now.
Get focused. Decide upon a specific behavior or skill to observe. The best rule is to look at those areas that trouble you or your child.
Go with the flow. As you watch your child’s activities, record what you see actually happening, not your interpretations of your child’s actions.
Write down detailed, factual information. Use the Parent’s Observation Record and view complete article on


~Opens his sock drawer, stares at contents. ~ Notices battery on top of bureau and picks it up. ~Takes it over to battery tester to test; decides not to. ~Sets battery down on floor. ~Comes back to bureau, shuts drawer. ~Remembers he’s looking for socks and opens drawer again. ~Picks out socks. ~Sits on bed with socks in his hand. ~Notices deflated balloon on floor. ~Puts socks down; picks balloon up.(Tips adapted from an article on By Deidre Hayden)

Fresh observations collected prior to meetings with teachers and other professionals can assist in providing specific recommendations for her special education program. You will be more prepared to be an effective IEP participant.


P: Conviértase en un participante eficaz en las reuniones del PEI al observar de manera sistemática a su hijo y documentando los hechos. A veces los padres de familia no saben como contestar las preguntas anteriores. Usted sabe muchas cosas sobre su hijo/a, pero ese conocimiento es general y no en la forma específica que se necesita para poder contestar esas preguntas. Puesto que planear un programa adecuado para la educación de su hijo/a requiere datos específicos y documentados en lugar de impresiones generales, usted va a necesitar recoger su propia información. Las personas que trabajan en la escuela están acostumbradas a tratar con resultados, comportamientos específicos, metas y objetivos, y por lo tanto usted será más eficaz si les puede proporcionar datos escritos y concretos. Una manera derecoger estos datos es observar a su hijo/a en la forma debida.

R: “¡Observar! dirá usted. ¿Cuando? ¿Cómo? Usted tal vez pensará en eso días en los que a duras penas tiene el suficiente tiempo y energía para lavarse los dientes antes de acostarse a dormir. Pero las observaciones se pueden hacer. El recoger y organizar la información es una parte muy importante para ayudar a tener una educación efectiva para su hijo/a


Quítese del medio. Suspenda por un período corto de tiempo lo que usted normalmente hace en su familia.
Empieze como nueva. Dese a si misma la oportunidad de ver esos aspectos de el comportamiento de su hijo/a que usted tal vez no había visto antes. Observe lo que está pasando ahora.
Enfóquese. Decida anticipadamente cual comportamiento o habilidad va a observar. ¿Cómo puede usted decidir en que se va a enfocar?
Siga el camino. Cuando esté observando las actividades de su hijo/a, escriba lo que en realidad esté sucediendo, y no la interpretación que usted le da a las acciones.
Escriba la información en la forma más real y detallada posible. Su trabajo será más fácil si usted solamente observa por periodos de tiempo cortos, tal vez cinco minutos o menos. Durante todos los años escolares de su hijo/a usted va a necesitar hacer observaciones de su crecimiento y desarrollo. Información que es nueva y que se ha recogido antes de las reuniones con maestros y otros profesionales de la escuela, le van a permitir proveer recomendaciones importantes para ayudarle a su hijo/a en su programa educacional. El tener esta información a su alcanze le hará sentir confiada en que usted está cumpliendo con su papel como una de las personas importantes en el proceso de la educación de su hijo/a.

We just moved from one district to another in our state. My six year old daughter has a current evaluation and IEP which I gave to the school psychologist. She told me it could take weeks to get my child reevaluated and into a program. My other children were registered and went right into classes. This doesn’t seem fair to me. What can I do to speed up this process?

The law is very clear for children who transfer within the same state. Your school district must provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to your child, including services comparable to those described in the IEP from the previous district. These services will continue to be provided until the district adopts the IEP from your previous district, or they develop a new IEP that meets all the requirements. You may wish to call the special education director in your district and request a meeting that addresses this issue. Make sure the meeting is soon!


P: Nosotros nos hemos mudado de un distrito a otro en el mismo estado. Mi hija de seis anos tiene sue evaluación y su PEI vigentes, los cuales se los de a la psicóloga de la escuela. Ella me dije que tomaría semanas para que mi hija fuera reevaluada y puesta en un programa especial. Mis otros hijos se matricularon y ya están dando clases. Esto no parece ser justo par mi. ?Que puedo hacer para agilizar este proceso?

R: La ley es muy clara para los niños que se transfieren dentro del mismo estado. Su distrito escolar debe darle una educación publica gratuita y apropiada (FAPE) a su hija, incluyendo los servicios comparados a los que se definen en el Programa de Educación Individual (IEP) del distrito anterior. Estos servicios continuaran siendo proveídos hasta que el distrito adopte el IEP del distrito anterior, o hasta que ellos desarrollen un nuevo IEP que reúnan todos los requisitos. Llama al director de Educación Especial de su distrito y pida que se conduzca una reunión que resuelva este problema. Asegúrese que la reunión se haga pronto.

Thanks to PAVE Pipeline for allowing us to reprint this Q & A.