Want to deepen your understanding of disabilities in special education?
To best support students in special education, a paraeducator needs to have a solid understanding of characteristics and strategies for specific disabilities. Knowing how a student may be challenged in the classroom based on their specific disability allows a paraeducator to provide targeted and appropriate support.
Here are 3 ways that you can excel as a special education paraeducator.
Use people-first language
In the past, it was common to refer to students with their disabilities first, but this isn’t the best way to talk about them. Instead of saying “an autistic child,” it’s better to say “a child with autism.”
This might seem like a small thing, but even the simple rearranging of words helps to focus on the person first. A child may have autism, but that’s not all she is. She’s a child first, and it’s up to us to make small changes like this to be respectful.
Emphasize abilities first
Imagine if the first thing people noticed about you was the thing you are worst at. We wouldn’t feel very empowered or motivated to explore our strengths if our weaknesses were always being pointed out.
Because students with disabilities may need significant support, it’s tempting to view their disability as the most important thing about them. But our abilities don’t define us, no matter what level we’re at. We need to make sure that we’re referring to our students as whole people with unique strengths and challenges.
How does a paraeducator practically do this?
First, make sure you include students with disabilities as a part of the entire student body. They aren’t some separate group that doesn’t get to participate in the life of the school. They are students first and foremost, and we need to treat them like it.
Next, make sure that you aren’t using melodramatic language when talking about your student’s disabilities. There’s no need to say that a student is “afflicted with” or “suffers from” a disability. This kind of language doesn’t respect the student as a whole person.
Continue learning how to improve
Paraeducators can all use a little help in understanding how to grow in their career. Taking courses in your field can help you glean knowledge from experts, keep up to date with SPED laws, and discover new ways to connect with your students.
In the course, SPED Paraeducators — Understanding Disabilities, SPED educator Ayo Jones shares general markers for 8 of the most common disabilities in special education programs. In addition, she outlines specific strategies for supporting each of these types of students in the classroom.
Need a SPED refresh?
Instructional supports and guidelines are provided for each disability subtype which helps explain exactly what you can do in the classroom. This session works well for training and preparing paraeducators for their special education job duties and as a partnered training between a teacher and their para partner.
In this 1.5-hour course, you will learn:
- How to support a student with a disability in general
- What it means to use people-first language
- Which disabilities are defined by the federal government for special ed services
- What characteristics are markers for the 8 most common disabilities in special education
- What the most common disabilities look like for students in the classroom
- How to support students with specifics for each of the 8 most common disabilities in special education
After taking this course, you’ll have a more solid understanding of how to support students with disabilities.
Become a better SPED paraeducator
Ready to learn more? Check out the demo for this course today.