the case for paraprofessional support

It is not uncommon for a potential client to tell us they think their child needs paraprofessional support (sometimes thought of as a “one on one”). While the service sounds ideal, an adult supervising and supporting your child throughout the school day (or for a part of the day), there are particular areas in the IEP that need to demonstrate the need. The areas the paraprofessional would be servicing need to be specified throughout all parts of the IEP.


Safety concern is one of the most important criteria that teams may consider to determine a student requires paraprofessional assistance. A student who is likely to run/escape from the group with little to no warning or a student who may have fall precautions due to a medical need are two examples. It is the responsibility of the school to ensure student safety and if the student’s safety is at risk without paraprofessional assistance, it is imperative for the team to consider the need.

Assistance With Learning

If a student is having difficulty accessing materials, engaging in lessons independently, or requires support with modified curriculum, a paraprofessional would assist with many of these areas. While they are not responsible for direct instruction, they are available to assist the student in accessing their instruction through a variety of ways: helping turn in work, locating materials, providing a different worksheet, staying on task, setting a timer, providing reinforcement and/or reminders, helps with breaks, and more.

Independent Functioning

If a student has areas of need in daily living skills (toileting, hygiene, etc.) or organizational skills a paraprofessional would help ensure physical safety and classroom assistance.

Important things to note regarding paraprofessional assistance:

1. Not about a particular person, but the service

This is a service and it is not about the person. Families often become close to their child’s paraprofessional for good reason as they’re closely supporting the student throughout part of or the entire school day, getting to know the child personally, supporting them, and assisting them in accessing their education. It’s important to remember that the IEP will only delineate the service of paraprofessional support and guaranteeing a particular person to fill the position is not possible. We suggest meeting with administration to identify the characteristics that likely will ensure a positive relationship and successful year. Schools cannot guarantee a particular person will be available at all times, so it is only possible to guarantee the service, not the person.

2. Can be provided by multiple people

A bit of a continuation from the previous note would also include a reminder that the service can be provided by multiple people. While this is not ideal, this can help in times of scheduling conflicts when the position has yet to be filled and the services is still necessary. Again, request a team meeting or to meet with administration to better understand their proposed timeline.

3. Observation of current setting

Often times, school districts will require an observation to take place in the stduent’s current setting before agreeing to the need for paraprofessional assistance. This is especially true for pre-school placements when the classroom may have low student enrollment with multiple adults in the classroom. If the student’s safety, academic needs, and independent functioning needs can be addressed by the current adults present, they will likely conclude that the student does not require additional adult support. If you disagree and feel that the needs of your child demonstrate a strong need for paraprofessional assistance, you have the right to disagree. As well, if anything were to change throughout the year, you can make the request at a later time.