• Monday, May 27, 2024
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Focus On Special Education: The Para-Educator

Focus On Special Education_ The Para-Educator

Special education requires teamwork to meet the needs of all students with disabilities. Special education instructors, (Education specialists) need the support of Para-educators to accelerate classroom instruction.

Para-educators work as support personnel under the supervision of certified school professionals. Paraprofessionals serving in special education positions assist teachers in both instructional and non-instructional tasks. They provide support for students in general education and students in more specialized settings. Daily instructional tasks of a Paraeducator in an inclusive setting include modifying materials and curriculum as instructed by the teacher, recording data and monitoring behaviour. Teachers rely on Para-educators to relay information about assignments, concerns and behaviour of the student, and suggestions for changes.

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I believe strongly in the principle of affecting and impacting on the lives of people positively to create a change in society. I have also discovered that the field of Special education is one of the quickest means of effecting such positive change, hence my love for teaching and the development of the human mind. Special education administrators create pathways to effect a change; one that would be impossible without the consistent support of the Para-educator.

Who is the Para-Educator?

In the United States, the Para-educator is a person hired to assist a board-certified education specialist in the instruction of exceptional children or in the provision of services necessary to provide the child with a free and appropriate public education (FAPE).

The 1997 Amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) specify, “Paraprofessionals who are adequately trained and supervised may assist in the delivery of special education and related services” The quality of the instructional services that Para-educators provide is directly related to the training they receive, and the responsibility for that training is frequently left to the teacher.

Teachers are faced with the additional responsibility of ensuring that Para-educators are qualified to provide services to students with disabilities. The Para-educator’s position description at the Los Angeles County schools highlights many tasks which include the following: making sure that the students learn the curriculum, facilitating social interactions between students, managing small and large groups and model appropriate social skills.

Others include interacting with general educators and how to best incorporate activities with the Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals, facilitating friendships for students with disabilities and coach students to use effective communication skills including turn-taking, changing topics, solving problems and ending a conversation.

Para-educators assume a variety of responsibilities and perform a multitude of tasks. They begin the day by assisting students off the bus; teaching students to hang up jackets and backpacks, put away boots and teaching appropriate greeting skills as students start their day.

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They are also responsible for assisting students with custodial tasks, changing diapers, teaching self-feeding skills, and proper positioning of students in various devices. Tasks such as tube feeding, dispensing medications, suctioning of tracheotomy tubes, and other specific health needs, as delegated and trained by the school nurse are performed by trained Para-educators. They also perform a variety of instructional-individual and group duties and non-instructional tasks like ordering items, preparing materials and bulletin boards, paperwork and data collection.

They influence positive changes in academic achievement and behaviour in several ways that include reading to students, listening to students read, providing one-to-one instruction and directing small group work. Para-educators assist students in using adaptive equipment or devices; serve as positive role models to students with emotional and behavioural disabilities.

In the classroom, they work to meet the needs of students with disabilities while also assisting others in a support role. For instance, they serve the needs of one student with a disability and also serve as a family liaison, check and grade homework, take attendance and assist the teacher in arranging classroom chairs, desks, material and equipment.

Isaac Osae-Brown

Isaac Osae-Brown works for the Compton Unified School District in California as an Education Specialist and a Beginning Teacher Mentor. He is an advocate and a speaker for Special Education services in the United States and abroad. www.facebook.com/inclusivemindset/