Renay is back from her trip to Santa Barbara where she met up with a local school there to explain the benefits of #BetterTogether and #TeamInclusion. The specific details, we’re not going to share, but we look forward to hearing from this campus for the next year and hope the changes they can make to increase their team work will put an amazing program into an even better position to be copied in the future.
But that made us think about the skills a paraeducator needs to move into the next level of abilities of training. We’ve grouped them into three specific skill sets: Looking Ahead, Looking Out, and Looking At the Present.
At the core, we’re trying to get in front of a moving freight train when it comes to providing access to academics for many students with disabilities. Sometimes it’s about getting to meet up with the general education teacher and figuring out what the next big assignment is supposed to be. Sometimes it’s also thinking about what the student will be expected to do next year, at the next campus, or later in their life alone without as much support.
If the idea of thinking about ‘ahead’ is anxiety causing, pause for a moment and realize this is the opportunity to scaffold for that student some expectations. Can you let the student do an errand or a chore independently within the classroom? Can they sort at least the recyclables out of their lunch? Do they know the way to scan their lunch card or punch in their numbers?
Ultimately, find the good things your student can do, help build another skill. Whether the skill is independence, self-advocacy, or just working on following the teacher’s instructions, we’re building long term skills as well as short term ones.
Looking Out has two parts. Looking out for the student’s well-being. Is the student on time for their medication? Is the student emotionally safe in the classroom? Does the student get the services they need on a regular basis?
Then there’s looking out for opportunities for the student to rise on their own. There’s also looking out for materials that may have already been created to use with a specific student so you aren’t creating a new attempt for the student. Sometimes this is completely necessary, but cutting back on the ‘new’ helps decrease adult stress levels and reflects on similarity of students and provides expectations.
Looking At the Present
Appreciating the student as they are now, in the day is important too. Last year that student made great strides but right now, that smile even when they’ve reordered the sequence of historical events is pretty endearing, because they did try even when the sheet was right next to them. Knowing that the computational speed of the student is probably never going to get any faster is an okay place to be. Riding the wave of the student’s emotional distress is never fun, and they can’t hear you in the moment praise them for having said kind words when they really did not want to, but that too is something about the ‘now’. It’s where we start. It’s where we’re going and hope that it never backtracks, though sometimes, we know it can.
These are skills paraeducators have, especially the ones who are looking to stay beyond a year. Being able to do all these skills at the same time helps give a direction for some students who may otherwise flounder in a class. For new hires, finding the skill to ask, “What can this look like next year?” or “What is expected at [the next campus/after this year]?” is helpful in learning what the paths are for students with disabilities. This helps everyone and builds a professional community of folks who are addressing the needs of students.
Some resources we think you might want to know about
We recently did some looking for supports for some classes and we unearthed a few new places. Websites that require payment are noted. And like always: ParaEducate received no monetary compensation for mentioning any of these websites.
We like them because they have History at a lower level of reading. They have some science, but their history is completely worth the time to go through the site. Ducksters is currently free.
It’s a good place to start. Cross curricular, but some secondary topics might be obscure. Edhelper will let you see some of their worksheets, but it is a pay site to get most of their items.
Some of their worksheets are free and are amazing. Most of superteacher is pay. But it’s a good place to look if you’re totally stuck.
It’s free to sign up for boardmaker. You do have to pay after thirty days, however, they are connected to Mayer Johnson which is the resource for most PECS systems. History is great there, and some of the items are computer interactives and can be read aloud to a user just by clicking. Science activites are few and far between, but the vocabulary is there, you would just have to build the board or activity.
Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to be a guest blogger? 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 weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.