What do parents need to know about one-on-one assignment of paraprofessionals?

Many parents of students with disabilities in inclusive settings, request a one-on-one paraeducator assigned to their child to ensure the students’ safety and success. Even though such a request is understandable and well meaning, it may inadvertently interfere with the child’s inclusion and education.

Some of the downfalls of the practice of one-on-one assignment are that the paraeducator may:

  • Become primary service provider and limit the involvement of the special education teacher and the classroom teacher with the student. This practice is further exacerbated when paraeducators are not qualified and or trained. It is not in the best interest of the students with most complex needs to be taught by the least qualified staff member.
  • Make decisions that should be made by the person with the highest level of training and certification (e.g. adapting materials or assignments without direction, communicate directly with families – leaving teacher out of the loop.
  • Refuse to consider the teacher as the supervisor.
  • Develop “ownership” of the child, lose perspective and deny the professional team members / parents access to information they need to make effective plans for the child’s education.
  • Hover or create over dependence/learned helplessness in the student.
  • Create social barriers between students with disabilities and typical peers.

Together, parents and schools should consider ways to minimize the problems resulting from one-on-one dedicated paraeducators in inclusive classes. The Special Education Paraeducator Support Checklist is a helpful tool for this purpose, as it may accomplish the following four things:

  • It documents the need for paraeducator support and causes the students’ educational team to consider other alternatives, such as natural supports (age-peer student, older student, general education or classroom teacher, special education teacher, parent volunteer) already available in the environment, prior to or during a special education IEP meeting.
  • It identifies skills that require training and assigns responsibility for training the paraeducator or other person who provides the needed supports; thus, assuring that the student will receive the best possible instructional support.
  • It specifies supervisory responsibilities and thus helps to assure that the paraeducator is, in fact, assisting appropriately.
  • It identifies areas where the classroom teacher can be an alternative to paraeducator support; thus, the form may help in shifting the classroom teacher’s role from someone who simply hosts a student with disabilities to an active/engaged teacher for that student.