TSS -- Therapeutic Support Staff Supporting Individual Students

Teacher congratulates math student
A TSS can provide small group support. Getty Image News/John Moore

Definition: A TSS or Therapeutic Support Staff, is staff that supports individual students. They are often called one to one aides or wrap around staff. Therapeutic support staff are hired to work with an individual student. Their employment is usually named as an accommodation in that student's IEP. TSS are often paid for or paid by the local (county) mental health agency rather than the school district.

Qualifications:  Being a TSS does not require a college degree, but often graduates with degrees in psychology find work as a TSS while they are pursuing advanced degrees. Requirements for employment as a TSS or One on One (as they are often popularly referred to) may vary from state to state or agency to agency, but often some college is required.   Usually these positions are considered educational rather than custodial, and many states are trying to avoid using TSS's.  Some are economic, but some are educational, as a student with a TSS often becomes prompt dependent and unable to function independently.

Responsibility:  A TSS's primary responsibility is to the student for whom they are hired. They may help the teacher or other students in order to create a positive environment for their student, but they are not supervised directly by the teacher, but by the IEP.

Hopefully, a TSS will see him or herself as a part of the educational team.

 There is no question that the teacher, as the leader in a classroom, should command the cooperation of the TSS.  Often a TSS is assigned so that a child can spent more time in a general education classroom, and will work one on one with the student to help him or her do age appropriate general education curricular tasks.

 Sometimes the TSS will bring the student's folder of modified word from the special education resource room to complete parallel.   It is important for the General Educator to communicate with the TSS to establish which general education tasks (especially in content, such as science or social studies) the student can do with the class, rather than what may be in their folder. 

A Partnership:  Although the TSS's responsibility is for the student, when the special education teacher works closely with the TSS and the General Educator, it is more likely both the student and the classroom teacher will benefit.  When the other students in the general education classroom see "Mr. Bob," or "Ms. Lisa" as partners in leadership, you can ask them to push  in with their student into learning centers or in small group discussion.  Modeling how to get the student more involved by fading support is also critical. 

Also Known As: One to One Aide, Wrap Around, Wrap Around Aide

Examples: Because of his self injurious behavior, Rodney has a TSS at school, who sees that Rodney does not bang his head on the tray of his chair, or on the wall.