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Kelci Faulkingham
Dr. Alexander
November 17, 2016

Paraprofessionals have been supporting students with disabilities for the past 50 years.
Though paraprofessionals have been around for many years there are a lot of questions that
parents who have children with special educational needs have about how these individuals will
affect their childs academics. The following paraprofessional inquiry will explore a number of
questions. How does the school administration decide to include a paraprofessional? What
makes an individual a paraprofessional? What is the role of a paraprofessional? Can
paraprofessionals help children achieve academic success? To answer these questions, I
researched online national articles, blogs written by paraprofessional, and conducted an
interview with Mrs. Alexander, a paraprofessional from Belfast Area High School.
When a student demonstrates a disability such as symptoms of Autism Spectrum
Disorder or Cerebral Palsy, the school administration and parents may decide that a child needs a
paraprofessional at an Individual Education Plan (IEP) meeting. An IEP provides the student
with accommodations and/or services in order to achieve their educational goals. The type of
paraprofessional that the school chooses is based on the student's disability, and the amount of
help he/she needs to achieve academic success. Paraprofessionals have a range of education
experiences including a high school diploma or less to a 4-year college degree. Statistic show
that 29% of paraprofessional have a High school diploma or less , 38 % have some college
education , and 32% have an associate's degree or higher. Studies show that 13% of
paraprofessionals have a certificate or credential. Parents also have a critical role in choosing the

paraprofessional and creating the accommodations and goals. The IEP is a legal document and
can override a school board decision.
Some people believe that paraprofessionals are supervised by the districts administrator,
but in practice this statement is false. The districts administrators are not the only the
supervisors of the paraprofessionals, they are supervised by the special education teacher or the
related service provider. The special education teacher, special education director, and related
service providers creates the IEP with the student and their parents to make accommodations for
the classroom. Paraprofessionals have the responsibility of understanding their students IEP
goals, accommodations, and modifications. It is very important that the paraprofessional and the
special education teacher work closely together and effectively communicate because the
implementation of the IEP is critical to the students ability to achieve their goals.
Research indicates that there are different types of paraprofessionals in the country based
on the needs of the geographic region and individual school districts. The Southeast, Northeast
and Western regions of the United States provide children with more personal care assistance
and health care services in the educational setting. Studies show that paraprofessionals in the
North spend 10% or more of their time completing administrative tasks when compared to
paraprofessionals in the South. These tasks consist of completing forms and paperwork and
preparing materials for instruction. Special education paraprofessionals report that they spend a
majority of their time providing instructional support in small groups, providing one-on-one
instruction, modifying materials, implementing behavior management plans, monitoring
hallways, and study hall. They also spend a great deal of time meeting with teachers, collecting
data on students, and providing personal care assistance.

Paraprofessionals have many roles in the classroom in order to help students achieve their
academic and future goals. Many people ask the question: What role do paraprofessionals play
in the classroom? Paraprofessionals build a team to support a student with a disability. The team
has the students best interest at heart and through consistent communication, planning, and
problem solving, any barrier can be overcome. When a paraprofessional is assigned to a student
or classroom they follow crucial guidelines that are set through the IEP(s). They are tasked with
remembering and implementing one to many IEPs depending on their assignment.
Paraprofessionals commonly assist with the tasks of; leading small group instructions designed
by the teacher, gathering information, providing assistance of personal care and other physical
needs, assisting students to complete directions given by the teacher, facilitating interactions
between students, adapting lessons under the teachers guidelines. Paraprofessionals often
execute other very important tasks for the classroom community that may go unnoticed by most.
I interviewed Mrs. Alexander, a paraprofessional from the Belfast Area High school. She
has been a paraprofessional for 17 years. Throughout the years of being a paraprofessional she
has worked with students with different disabilities including, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down
Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Emotional Disturbance, and many more. Mrs. Alexander reports that
she loves her job, but with all jobs there are pros and cons. She reports that her job is very
inspiring. She said that working with the students is hard work but, recognizing students ability
is not a disadvantage, the students recognizing that it doesn't matter they are happy about their
life. She enjoys teaching students tolerances and stated, What make people intolerant are the
people who don't know. She believes that if you teach outside the norm, the students learn to
understand their strengths.

Mrs. Alexander reflected a positive story about a student that had a hard time processing
and understanding his academics. After three weeks of hard work and dedication he was able to
master a specific skill. Even though that it was a temporary gain, it was a day to remember.
Although the rewards of the job are beneficial and exciting, they are always barriers to helping
children with special needs. Mrs. Alexander reported that the hardest part of her job is there isnt
enough time in a day to spend with each student that needs help. Every day students present
with new challenges to overcome.
Paraprofessionals work hard to help students with disabilities, but does this work help
children achieve academic success? After researching articles, there is not empirical evidence
indicating a childs academic success is related to working with a paraprofessional. There are a
lot of individual success stories where children with special needs are included in mainstream
classes and extracurricular activities. An example of a students inclusion story comes from the
Gildersleeve Middle School in Virginia. A seventh grader, who had a learning disability in
Math, was able to participate in a math tournament with mainstream classmates with the help of
a paraprofessional.
The passion to help children that Mrs. Alexander demonstrates and inclusion story from
Gildersleeve Middle School, demonstrates the hard and exciting work of paraprofessionals in the
United States. I used the information obtained by national research, blogs, and an in-person
interview to learn how a child meets level of care for a paraprofessional, how the provider is
chosen, their multifaceted job description, and learned the way that paraprofessionals measure
success when working with children with disabilities. Many paraprofessionals measure

successes by seeing their students make steps towards achieving their goals and to help students
with disabilities be accepted and participate in activities with their peers.

N.p., n.d. Web.

Ashbaker, B.y., S.c. Dunn, and J. Morgan. "Paraprofessionals in Special Education."

International Encyclopedia of Education (2010): 780-87. Web.
Center for Parent Information and Resources. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.
"Paraprofessionals." SpringerReference (n.d.): n. pag. Web.
Osewalt, Ginny. "Paraprofessionals: Who They Are and What They Do." N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.