A recent study at Winona State University found that among paraprofessionals who worked with students identified as on the autism spectrum, only 43 percent felt they were properly trained to work with those students. Thirty-six percent of surveyed paraprofessionals responded that they were not prepared with the rest, responding that they were unsure. Those same paraprofessionals identified that they are in need of more training to support working with students in need of conflict resolution, anger management, and appropriate communication skills. Paraprofessionals seem to need the most support in working with students on anger management and helping understand the perceptions of others. Experienced paraprofessionals identified that they spend a lot of time working with students on understanding and reacting appropriately to social cues. Therefore, new paraprofessionals should be given training on helping students utilize social cues.
Paraprofessionals are an essential element within today’s schools. They cannot be successful without strong communication with both building administrators and their classroom teachers. Teachers and administrators need to ensure that expectations are clear, and paraprofessionals know where to go when they need help. Consider formalizing an expectations form for each teacher to complete, so paraprofessionals will have a clear understanding of expectations within each classroom.
Though the recent study showed the need for paraprofessionals who work with students on the autism spectrum see the need for more training in conflict resolution and anger management, each building and district need to develop training to meet the specific needs of their paraprofessionals. Paraprofessional training should be formalized and ongoing throughout the year. With the current teacher shortage, effective paraprofessionals are excellent way to expand the reach of effective teachers. Following the recommendations above will improve the effectiveness of the paraprofessionals and the teachers they work with.
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