Working with Paraprofessionals (Part 1)

Special educators sometimes find themselves working with many different service providers.  On any given day, they can be asked to communicate with a number of general education teachers, other special educators, and various therapists.  As a special educator you may be working together with reading and math specialists and interventionists, school social workers and counselors, teacher assistants (TAs) and aides.  These people can be some of the most valuable human resource assets your school possesses. However, it can become very overwhelming to have so many people in and out of your classroom; or to make sure your student with special needs is getting everything, from everyone, that they are supposed to in order for them to meet with success.

Sometimes the people that work closest with the students with disabilities are our paraprofessionals–teacher aides or assistants.  They are often assigned to work 1:1 with a student or with very small groups of kids.  Some will work with many of the same students over the years and really come to know their strengths and needs, their character and personalities.  Utilized well, a TA or an aide can help a teacher to really address the needs of their students better and may assist with creating a more inclusive setting.

However, there are times when a teacher feels that there are too many TAs and/or aides in the classroom and that the roles and responsibilities of each is ambiguous at best.  There may be little time for the teacher to create plans for each of the adults and to communicate with them about the students and/or the instruction.  The TAs and aides may come into the classroom with very little training, differing personalities, and there may not be a well thought out plan for how everyone involved in working with these students are to work together to best meet their needs.

On page 31 of  Working with Paraprofessionals: A Resource for Teachers of Students with Disabilities, the authors outline a number of good practices for teachers to do in order to better communicate with the paraprofessionals with whom they work. Clarifying roles and responsibilities, creating plans for communication, building rapport, reviewing and following IEPS, classroom management, academic assistance, training, and planning are crucial topics for teachers, TAs, and aides to discuss and/or come to an agreement on.  In the following months, please continue to look for my blogs as I delve deeper into each one of these topic areas and give tips on how to work with paraprofessionals to best meet the needs of our special education population.

In the meantime, if you have any questions, have stories, or have resources that you would like to share, please comment below or e-mail me at

Ohora_Siobhan_150pxSiobhan O’Hora
Special Education School Improvement Specialist (SESIS)

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