So you’ve been told that your child has a paraprofessional to help him while at school. What does this mean?
It may mean that the paraprofessional is also helping many other students in addition to your child. It may mean that your child gets help from a paraprofessional during certain portions of the school day. Don’t assume that it is a one-on-one scenario.
To what extent are your child’s need met (or not) with or without a para? Don’t assume that the teacher alone can meet all your child’s needs and all the other students’ in the room (teachers can’t ask for extra staff in the room but parents can!) Schools are now explaining that budget cuts result in less staff; your child that previously had a para may not now–unless you ask you may not know! Our advocates can go to school meetings with parents.
Ask the school:
- how many students are served by the para?
- at what times/scenarios does the para work/assist my child?
- what real-life experience does my para have working with a student who has the disability my child has?
- what training specific to the disability has the para attended? if none, why not?
- what training does my para receive that is different than the professional teachers receive? what does the para know about my child’s disability?
- who will substitute for the para when the para is absent? how available is the sub?
- what training/experience does the sub have?
Perhaps your child has a paraprofessional assigned to him and your are concerned that the para may provide too much or not enough support to your child. Ask the school:
- In what subjects/activities does the para provide direct instruction?
- In what subjects/activities does the para provide social guidance/set or guide interaction with peers?
- In what settings does the para fade to the background and serve only as a monitor?
- In what settings does the para provide physical/hands-on support/assistance?
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These questions are best asked of the para privately and later to the staff in an IEP or 504 meeting. A parent can request that these details be included in the IEP under supplemental aids/services. In a 504 plan, it can be listed as accommodations.
The para may need ways to make his life simpler at the school. Ask the para if he needs access to closets/storage areas at various points in the building for ease in acquiring extra clothing or a private area to change the student’s clothing. Offer to provide extra clothing in an additional backpack close to the lunch area in case of spills. Don’t forget the para on the bus; she may need items as well.
When discussing your child’s needs at the school, be careful of the terms you use. Yes, we all want our children to be “independent”; however, school personnel may interpret “independent” to mean that the student should be left to his own vices as much as possible—resulting in limited assistance from the para. In primary settings, this may not be the desired scenario for some children.
Accolades to all the hard-working wonderful paras! Thank you.
©2015 Special Education Parent’s Advocacy Link LLC dba The IEP Center
We provide information at low-cost to parents so they can better advocate for their child with disabilities in the public school. We can go with parents to meetings at the school.
Special Education Parent’s Advocacy Link LLC dba The IEP Center are not attorneys and do not give legal advice. We are not licensed to practice law in any state; we do not represent parents of children. Consult an attorney.