What is an ABA SW?
An ABA Support Worker is a helper for special needs students that is unique to the Surrey School District. An SW is a parallel position to an EA (Educational Assistant), who is trained as a generalist for all special needs students. ABA SWs are specifically designated to work with students who have involved Behavior Consultants and a current and ongoing ABA program. Parents can request to have an SW (if they qualify) or an EA.
How does someone qualify to become an ABA SW?
A Behaviour Interventionist (BI) who has worked with a minimum of 2 students for at least 1000 documented hours under the supervision of a qualified BCBA can apply to the school district to be hired as an SW. The district examines the applicant’s qualifications, conducts and interview, background check and consults with the applicant’s references and determines if they wish to hire the SW. It is up to the discretion of the school district whether or not they hire an individual.
How do I request an SW?
1. The student must have a documented diagnosis of an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
2. The student must meet the Ministry of Education criteria for a Special Education designation within Category G – Autism Spectrum Disorder.
3. Student Support will assess all relevant information and determine the amount of paraprofessional support required.
4. The student must be involved in an active plan of intervention monitored by a BCBA.
5. Initial requests require that the parent/legal guardian submit the ABA Support Worker Request form and supporting documentation (e.g., BCBA’s resume, an overview of the behaviour plan of intervention, and written permission from the parents/legal guardian to share information with the teachers (Authorization to Share Student Information form) and to conduct an observation
(Authorization for an Outside Agency to Observe a Student form) to Student Support prior to March 1st, date subject to change yearly.
*This request form can be obtained by contacting Student Services or you can request it from the Integration Support Teacher at any school.
I’ve heard that there is a huge shortage of SWs in the district. How do I make sure my child has support?
This is true. The district is chronically short of SWs for a number of reasons. The bottom line is that the supply cannot meet the ever increasing demand. It is a rapidly growing program, but as fast as the district hires SWs, the requests for SWs come in faster. The only way to guarantee that an SW works with your child in school is if you have someone who is qualified (1000 hrs) on your home team who is willing to applying to the district, is hired, and chooses your child’s posting. There is still a chance that an SW with more seniority will take the position then “your” BI will have to choose another posting, but either way, you are ensured an SW will work with your child. If you do not have a BI who is qualified to apply, there is still a chance that an existing SW may choose your child’s position, but they have a lot of vacant positions to choose from and the chances are slim.
If an SW does not choose your child’s position, they will be supported by an EA who does not “own” the position and is a temporary placement. A BI who meets qualifications could be brought in at any time during the school year.
How can I make sure that my child’s BI/SW is the one who supports my child at school?
There is no guarantee that a specific SW will work with a specific student. The district is a unionized environment and employees post into positions by seniority. That said, there are many more positions available than there are SWs to fill them, so there is a very good chance that if an SW wants to work with a particular child, there will not be any competition for that particular job.
What happens if I request an SW, but no one applies for my child’s position?
A temporary EA will take the post. Most likely it will be an EA with some level of Autism training. Probably they will have taken POPARD, which is a 30 hour course about Autism (not ABA specifically). You might get an EA who is a Registered Behaviour Technician (RBT). This is a more in-depth ABA training program that was designed by the BCBA. It means that the EA has a classroom working knowledge of how to implement ABA protocols designed by your Behavour Consultant.
The EA does not “own” the posting. This means that if an SW becomes available—if you find one or one comes back from Maternity leave etc., they can bump the EA out of the position. Generally after the start of the school year, the family would be asked before this bump happens.
It also means that at the end of the year, the position will be posted again. Because the EA does not own the position, it is unlikely that there will be continuance with an EA beyond 1 year.
How does the posting process work and what is the general timeline?
In a nutshell, this is how the posting process works:
-positions are available for a 10 day span in early summer for SWs currently employed by the school district to post into
-remaining positions are available at the 1 day new hire meeting following the previous round.
-positions still vacant are offered to EAs with Autism experience at a subsequent meeting at the end of summer based on seniority
How are my child’s support hours determined?
If your child is entering kindergarten, there is an application process and a fair bit of paperwork to fill out. You will register your child at your neighborhood school as well as an any out-of-catchment school you are interested in as well. Once the paperwork is submitted, the Integration Support Teacher (IST) from your neighborhood school will arrange a time come and observe your child at preschool, daycare or home. Based upon this observation, the IST will submit a recommendation to the district regarding support hours. These recommendations are reviewed, modified or approved by the District Principal in Education Services
Support is based on need with a consideration for early intervention. The district uses a tool based on various domains. The school based team fills out the tool each year and is a guide to the district to determine hours.
It changes every year, but as a very generic guideline, this is the districts allocation pattern for “G” students:
Bell to bell support is 27.5 hrs for elementary school. Bell to bell at high school is 30 hours.
Support hours can vary from 8 hrs to full-time per week. In some cases, when a student is assigned low support hours, the position may be combined with another student who also has low hours making it a shared ABA position. In these cases, principals should notify parents that support is being shared.
I’ve heard that if I choose ABA my child will get more hours. Is that true?
The hours for both ABA students and EA students are determined based on needs tool. Support hours are attached to a child, EA hours are assigned to the school and can be allocated as the school deems necessary. If your child was not assigned enough hours to fulfill his or her needs, the school can draw on the collective support at the school to provide the extra support needed. It also means that if your child does not seem to need as much support as they were assigned, their EA may be drawn away to work with other students.
ABA SWs, however are assigned to a particular student. This does not exempt them from the covering breaks, helping other students in the class or being reassigned to work with other students on an emergency basis.
The district describes this in the ABA Home School Collaboration document in this way:
“ABA SW positions are “student-centered” as opposed to “student specific” as ABA SWs have the ability to provide support to multiple learners provided their focus student is making gains towards independent functioning.”
What does student-centered mean?
ABA SW’s expertise is in implementing ABA programs designed by a Behaviour Consultant. In order to achieve this expertise, they must be very familiar with a specific child’s program and behavior protocol. It is recognized that students who are learning though ABA teaching benefit from consistency and it is not realistic that multiple district employees will have this in-depth knowledge for a particular student. It is understood that the primary job of an SW who is assigned to a specific student is to support that student in class while upholding the behavioral principals in the student’s behavior plan.
Since need varies from student to student and ABA programs are all unique, a student-centered position may include supporting other learners as well as the target student.
Input should be considered from the recommendation of the BCBA, the family, classroom teacher and IST regarding how this will look for each student.
How does it work If my BI is hired by the school district? Who does he/she work really work for?
They work for the school district and their job is dictated by the rules that govern SD36 employees and restrictions set in place by CUPE (the union). Their direct supervisor will be the classroom teacher and their “boss” is the school principal. This shift can be confusing for BIs and for families. It is important that as a family, you not create a situation for the SW that makes them feel like they have to choose or break school expectations in order to best serve your family. There should not be a conflict if all parties keep the best thing for the child at the forefront. However, if there is a conflict, you should approach the teacher, IST or principal to resolve it, rather than the SW.
It is a good idea to discuss this with your BI before they apply to the district.
Why would I NOT want an ABA SW? Maybe an EA is a better choice for me?
An EA might be a better choice for you if:
*You do not have an active/ongoing ABA program or plan to discontinue your ABA program once your child enters school.
*You do not want to have a high level of involvement once your child is in school. You can still be quite involved if you have an EA, but the nature of the ABA SW program requires more meetings to ensure consistency and works best when the parent is more present. If your hope is to take a step back and let the school make more decisions, an EA may be a better choice.
*Due to the shortage of SWs, opting into this program also means that if your SW leaves, you will likely be in the position of finding a replacement again and again. This can be stressful for families.
*You do not have a BI available on your home team who can apply to the district or the hope of finding one. If your BCBA and BIs are contracted through an agency, they are less likely to be willing to help recruit an SW for the school district as it would mean losing employees from the agency.
*Due to union contracts, support workers can’t work less than 4 hours per day, for this reason if fewer than 20 hrs are assigned, the SW wouldn’t work in the school all five days of the week. Since schools have more flexibility with EA’s, fewer hours can be spread across specific higher demand times throughout the week. For some families this is a better choice.
*IF this does NOT describe your and ideal situation:
An ABA SW is a good choice for you if:
-you have an active ABA team and an involved consultant
– you would like to continue this level of involvement throughout your child’s school experience
-you have a SW to bring to school with you, this means that the person that who supports your child in school has or can train on your home team and be familiar with his/her programs and behavioural protocols.
-your BCBA will go in for regular observations (approximately 3-10x per year) and make recommendations
-the SW that works with your child is able/willing to attend team meetings