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Determining Paraprofessional Support for a Student Post 1-15

Updated: Feb 14, 2023


Every school within the United States is required to provide a full continuum of placement options for students with identified disabilities who are receiving special education services. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and its regulations describe a continuum of placements such as instruction in regular classes, special classes, special schools, home instruction, and instruction in hospitals and institutions (CFR 300.551 (b) (1)).


The IDEA also defines related services as the utilization of aids, services, and other supports provided in regular education classes or different education-related settings to enable children with disabilities to be educated with non-disabled children to the maximum extent appropriate. This applies to any general or special education program in which the student may participate (34 CFR Part 300.550-300.556). There may be special circumstances when a student may need additional support to succeed in their educational placement.


A goal for any student with special needs is to encourage, promote, and maximize independence. The Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team is responsible for developing and implementing a program that supports that independence. Natural support and existing staff support should be used whenever possible.


If the IEP team is considering a paraprofessional as a support for the classroom staff, the team must determine:

- Natural supports and/or existing staff supports are not adequate for the student to participate and progress in the general education program.


If the IEP team is considering a paraprofessional as a support for the classroom staff, the team must determine:

- Additional support is necessary to assist classroom staff in facilitating the student in:

  • Advancing appropriately toward the annual goals and/or;

  • Involvement in and progress in the general curriculum and/or;

  • Participation in extracurricular and other nonacademic activities and/or

  • Participation with other disabled and non-disabled students.


If the IEP team is considering a paraprofessional as a support for the classroom staff, the team must determine:


- How quickly it anticipates the support can be faded and develops a systematic evaluation method toward independence and more natural support.


- If the IEP Team recommends a paraprofessional, the team is also responsible for monitoring so that additional support may be faded as soon as possible. Additional para support can unintentionally foster dependence if not monitored and evaluated regularly.


When the IEP team is initially considering the need for a para support, there are a variety of tools that can be use. Using these tools, the team should identify the specific activities and times for which additional assistance or supervision is required.


There are some instances where the need for paraprofessional support can be determined using existing data in the context of an IEP meeting. However, it is sometimes anticipated that additional data will need to be collected to make an educated and appropriate decision about the need for paraprofessional support. If this is the case, include your school psychologist in the meeting and discuss what additional data might help (i.e., medical notes, counseling notes, etc.).


At regular intervals, designated members of the IEP team should use the tools to collect data about whether the level of assistance continues to be needed. As the student's level of independence or ability to use natural supports increases, behavior improves, or the makeup of the class changes, the assistance should be faded. For samples of these tools, visit my website.


The team must consider each type of assistance listed below to determine if the student needs support from a para with a particular activity and estimate the amount of time necessary. These types of assistance include health/personal care, behavior, instruction, and inclusion.

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