Who are paraprofessionals for blind students?
School and education present unique challenges for students with disabilities, including those who are visually impaired. Teachers who struggle to meet educational needs often turn to paraprofessionals for help, especially when assisting disabled students.
Overall, the care and education available to disabled students, particularly those who are blind, may fail them in many areas. However, with the assistance of paraeducators, this will hopefully change.
What Are Paraprofessionals?
Paraprofessionals for blind students are important employees at many schools. Sometimes, they’re also referred to as teacher assistants, instructional aides, or paraeducators. Whatever they’re called, their goal is the same: to support student learning and well-being.
Their main responsibility is to offer support to students, making classrooms more orderly and inclusive. They are there to support the teacher and often to offer specialized support to disabled students who require assistance, including blind students, students with behavioral problems, and students with developmental delays.
Paraprofessionals vs Teachers
What are the differences between paraprofessionals and teachers?
Unlike teachers, paraprofessionals are not certified to teach. Additionally, teachers maintain an in-charge role in the classroom, while paraprofessionals work alongside or under them to provide support. Many teachers and professional educators are relieved to have the assistance of certified paraprofessionals, especially since many teachers are overworked. Having additional support is always welcome.
Teachers can play an active role in hiring their aids. They may be in charge of:
- Recruiting and hiring paraprofessional visual impairment educators
- Ensuring that the paraprofessionals are up to a certain standard of talent, care, and competence
- Treating the paraprofessionals with respect and showing them appreciation
- Handling onboarding and orientation
- Delegating tasks and responsibilities to paraprofessionals according to their specific expertise
- Offering ongoing training and mentorship
- Providing professionally prepared educational plans
- Providing supportive supervision
- Allowing paraprofessionals to contribute ideas and feedback
Since paraprofessionals aren’t teachers, they are not required to have the same certifications and training as the average teacher, though the specific qualifications will vary from state to state. Some may even vary between school districts. That being said, all paraprofessionals must have a high school diploma or the equivalent and meet at least one of the following criteria:
- Two years of study at college or a technical school
- An associate’s degree
- The ability to demonstrate their instructive capabilities as part of state or local academic assessments
Additionally, paraprofessionals should have the appropriate knowledge and experience to work alongside students, including knowing when to take a step back and encourage students to be independent while also realizing when a student needs extra support.
All paraprofessionals should be:
Duties of a Paraprofessional
The specific duties assigned to a paraprofessional may differ depending on the school district, the teacher they’re working with, and the students they will be helping. For example, a paraprofessional for a blind student may provide the following support:
- Reinforcement of instruction: Paraprofessionals are often tasked with helping visually impaired children with certain classroom instructions. For instance, the paraprofessional may be tasked with providing verbal descriptions of what is happening to a child.
- Material preparation: Paraprofessionals may be instructed to obtain specialized, accessible versions of instructional materials, such as braille-friendly ones. For example, if a class is assigned a book to read, the paraprofessional may need to acquire a braille copy of the book, potentially with tactile illustrations.
- Practice with the child: Paraprofessionals may be required to assist a visually impaired child with certain skills, such as reading braille or practicing math problems on a braille writer.
- Proper safety: Paraprofessionals may supervise a child to ensure that they are safe at all times. Providing your child with supervision may include escorting them through the halls, watching them on the playground, and engaging them in hands-on classroom activities. This allows the child to maintain independence while ensuring their safety.
- Promotion of self-care: Paraprofessionals may be asked to assist a child with self-care tasks. This is typically necessary for younger children or those who have multiple disabilities that prevent them from performing certain tasks on their own, such as using the toilet, getting dressed, or eating. When possible, paraprofessionals will encourage the child to complete these tasks on their own.
- Encouragement of social interactions: Paraprofessionals are also trained to help children engage in social interactions in appropriate ways, such as facing a person they are communicating with, using proper body language, and more.
Additionally, a paraprofessional may also be tasked with:
- Instructional support: Paraprofessionals are sometimes tasked with providing one-on-one support to reinforce what was taught in the classroom. They may also instruct small groups if more than one child needs additional support. The paraprofessional usually provides support during or after the teacher’s lesson.
- Language support: Some classrooms have students who may need help speaking or understanding certain languages, such as English. Paraprofessionals may be tasked with helping these students.
- Behavioral support: Some paraprofessionals may work with students who display certain behavioral problems, such as those with autism spectrum disorder. Students facing behavioral challenges may need a behavior intervention plan that a paraprofessional can help enforce.
Teachers who have to juggle a full classroom may not have the time to provide one-on-one support even if a child needs it. A paraprofessional can help, though. The paraprofessional will be the person who spends the most time with this child in the school setting.
Paraprofessionals bring inclusivity to classrooms, assisting disabled students who may otherwise fall behind if left solely in the hands of an already overworked teacher. Paraprofessionals provide classrooms with an additional layer of support and can even offer one-on-one instructional reinforcement.
The benefit of a paraprofessional in a classroom setting is obvious: The classroom teacher will be less overworked while a child will have the support they need to keep up with their peers and succeed.