Renay was in a full-on sprint this week getting through the week with several projects and when she came in today to discuss our weekly blog, there were two things on her mind: one on one paraeducators and the speed of education.
For the majority of the paraeducators out there working with a variety of students, one on one is a mixed bag. The complexity lies in the simple fact that other than being asked to work with a specific student one on one, a paraeducator has no say in the creation of being a one on one support. The IEP Team makes the ultimate decision for the student’s pursuit of academic, emotional, and social growth while at that campus.
Students who need one on one paraeducators typically have excessive behaviors, a major health need, many academic support needs in a classroom, or a combination of all the aforementioned.
The question is always: How does one give the student the support they need and the space they need to be a student?
Students make mistakes. Students can wander and wonder about things other than what is right in front of them. The same experiences should be given to a student who needs support one on one.
There are times when it feels as your supporting a student that you cannot break from their routines or their needs. We usually suggest taking a Q-TIP (Quit Taking It Personally) at this point. Not to short change a bad pairing, especially a one on one, but if you’re dreading coming to work, or you are very worried about your own safety, that is not a positive working environment. We really do suggest you talk with your case manager for that student and explain that it is not a good set up for you.
But why are one on ones loved and hated? Some families demand that their student have a one on one and the rest of the IEP team may push back in the interest of Least Restrictive Environment for that student. Some families never want a one on one for their student, wanting their student to wander freely through the experience of education, which could be possible but upon observation, maybe some more support, though not necessarily a one on one is needed.
Other one on ones have different personalities and priorities. While personalities with a student with a disability may need adjusting, the priorities are really long-term outcomes for the student—and yes, even their IEP goals.
One on one support can develop a relationship. And in this relationship, the adult has to consider a few things.
- Are you recognizing that the student is maturing?
- Are you giving time for the student to develop relationships with their peers in their classes?
- When you intervene or redirect a student, are you giving them time to try and figure out what the request by the teacher was? This is a big one, even if you have to be right next to the student because of a health need, give them time.
- Remember that their work is their work. The letter ‘H’ is written in the line above? Leave it. The coloring is outside of the lines? Leave it. They forgot sentences end with a period? Leave it. They don’t understand the instructions so go off on their own tangents? It’s okay. No, it really is. Any student with a disability has to learn from their mistakes, just like their peers in general education.
One on one is challenging. Though Renay will be the first to tell you she enjoyed her time working one on one with students. She knows it’s not always appropriate for all students. She also knows it is not the best world for many of the students in the long term. But for a year at a time, consider the role, you may be surprised at the outcome.
Speaking of Giving Them Time
Renay was walking across campus today when a student she knows flopped across the ground and sat in the middle of the quad. On the plus side, the student chose a space where people could easily walk around them. On the other side, well, flopping in the middle of the school day when folks have places to go, even when they have a visual schedule, well, it’s inconvenient.
But it got us thinking about how school can be a bit of a rush slog. From another perspective, school could just be about going to different places, and doing different things, with seemingly different rules about how much can and cannot be tolerated.
Some things that we know work:
- Meet the student there. Okay flopped down in the middle of the quad? Well, guess the class is going there. You won’t need the entire class, but if you can find one or two motivating peers, maybe class can just be outside or wherever the student stopped for the day.
- Try a sensory diet. Schools are loud places for many students with sensory complications. Temperatures are strange from the hall to the classroom and the light can be quite different. Lockers slam, the noise echoes. People crowd halls. Check with your OT about things like this. They will have suggestions.
- Give the student the time. Leave class five minutes earlier. Yes, this means packing up earlier. Take the time to get through the sections that appear to make the student struggle.
- Wait this out. The student will figure it out. And while they may be missing therapy time or something you know they enjoy; it doesn’t matter. The world isn’t built for many people on it. All we can do is wait and let them know we are there. The student will let you know when they’re ready.
If Renay had a dollar for every time the world demanded too much of her, she’d probably tell you she’d retire in a few years. She might have to wait longer if it was a quarter or so, but the world doesn’t stop for anyone. For some of us, we try and keep up for the times we can, and the rest of us take breaks. But it is also important to understand when someone else is taking that break.
Before We Go
Next week, Inclusion From Square One returns! For one week, we’ll be talking about a variety of things, our highlight will be a shared post from Jewish Special Ed! We’ll talk about that more next week.
Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online here, here, here, here, and on our website. ParaEducate is a company interested in providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.