Paraeducators and Parents

Chopra, R. (2009). What do parents need to know about paraeducators? Exceptional Parent, 39(9), 22-23.

Paraeducators are now recognized as important members of the learning and teaching team alongside teachers and other professional educators in schools. Other commonly used titles for paraeducators are Paraprofessional, Instructional Assistant, Educational Assistant, Teaching Assistant, Instructional Aide, and Aide. This article provides useful information about appropriate utilization of paraeducators to ensure quality education for children with disabilities. The article covers the answers to some of the questions that exceptional parents frequently ask with regards to paraeducators.

Chopra R. V., & French, N. K. (2004). Paraeducator relationships with parents of students with significant disabilities. Remedial and Special Education, 25(4), 240-251.

This study examined the relationships between parents of students with significant disabilities and paraeducators who supported the students in inclusive educational settings. Results revealed five types of relationships between parents and paraeducators: close and personal friendship, routine limited interactions, routine extended interactions, tense relationship, and minimal relationship. Results indicated that it is important for paraeducators and parents to communicate because paraeducators spend more time with the students and gain insight into their academic and social behaviors. However, for paraeducator—parent relationships to be beneficial in the students’ education, they must remain within the limits and boundaries established by the teacher.

Doyle M. B. (1998). My child has a new shadow and it doesn’t resemble her! Disability Solutions, 3(1), 5-9.

This article is addressed to parents. The author suggests they ask why the teacher plans programs for children with without disabilities, but the paraeducator has the sole responsibility for the program of their child with a disability.

French N.K., & Chopra, R. (1999). Parent perspectives on the roles of paraprofessionals. Journal of the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps, 24(4), 259-272.

Parents of children with severe handicaps receiving special education services in general classrooms were interviewed in focus groups about their perceptions of paraprofessionals who worked with their children. Mother’s had close bonds with paraprofessionals and identified with them. They believed that they were extremely dedicated people who worked with their children in caring and compassionate ways. Four roles emerged that the parents viewed the paraprofessionals fulfilling for their children. Those were a team member with the other educational professionals who served their children, a connector between home and school, a teacher, and a health care provider. Parents were also aware of issues/problems of paraeducators that have been identified on other literature. Specifically those were low pay, inadequate training, lack of respect, and high turnover. Interestingly, the issue of most concern was that of respect. Parents believed that lack of respect shown paraeducators reflected a lack of respect for their children.

Haas E.M. (1996). Necessity: The mother of intervention. A parent’s recommendation for the preparation and use of speech-language paraprofessionals in education settings. Journal of Children’s Communication Development, 18(1), 111-114.

This article describes the experiences and perspectives of one mother of a 12-year old daughter who is “medically fragile” and has “profound bilateral sensorineural hearing loss. After describing her daughter’s medical history, the author describes her daughter’s educational program (which is primarily homebound in rural regions of the country), and the family’s experiences with speech-language paraprofessionals. She discusses her own experiences providing unpaid speech-language paraprofessional services to her daughter as well her experience as a consumer of speech-language paraprofessional services. Given appropriate selection and training, the author advocates for the use of speech-language paraprofessionals as an appropriate option for serving homebound students with severe medical complications.

Lucero A. (2010). Dora’s program: a constructively marginalized paraeducator and her developmental biliteracy program. Anthropology and Education, 41(2), 126-143.

This article discusses findings from a case study of one elementary bilingual paraeducator, high- lighting how the recognition of situated cultural capital enabled her to move from traditional to constructive marginality. I argue that her actions, the actions of others, and conditions within the school enabled her to use culturally relevant funds of knowledge in working with language- minority children. I conclude that the resources paraeducators bring can be harnessed when stakeholders are committed to doing so.

Mueller P.H. (2002). The paraeducator paradox. Exceptional Parent, 32(9), 64-67.

This article discusses the problems facing many paraeducators today – the fact that many of them are untrained and underpaid, yet are expected to provide instruction to the most complex or challenging students. The author discusses many factors in this discrepancy, including: role confusion, poor supervision, inadequate performance evaluation, lack of respect, and overuse. The author then offers possible solutions, or “promising practices”, to solve the paradox. While the article is directed towards parents, other people in the educational community may accomplish these solutions as well. They include: parent participation in the hiring process, developing comprehensive job descriptions, creation of relevant orientation and professional development, providing adequate supervision and ongoing support, developing an appropriate evaluation system, valuing the paraeducator as a part of the team, developing a process for determining when and if paraeducator support is necessary, and reviewing staff assignments.

Rueda R. S. & DeNeve, C. (2001). How paraeducators build cultural bridges in diverse classrooms. Community Circle of Caring Journal, 3(2) 53-55.

In their efforts to accommodate cultural diversity in the classroom, schools have taken a variety of approaches – few of them ideal. In this article, the authors examine how educators can use the “funds of knowledge” available in culturally diverse families and communities to build bridges between the home cultures of students and the cultures of their schools.

Sheehey P. H., Wells, J. C., Ogata, V. F. (2018). Paraeducators’ perceptions and experiences working with diverse families. Rural Special Education Quarterly, 37(1), 44-51.

This investigation explored the interactions between paraeducators and the culturally and linguistically diverse families of their students with disabilities. Paraeducators (n = 117) attending a statewide professional development event responded to a questionnaire designed to explore their interactions with diverse parents and families. Results from the questionnaire allowed investigators to examine (a) the frequency and type of interactions between paraeducators and families in a small, primarily rural, Western state and (b) paraeducators’ perspectives on cultural and communication challenges related to working with diverse families. Paraeducators reported issues related to both communication and culture in their interactions with diverse families.

Werts M.G., Harris, S., Tillery, C.Y., Roark, R. (2004). What parents tell us about paraeducators. Remedial and Special Education, 25(4), 232-239.

This qualitative study included interviews with 28 parents (27 were mothers) regarding their perceptions of 24 different paraeducators who provided educational supports to their 28 children. These children included 22 boys and six girls, ages 4-12, with mild to moderate disabilities enrolled in inclusive classrooms in public schools in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Oregon. Two interviews were conducted in person, the remaining 26 by telephone. Seventy-one percent of the students received one-to-one paraeducator support, the remaining 29% had classroom/group support from paraeducators. Prior to the parent interviews each paraeducator-student dyad was observed on 3 different days for one hour each day. Based on these observations, graphs were generated for each child indicating various aspects of the time and interactions (e.g., instructional grouping, types of interactions in the classroom, proximity). Each parent received a graph pertaining to his or her child prior to the interview (these observational data were not reported in this particular study; they will be discussed in a subsequent article).