The Who, What and How of Paraprofessionals: Using These Instructional Supports Effectively (page 3)

By — Autism Society
Updated on Jul 23, 2010


Another state that provides paraprofessional support is Connecticut. In 1991, its State Education Resource Center (SERC) created the Paraprofessionals as Partners Initiative ( For more than 15 years, SERC has offered a variety of professional development opportunities for paraprofessionals, seeking to meet their unique needs. Currently, the Paraprofessionals as Partners Initiative provides a framework for paraprofessional study groups, hosts an annual conference for and concerning paraprofessionals and recently published the first issue of its new online newsletter. The initiative’s work is based on training competencies for paraprofessionals outlined in the Connecticut Guidelines for Training and Support of Paraprofessionals Working with Students, Birth to 21 (2004). However, for Connecticut, as with other states, these procedures have limited power, as they are guidelines not mandates.

Other States

Several other states also have designated a state center, akin to Connecticut’s SERC, for information and resources for paraprofessionals. A number of other states have followed Minnesota’s lead in establishing knowledge and skill competencies for paraprofessionals, including Idaho, Rhode Island, Washington, Montana, Wisconsin and Utah. Finally, Nebraska (Project Para) and Vermont (Para Educator Learning Network) have established online learning modules similar to those developed by Minnesota.

Efforts of Organizations

Nationally, multiple organizations have begun exploring the effective use of paraprofessionals. The National Resource Center for Paraprofessionals (NRCP) serves as a national clearinghouse of information and resources for all educational paraprofessionals. NRCP convenes an annual national conference on the training and employment of paraprofessionals. It also maintains a website, which includes NRCP-created training materials and resources for paraprofessionals across the nation, as well as national and state message boards for paraprofessionals. In 2003, the Council for Exceptional Children developed and adopted a set of knowledge and skill standards for beginning special education paraprofessionals. To a lesser degree, but with a greater focus on ASD, several other organizations are making efforts to highlight the issues surrounding paraprofessionals, such as the Association for Behavior Analysis and the upcoming 2007 Network of Autism Training and Technical Assistance Programs (NATTAP) Conference.

Role of Parents and Educators

The current lack of research and minimal models for professional development, paired with the exponential rise in the number of paraprofessionals supporting students with ASD, indicates that this is still an emerging practice. However, parents and educators alike can testify to the benefits a child can experience from good paraprofessional support. Therefore, further research is needed on how paraprofessionals can best support students with ASD, as well as how paraprofessional’s should be trained and supported. In addition, parents and educators should carefully consider and be creative in how their students with ASD can best be supported. When paraprofessionals are included on a student’s IEP, the IEP should explicitly state the paraprofessionals’ roles and responsibilities. Finally, parents and educators should advocate for the appropriate use, training and professional development of paraprofessionals to enable them to best serve and support students with ASD.

About the Authors

Katie Bassity, M.Ed., is an autism consultant for the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence (OCALI).

Donna Owens, M.A., is family services administrator at OCALI.


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