I often get called because parents want a 1:1 parapro for their child in school. This request is rooted in concerns that their child is not getting the support they need to be successful, to progress in the curriculum, or to remain in the general education setting. And sometimes, it is rooted in the feeling that no one at the school is paying attention to their child, that they are lost and left to their own devices. The real root though is often lack of or poor communication between the school and the family.
In special education, we talk about the least restrictive environment (LRE) being that which is least restrictive to the student’s learning, and that the default LRE is the general education classroom. On the opposite end of that continuum, we define the most restrictive environment as one-to-one support. Between these ends of the spectrum, we have consultative support, partial day in a special education classroom (resource room), fully self-contained classrooms (eg. ASD program), center-based programs, and home-bound instruction (which is 1:1). See the IRIS Center’s infobrief on the topic.
Research shows that overreliance on 1:1 paraprofessionals can be detrimental to student development. Unwittingly, oftentimes when parents are requesting a 1:1 support, they are further isolating their child from their peers, and even from accessing their classroom teacher. Additionally, students are not acquiring important social and advocacy skills they will need to be leaders of their own lives.
There are times when the support of a 1:1 paraprofessional is needed, for example, for safety issues or personal care needs. However, when a problem arises regarding a student not getting the support they need to be successful, more communication and collaborative problem-solving is often all that is truly needed. This means that all parties come to the table ready to listen and explore out-of-the-box solutions. It also means that once a plan has been crafted there are accountability checks, data collection tools, and, finally, communication that follows on a regular basis. It is this final piece that is so often missing, and is what has families calling me for help.
Creative Advocacy Solutions for Education provides support, guidance and help navigating the world of special education for families and schools. We collaborate with schools, families and educators enabling them to appropriately meet the needs of all students in the classroom. Through this work, we fulfill the vision of Families and educators working together to reach and teach all students.