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Roles and Responsibilities of the Paraprofessional

Support to Teacher

Most special education students do not require "extra" instructional aide support. When the IEP team determines that an instructional aide is needed to assist a student in special circumstances, the paraprofessional is assigned to the teacher, not the student. The primary role of the paraprofessional is to support the staff working with a special education student.

Oral directions in a typical classroom are often given quickly and may need to be repeated or rephrased for the student. The paraprofessional needs to allow the teacher to provide the initial instructions to the student and wait for the student to respond independently (or with help from a peer). If the student does not respond, the paraprofessional may need to check for understanding and, if necessary, repeat, rephrase, or clarify the directions. The paraprofessional should step in to assist only when needed. The paraprofessional may pre-teach or re-teach concepts as required.

A student's over-reliance upon a specific staff member will not allow the student to learn to respond to other staff. The paraprofessional needs to assist other students as well as the identified student. This reduces the pressure on the identified student and has a more significant positive impact on the whole class. When the paraprofessional works directly with the student, the goal is to assist the student and then fade back rather than "hover" over the student.

Legal Issues and Confidentiality

A paraprofessional must always work under the supervision of a licensed or credentialed staff member, most often the Special Education Case Manager. The paraprofessional is protected by the district's liability insurance as long as the paraprofessional carries out duties as assigned. The paraprofessional must receive all breaks required by the contract.

Paraprofessionals must be well aware of confidentiality requirements when dealing with special education students. Legally they may not share personal information about the student with anyone other than "employees of the district with a legitimate educational interest."

The Special Education Case Manager and/or classroom teacher should clearly instruct the paraprofessional regarding communication preferences with the student's parent(s). For example, many Case Managers and teachers prefer that a paraprofessional communicate only daily routine information to parents and that all other communications about progress, behavior, health, and other concerns be kept between teacher and parent(s) only.

Paraprofessionals need to be trained in appropriate physical contact with students. Light physical prompting may only be used when necessary to keep the student engaged with learning or assist with self-care activities (e.g., putting hands down, helping a student move through a line, allowing a student to stay seated.) Any other physical contact may only be used to ensure the student's or others' safety. If there is a potential emergency intervention, the paraprofessional may use Crisis Prevention Intervention (CPI) techniques with appropriate training.

If paraprofessionals provide health or medical support, they will always be trained and supervised by an appropriately qualified professional. Therefore, district liability insurance applies if the paraprofessional performs duties according to training.

The paraprofessional, general education teacher, and Special Education Case Manager must have regular, ongoing communication to ensure that all have the same expectations as the role of the SCIA.

General Tips for paraprofessionals on How to Communication with the teacher:

  • Be honest with the teacher at all times. For example, it is okay to say, "I don't understand."

  • When working one-on-one with a student, ensure that the teacher's instructions are followed. If the teacher gives you no instructions, ask!

  • Ask the teacher how a student learns best. Remember that not all students learn the same way – what might work for one student (even with the same disability) might not work for another student.

  • When working with students in groups, check with the teacher to know what is expected of you.

Peer Assistance

The teacher and the instructional aide should encourage peers to assist the identified student during the day when appropriate. Most activities will be more enjoyable for the student if he/she is assisted by peers rather than by an adult.

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