Paraprofessionals are Being Underutilized in Shut Down Crisis

Schools are shut down and IEP teams are in a panic of how to help students with IEPs.

After weeks of trying to use every resource at their fingertips, it's becoming clear that there is a HUGE resource that is being underutilized.  Paraprofessionals!

Every person on the IEP team from teachers to parents to therapists can confirm that aides in the classroom are the glue that hold everything together.

Paraprofessionals take care of everything from bathroom breaks to massive meltdowns. They know how to get through the toughest days and we need them more than ever, right now.

Most of all, students need their support system and often their number one support person is their aide. 

There are dozens of ways that we can help our support team stay connected with students... here are two to get started:

1. Connect the paraprofessional to what the parent needs at home. They are already masters at making visual schedules, positive reinforcement schedules and getting creative on the spot. Their knowledge of what happens at school, plus the parents knowledge of what is happening at home, needs to come together to help the get the tools they need to be supported through these uncertain times.  Custom daily schedules and new reward boards can be made in minutes with their expertise!

2. Support Staff Office Hours. You may already be a pro at using Zoom, but have you used it to connect paraprofessionals to students? No formal instruction needs to happen during these hours. Simply create a schedule that the support team can be available by Zoom. The paraprofessional logs in and keeps her camera off and mic on mute while she waits for her students to pop into her virtual office. She can multi-task making supports (see #1 above) while waiting for students to visit her online in her office. Don't worry about over planning these office hours. Paraprofessionals are great conversation makers about anything from what a student ate for snack to helping parents figure out why a student can't stop crying. They speak their student's language and we need to let them connect naturally!

It doesn't seem that our schools are going to get back into a normal routine anytime soon and we need every support we can get to stabilize the chaos for our children. No matter what your district rules were in the past... it's time to let the paraprofessionals start connecting directly with families. Children and parents both need their support. 

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