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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Frustration with others. Or, I do my job, why can't you?

At the day camp at which I work we have about 50 entering kindergarteners, and enough counselors to advertise a 5:1 counselor to camper ration (though actually, it's better than that). We also have an inclusion aide who works with two of our campers. The aides we work with are not trained aides. They are mostly high school and college students, the same as the camp counselors, who do not necessarily have any degree or qualifications that allow them to work with children with different needs.

In the past, all aides have been 1-on-1. Most summers there have been between one and three children who were assigned to inclusion aides. The kids always have differing levels of need for these aides. Sometimes the aides stay with the kids at all times and are absolutely necessary for the child to have a positive camp experience. Sometimes the aides are only necessary if the child gets particularly stressed or upset. This year, for the first time, the organization who hires these inclusion aides, (it is a different hiring process than the one for the camp counselors) decided that some children would be okay with a 1-on-2 ratio, one inclusion aide for two campers.

So that leaves us this year with one aide for two little boys. My co-director and I have both worked with one boy named E--- previously, without the help of an inclusion aide and without problem. Based on these previous experiences, we expected this boy to cause few problems in our camp setting. The other boy, L---, we had never met. We were assuming that the aid could, if necessary, devote a majority of her energy to L---.

Unfortunately, E--- is having a lot of problems at camp. He has been hitting other children which is not acceptable camp behavior, and not a problem he has had previously. L--- is doing fine, he needs very little help and could very easily go without an aide in our current camp setting. The problem is, the aide finds L--- to be very cute and charming while she finds E--- to be more difficult and less rewarding to work with. Therefore, she unnecessarily spends most of her time and energy around L--- instead of devoting herself to the more difficult E---.

This is not as it should be. The camp has gotten phone calls from several parents complaining that E--- has hit their children. We have received phone calls from E---'s parents saying that E--- has told them he has been hitting. The parents confirmed that this is not typical of E--- and should not be permitted.

If we did not have an inclusion aide, we would certainly make sure to always have a counselor around E--- to make sure he keeps his hands to himself. However, since we do have this girl (her maturity level definitely allows me to call her a girl and not a woman) who is supposed to be working closely with E--- we can't really require another counselor to watch out for him. Or rather, we feel that we shouldn't. Since the aide is not working with this child the way she is supposed to though, we want to.

We have talked to the the organization that hires the inclusion aides. They have talked to her. She is not responding to our suggestions, our bosses suggests, or her bosses suggestions. She is not helping either of these children have a positive camp experience. (She frequently removes the other child from the group when he is not experiencing any problems. This removal is not necessary and even seems somewhat harmful in that it is constructing him as someone who is "different" than the others, when that is not so. He should be spending at least most of the day, if not the whole day, participating in the same activities as the other children.)

It's a shame, really, that this girl doesn't seem to understand how to work with either of these children. When my co-director and I watch E---, he behaves very well. We can tell when he is getting agitated, when he needs a little more space. His aide though doesn't seem to be able to read him at all. This is confusing for several reasons, the most obvious of which is that sometimes the boy says something to the effect of, "I need more space." Of course, he isn't always quite that explicit about his need for space, but it is fairly easy to tell when he needs to be pulled away from the group for a moment, or when he just needs people to stand a little bit further away from him in line.

If it is so clear to me and my co-director, and we are in charge of running everything, (50+ kids and 10+ counselors) why can't the aide, whose job description specifies supervision of two children, read his warning signs?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

found your blog when googling "inclusion aide".

Your writing is insightful and interesting.

Keep writing!


2:11 PM  

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