If you’ve heard the term before, you may wonder what a paraprofessional does in an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) school.

The dry answer is that a paraprofessional is a school employee who works under the supervision and guidance of the teachers in a class setting. However, the real answer is far more complex.

Paraprofessionals are often the unsung heroes in an educational setting. Whether employed in a public or private school such as Potential’s Springtime School, there are many reasons why they deserve their moment in the spotlight.

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What Does A Paraprofessional Do? A Look At The Role Of A Paraprofessional In An ABA School

If you’ve ever asked, What does a paraprofessional do? with a puzzled look, it may help to know that you’re not alone. Many people place all ABA interventionists under a single umbrella – assuming they all have the same roles and responsibilities. But nothing could be further from the truth.

“A paraprofessional is someone who helps with academic, behavioral, and leisure activities that a student works on from their IEP and helps implement interventions to help improve their quality of life.“

Gabrielle McCoy, Paraprofessional at Potential

Explore a day in the life of a paraprofessional with insight from our Director Of Clinical & Educational Services, Karen Yosmanovich, MEd, BCBA, LBS.

Paraprofessionals Are Essential

Before bringing a new student on board, a team of educated, experienced, and dedicated people work together to construct a strong ABA educational plan. Depending on the severity of a student’s needs, a single student may need assistance from one or several professionals.

Springtime School’s paraprofessionals focus on delivering each individualized education plan (IEP) for its students. They’re fundamental to our success in many ways, and it all starts with their ability to lead with a human-first mindset.

All students are human beings first, so establishing a connection with students by getting to know them as individuals allows paraprofessionals to be as prepared as possible before they begin treatments. This step may include reviewing or updating information about a student’s…

  • Likes
  • Dislikes
  • Ambitions
  • Challenges

Ultimately, the goal is to get to know each student personally to match them with the right treatments and professionals who can help.

Paraprofessionals Lead With Empathy Every Day

Creating an enjoyable, happy, and relaxed environment for students is crucial for their development. This is why Potential’s paraprofessionals do their best to arrive 30 minutes before the day officially begins to double-check their notes, review any updates to the IEP or behavior plan, and ensure the materials they need are present.

Also, however early or late in the day, there’s internal work team members must do to shape their students’ success further. ABA practitioners work hard to establish a connection with students before intervening because they know how much it impacts their growth. It also allows them to lead with empathy, patience, and understanding.

“Our kids want to come every day. They walk in the door smiling.”

Karen Yosmanovich, Potential’s Director Of Clinical & Educational Services

Leading with empathy is a skill that paraprofessionals must practice often to quickly respond to interfering behavior and help students feel comfortable doing hard things.

They Balance Individual Schedules & Required Flexibility

In a general school system, paraprofessionals follow the teacher or class schedule. However, this can be a big problem for autistic students as they may find it difficult to follow a routine that comes with limitations.

For example, many children with autism find it hard to sit still for long periods. They may also feel confined to being in one room for an entire day. This is why Potential relies on an individualized model for students to give them more freedom to be themselves. This way, paraprofessionals can combine the need for a routine without making students sit at a desk all day. 

“It is helpful that we can create custom programs for all students. We have students who are working on reading, math, and science…If they learn reading better in the morning, we do it in the morning, and if they do it better in the zen den, we do reading there. If they need to go on a walk once an hour to have a calmer body, that’s what we do.”

Karen Y.

Could an individualized educational plan help your child with ASD? Learn more about Potential’s ABA services.

Paraprofessionals Address Challenges With Dynamic Solutions

Troubleshooting an environment a student is in means asking what is causing them to behave in this way and what adjustments need to be made. The important thing is for ABA professionals to provide consistent guidance with empathy at its core.

“When a student has a behavior that interferes with their success, we don’t let that define who they are or what they can do. We see our students in their harder moments but we remember them at their best.”

Karen Y.

By focusing on tailoring communication styles and devices for students to use easily, students can communicate their basic wants and needs much faster. To do this, a paraprofessional must be able to rely on their relationship’s foundation for guidance, what is motivating to the student in the moment, and collaboration with other service providers.

They Wrap Up The Day With Valuable Takeaways

Before leaving for the day, most paraprofessionals stay after the last bell rings so they can do further training and group meetings. Because paraprofessionals are supervised by teachers once a month, this is also a good time for them to receive feedback. A simple conversation to talk about what’s working and what isn’t is an incredibly important part of training that benefits both students and paraprofessionals as their career progresses.

Paraprofessionals Work Closely With Various Industry Experts

When an ABA practitioner is deeply invested in their student’s success, it takes efforts beyond the support provided at school and home. This means paraprofessionals must also be able to work with psychologists, doctors, and healthcare offices to ensure comprehensive care. However, this demanding work takes up a lot of time and energy during the day, which can be exhausting. Even so, it’s a skill that must be refined with every new student.

They Understand The Industry Of ABA Specialists & Paraprofessionals

There are about 32,603 ABA therapists employed in the U.S. But it still isn’t enough to give every child and adult the ABA services they need and deserve. This is because the industry itself often experiences numerous setbacks such as:

  • A lack of funding
  • Limited availability of paraprofessionals
  • Time-consuming yet necessary training for new staff

In fact, Potential employees don’t begin working after being hired for about 3-4 weeks because they are being trained to provide top-notch ABA services.

About Potential’s Springtime School

Potential’s Springtime School is a licensed private school for elementary to high school-aged children (up to 22) on the autism spectrum who have struggled in other programs, have challenging behavior, or have an additional medical diagnosis that affects their learning.

ABA Interventions Support Strong Communities

“The work we do is challenging. We don’t just hire a warm body. We are in this and invested in the services we provide because we want to do right by the people we serve.”

Karen Y.

We believe that ABA services should be available to all who need them. Especially in public school systems that all too often lack any ABA support at all. But until our dream becomes reality, we’ll continue to lead with empathy, care, and expertise on our side.Discover the impact comprehensive ABA services can have on your family.

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