Students with autism who have been mainstreamed into learning communities may need additional resource support to have full access and equity to expected learning objectives. Paraprofessionals or Instructional Assistants (IAs) can provide the additional support role for teachers and students.
Paraprofessional Support in the Classroom
Paraprofessionals are essential to the learning process for students with autism. When teachers collaborate with them in defining their roles in the classroom, paraprofessionals can play an essential role in supporting autistic students academically and behaviorally. As a support team, teachers and paraprofessionals can create the following support system to provide true inclusion for students with autism:
- Provide a daily planning book so students can write in assignments, homework, charts for academic growth, behavioral checklists, visual drawings and reflection postings. Paraprofessionals can help students construct the daily planner and show them what inclusions are needed per teacher direction. They can also help them label sections and organize the learning materials in the planner, along with organizing due dates for assignments.
- Role-model for the student expected behavior if the student is off-task in the classroom or engages non-productively with other students. Paraprofessionals can sit near the student or next to the student and provide teacher support when the student needs help in understanding the assignment or copying down the learning objectives.
- Paraprofessionals can explain to the mainstream teachers, the basic nuts and bolts of the student's IEP (Individualized Education Plan) and the diagnostic data explaining instructional lesson modifications and implementation. In providing this additional support for teachers, paraprofessionals can work collaboratively with the teacher in setting up classroom learning expectations that are doable for the student.
- When given the right tools or templates, paraprofessionals can compile the teacher's data collection on student behavior, engagement and assignment completions. He/she can provide the teacher with insights into a student's behavior and eccentricities that are unique to how that student with autism functions in specific classrooms. For example, if a student is starting basic addition and likes to use manipulatives to add numbers, then the paraprofessional can monitor the student for accuracy when assessed and provide this data to teachers so that they can construct assessments with manipulatives to individualized testing for that particular student.
Paraprofessionals can provide a wealth of data and insight to teachers and parents on the level of their child's functioning in a classroom. They can become a part of a valuable team collaboration with teachers who are working to provide effective and accessible instruction and learning outcome for students with autism.