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What's in a name? Introducing paraeducators!

Author-Avatar sdouglas23

8/20/2019 7:24 PM

It might seem like a little thing, but the titles we use to refer to each other in educational settings set the tone. Paraeducators are one group that often have numerous names by which they are referred in educational settings and often support students with complex communication needs. Their titles include: educational assistants, paraprofessional, aide, one on one, para, teacher assistants, classroom aide, job coach, etc. Why so many names? And what do these titles tell us about their roles? Unfortunately, their titles often tells us very little or lead the paraeducators themselves or others form judgements about their role. Take the title one on one. While it may indicate that the paraeducator only has one student to support, it might also send the message that no one else really works with that child - "Billy has his one on one", that the paraeducator needs to be around the child throughout the school day, that the paraeducator cannot help any other children in the school setting, or that the child is incapable of being without a person by their side. All of these messages might unintentionally result in a child with complex communication needs who is isolated from other educators, other children, and can lead to student dependence on the one on one. While a title can't fix everything - let's start the change by referring to these important support personnel by a more descriptive title. Introducing paraeducators! They are there to support, guide, and educate students with guidance from other educators (teachers, therapists, etc). They work alongside the teacher and other educators and they make a difference! In my years as a teacher I relied on these wonderful partners to educate students with complex communication needs. They are an integral part of our educational system and they should be recognized for the educational services they provide. So what's in a name? Apparently a lot!

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