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.