Deciding When a Dedicated Paraprofessional Is Needed

Categories: Interventions

Some students require more support than the classroom staff can provide. Not all classrooms are setup with staffing to allow one students to be with one adult all day. The decision of whether or not your student is a good fit for a dedicated or one-on-one paraprofessional is tricky. There are a lot of things to consider and (depending on your district) you may need to go out and do some heavy duty advocating to make this possible. 


Things to consider regarding a dedicated paraprofessional:

Frequency of Negative Behaviors: First off – how often are negative behaviors occurring that would require the support of a dedicated aide? Take frequency data. Have frequency data for a consistent period of time.

Magnitude of Negative Behaviors: How dangerous are these behaviors? Has the student, others students, or staff been injured? Document all injuries in a thorough way. Use any required forms by your district. How many staff members does it take to deal with these negative behaviors? How long does it take for the student to calm down/rejoin class? These are important to consider because you want to consider who staff’s time allocation is effecting the other students in the class. Are other students missing out on academic/IEP related work?

Interventions that have worked: What interventions have had success (even minor or temporary)? It helps to show that you have some idea of how to use the dedicated paraprofessional if you were to get it.

Skill Acquisition: Although with behavior interventions, be prepared to detail how a dedicated aide would advance the learning of this students. How would the aide assist in running IEP related programs, generalize mastered skills, or increase communication opportunities?

Classroom Size: Unfortunately class size greatly effects this decision. Whether right or wrong – there are some behaviors that are far more manageable in a class of 6 versus a class of 13. 

Current Classroom Dynamic: Do you have other high needs students? Do you have students that are a trigger for this student? What other factors are at play for providing the amount of support necessary? For example, I had a tricky combination that became unmanageable when one staff member was in charge of one student with high frequency aggression and another who was not toilet trained. Obviously the staff member was not able to do both sets of job responsibilities at once and I was pulled on a regular basis to assist.

Missed Instructional Time: Look at and document how often other students are missing out on instructional time. This isn’t to put blame anywhere but it’s to highlight the need and necessity for more staff that goes beyond that one student. One student who requires more support can cause a ripple effect and it’s important for administrators to be aware of that. 

Plan for Fading: This is what most people forget about. I know it’s crazy but put your super optimistic hat on figure out what criteria would the student need to meet to no longer require a dedicated aide. This is key. Our job is to lose our job. You want to be always moving in the direction (even if it’s very slowly) towards independence and fading the help of that adult. 

Parent Opinion/Involvement: Hate to say it but usually a parent’s voice is louder than the teacher’s. What are the parent’s opinions on a dedicated aide? Can they assist in advocating for their child?

Let Your Data Talk

If you decide a dedicated paraprofessional is the best choice for your student, let your data prove your case! Every school district is different. The process, difficulty, and paperwork is going to vary greatly among each of your classes. The thing that remains constant is the data. Data will be important everywhere. It is a concrete way to illustrate your level of need. Regardless of your district – data will help you prove what is best for this student. Here are some samples of ways I have shared data:

Data on aggression, dropping, and elopement  (aka running away behavior). This data was also charting together on an additional graph and that graph was compared with interventions that had been utilized, student’s menstruation cycle, and amount of staff attention on each day.


List of each intervention utilized; organized by data of implementation. The results of each intervention are explained and relevant data that occurred following intervention implementation is listed as well.

Share All the Info

I have also included things such as staff schedules (including all schedule revisions to illustrate the need for extension accommodation for the student), other student data (if there are decreases in other students IEP data or to show changes in frequency of IEP skill programming for other students), and sometimes anecdotal accounts from a variety of staff members. In general, I steer away from anecdotal because it’s much more subjective but sometimes it can be useful.

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