Proposed Job Description: Paraprofessional

26 Sep

Ever notice how paraprofessionals do it all, or are expected to, without the same training, compensation, and benefits that are afforded to others who often have less contact with our kids? Paras are in the trenches, day in and day out. They know if our kids are sick, tired, bored, annoyed, getting bullied, failing. They know if our kids are interested in Pokemon or Bakugan, what video games they love, and what books they’d read (if any). They know the distance — developmental, social, academic, behavioral — between our kids on the spectrum and the other kids. They (should) see the big picture.

Yet, often times, they aren’t allowed to attend IEP meetings. Often times, they are pigeon-holed like parents — not as “credible” in certain school districts as the “credentialed” staff. But, we let paras provided direct, initial instruction. Ultimately, the issue is scope. When does the teacher’s job end and the paraprofessional’s job begin? It’s pretty simple to say that the teacher’s job never ends, so in what capacity should paras function?

Here’s my take. Your comments are welcomed.

Description: As a paraprofessional, you will aid students with autism spectrum disorders. You will not teach academic instruction, but you will assist in comprehension and performance. You will allow the teacher to set the rules and expectations, while you may need to explain the rationale and help support. You will interpret the social and behavioral cues and nuances often unnoticed by individuals on the spectrum. You will understand and handle all problems as skill deficits, rather than manipulation.

Requirements: 1. Basic understanding about autism spectrum disorders acquired from a college-based preparation course. (District will pay for this training). 2. A genuine desire to work with all children and especially with children who are often misunderstood. 3. Realization that physical aggression (i.e. kicking, biting, spitting, hitting, throwing) is a significant possibility depending on the students assigned to.

Training: 1. Minimum of one six-hour course about autism spectrum disorders. 2. Monthly attendance at district’s autism spectrum in-services. 3. Minimum of high school diploma or GED.

Requirements: 1. Ability to start work day at least 30 minutes prior to first bell. 2. Ability to end work day at least 30 minutes after the end of the last bell. 3. Understanding that individual will need to attend lunch/PE/recess with students in order to implement IEP goals.

Seven years ago, I was a paraprofessional for a middle-school student in a small town in Indiana. He was failing all classes, was in the principal’s office more than the classroom, and was the confirmation that I was moving in the right career path. He graduated from high school last year.


Posted by on September 26, 2010 in NTs on ASD


5 responses to “Proposed Job Description: Paraprofessional

  1. Tam

    September 27, 2010 at 5:28 AM

    “You will understand and handle all problems as skill deficits, rather than manipulation.”

    So are we assuming that all autistic kids are absolutely incapable of manipulation?

  2. jholverstott

    September 27, 2010 at 8:50 PM

    Yes, even though they are capable, because it is better to err on the side of caution than have paraprofessionals have to make a judgment call, which will most likely go in favor of manipulation. Don’t you think that benefits the kids most?

  3. Tam

    October 1, 2010 at 5:57 AM

    Not necessarily. If a kid is obviously manipulating, and the caregiver just ignores it because of a rule, then the kid learns the manipulation is okay, and will go on to do it with others, which will invariably lead to trouble. Letting things slide is not always the best option.

    There’s nothing wrong with giving benefit of the doubt, but when there is no doubt, acting as if it’s not manipulation would be bad for the child.

  4. Sunday

    November 1, 2010 at 4:05 PM

    I cannot tell you how many times I have asked why my sons’ aides are not included in the IEP meetings!
    In most cases they do the majority of the 1:1 teaching!

  5. Dee

    January 14, 2012 at 7:16 PM

    Yes, the para has a bteer chance of giving the true perspective of the childs development than the teacher or administration who want to look good, and not disappoint the parent. The bottom line is they get a sugar coated version of the childs progress which does no one any good. Often this is because the parents expectaions are also unrealistic. Keep it real!


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