Paraprofessionals

A systematic review of paraprofessional-delivered educational practices to improve outcomes for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities

The involvement of paraprofessionals in the education of students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) has been both complex and controversial. Many scholars and advocates have raised concerns about the roles these staff members play in schools and the degree to which there is empirical support for their direct work with students. We conducted a systematic review of the literature to address two primary questions: To what extent have paraprofessional-implemented educational practices been shown to improve outcomes for elementary and secondary students with IDD, and what professional development strategies enable paraprofessionals to implement these strategies with fidelity? These studies indicate paraprofessionals when given adequate training, are capable of effectively implementing a number of educational practices that result in improved academic and social outcomes, specifically, teaching communication skills, reducing problem behaviors, and increasing independence for students with IDD. Follow-up training and support, modeling, and performance feedback were prominent training components across most studies in this review and are validated in the broader research literature. However, limitations leave many questions unanswered about how to best train and support paraprofessionals. We discuss recommendations for preparing paraprofessionals who work with students with IDD, as well as future directions for research.

Brock, M., & Carter, E. “A systematic review of paraprofessional-delivered educational practices to improve outcomes for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.” Research & Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities 38 no. 4, (2013): 211-221.

Call to Action for the Texas Educator

Ensure paraprofessionals receive appropriate training to support the needs of students.

Explore the Inclusion in Texas resource Working with Paraprofessionals.

Participate in the TX CAN course Building a Foundation for Supporting Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities, looking carefully at Indicator 2 – Effective Teams.

Increasing peer interactions for students with severe disabilities via paraprofessional training

As students with severe disabilities are included in general education settings, the use of paraprofessionals has expanded to meet these students’ needs. Unfortunately, paraprofessionals can have the inadvertent effect of intensifying the social isolation of students with disabilities. This study investigated the effectiveness of a training program aimed at teaching four paraprofessionals to facilitate interactions between students with severe disabilities and their peers. A multiple baseline, single-subject design across four paraprofessional/student pairs was utilized. Observational data were collected over the baseline and post intervention phases. Rates of paraprofessional facilitative behavior increased following the intervention. Additionally, rates of student interaction increased immediately and dramatically and were maintained through the maintenance probe.

Causton-Theoharis, J.N., & Malmgren, K.W. “Increasing peer interactions for students with severe disabilities via paraprofessional training.” Exceptional Children 71 no. 4 (2005): 431-444.

Call to Action for the Texas Educator

Provide training for paraprofessionals on facilitating interactions with peers. Review Paraprofessional Roles and Layers of Instruction.

Helping or hovering? Effects of instructional assistant proximity on students with disabilities

This study presents data on the effects of the proximity of instructional assistants on students with multiple disabilities who are placed in general education classrooms. Based on extensive observations and interviews, analysis of the data highlighted eight major findings of educational significant, all related to the proximity of instructional assistants. Categories of findings and discussion include (a) interference with ownership and responsibility by general educators, (b) separation from classmates, (c) dependence on adults, (d) impact on peer interactions, (e) limitations on receiving competent instruction, (f) loss of personal control, (g) loss of gender identity, and (h) interference with instruction of other students. The article concludes with implications for practice related to policy development, training, classroom practices, and research.

Giangreco, M.P., Edelman, S.W., Luiselli, T.E., & MacFarland, S.Z.C. “ Helping or hovering? Effects of instructional assistant proximity on students with disabilities. “Exceptional Children 64, no. 1 (1997): 7-18.

Call to Action for the Texas Educator

Discuss proximity awareness with paraprofessionals so that they can work to maximize student independence and allow for natural peer interactions.

Social acceptance and paraprofessional support for students with severe disabilities

In the United States, federal mandates require local education agencies to provide education to students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment. As a result, students with disabilities are included in the general education classroom for varying amounts of the school day, depending on their educational goals and individual needs. For students with severe disabilities, placement in a general education classroom is often paralleled with the assignment of a paraprofessional. Research suggests paraprofessional support can cause unintended adverse effects. The current study describes the social acceptance of students with severe disabilities who receive paraprofessional support and explores the intersection of social acceptance and paraprofessional support. Findings suggest students with severe disabilities who receive paraprofessional support have average levels of social acceptance and initial evidence that students receiving more frequent paraprofessional support have lower levels of social acceptance. Practical implications and suggestions for future research are discussed.

Lequia, J. “Social acceptance and paraprofessional support for students with severe disabilities.” International Journal of Special Education 33, no. 2 (2018): 330-342.

Call to Action for the Texas Educator

Review the Hierarchy of Cueing and Prompting with your paraprofessional. Model each level of support and practice together.