Resources for Paraprofessionals
Paraprofessionals are an important part of an educational team and can be very helpful in supporting a student with ASD to be successful in the school setting. According to the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), a paraprofessional is a school employee who works under the supervision of a licensed staff member to assist in providing instruction, behavioral support, and other services to students and their families (Adapted from A.L. Pickett, Director for the National Resource Center for Paraprofessionals, City University of New York, 1997). Services can be instructional or non-instructional in nature. The prefix "para" means "along side of." Therefore, it is correct to assume that a paraprofessional works along side of an educator.
Paraprofessionals in public schools today are performing a variety of duties, including implementing teacher planned instruction, implementing accommodations and modifications, collecting data, supervising students, providing behavioral support, and providing communication support. Because of the various roles paraprofessionals serve, and because of the increase in the population of students with ASD in Virginia, it is more important than ever for paraprofessionals to be prepared to support students with ASD in the school setting. Below you will find resources that can assist paraprofessionals in their work with students with ASD.
The VCU-ACE Paraprofessionals in Autism Resource and Achievement Project (PARAPro) provides training activities and resources designed to enhance the knowledge and skills of paraprofessionals who support students with ASD. The PARAPro offers information for paraprofessionals as well as teachers, administrators and other professionals who may supervise or guide a paraprofessional.
The Council for Exception Children (CEC) describes the roles of paraprofessionals and provides professional development standards for paraprofessionals.
The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities, also known as NICHCY, provides information about the work of paraprofessionals and additional resources such as websites, books, and other documents that provide information on the roles of paraprofessionals, working collaboratively, and professional development resources.
The National Resource Center for Paraeducators hosts a website that offers news and resources for paraprofessionals as well as an online newsletter related to issues that affect paraprofessionals. The NRCP also hosts a conference dedicated to paraprofessionals.
The National Clearinghouse for Paraeducator Resources provides full-text articles with information and research relevant to paraprofessionals, as well as information for paraprofessionals wishing to obtain the teaching credentials. The Clearinghouse also provides a discussion forum.
The Center on Disability and Community Inclusion at the University of Vermont provides references related to paraprofessionals as well as some full-text articles.
Standards, Guides and Factsheets
Training Standards for Paraprofessionals Assigned to Work with a Teacher Who Has Primary Oversight of Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders were developed in 2013 by VDOE in collaboration with VCU-ACE. These Training Standards were developed as a result of the passage of House Bill 325.
The Virginia Paraprofessional Guide to Supervision and Collaboration with Paraprofessionals: A Partnership provides guidance on supervising and collaborating with paraprofessionals in the school setting as well as providing a professional development framework.
Videos and Training
VCU-ACE has developed an online course for paraprofessionals. Autism Spectrum Disorders for Paraprofessionals: Providing Effective Instruction and Supports is designed to provide paraprofessionals with skills and knowledge needed to support students with an ASD in the school setting. The course provides an overview of the potential roles and responsibilities the paraprofessional may be asked to deliver. Participants will learn how to carry out their responsibilities while maintaining respect for the students and exhibiting sensitivity to beliefs, values, and cultures. Teaming and communication with professionals and parents are also highlighted. The course provides participants with an overview of ASD including primary and secondary characteristics. Information regarding the development and implementation of the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is also discussed. Participants will gain knowledge of educational modifications, accommodations, and educational strategies used to support students with ASD. A focus of the course is on understanding interfering behaviors, which students with ASD may demonstrate, and effectively supporting the student to reduce these behaviors and increase positive skills. The course runs on a monthly basis, is facilitated by VCU-ACE Staff, and is free to residents of VA.
Project PARA is supported by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and provides online self study programs. The purpose of the project is to provide training for paraprofessionals and their supervisory teachers to support paraprofessionals to work effectively in the classroom.