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Winter 2010 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

Reprinted with Permission from AER Report, Vol. 24, No. 1, Spring 2007; pp 1 -19. Copyright 2007, Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired

Abstract: This article is a compilation of a listserv discussion among teachers of students with visual impairments about working with paraprofessionals. The contributors encourage open communication, comprehensive training, observation and demonstration of skills.

Keywords: visually impaired, paraprofessional, educational support

AER Report Editor’s Note: The following is a portion of an AERNET listserv discussion originated by Missy Garber, Ph.D., Director of the Professional Preparation Program for Teacher of Children with Visual and Multiple Disabilities, Pennsylvania College of Optometry.

The goal of this electronic mailing list exchange was to gather suggestions from the field regarding strategies for working effectively with para-educators who serve students with blindness/visual impairment. The list of suggestions will be used as a starting point for further discussion with graduate students working towards certification as TVIs, and it is but one component of a personnel preparation grant objective aimed at enhancing preparation of TVIs in the area of effective collaboration with paraeducators (Online Specialized Personnel Increases Through Collaborative Efforts, funded through Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education grant #H 2 K0 22 9).

Dr. Garber received six responses, posted them to the list, and asked for comments or additions. A supplementary post was offered by Ayala Ballonoff, MS ED., CTVI, Teacher of Blind/VI, Wallingford-Swarthmore School District who is a PCO graduate and OL SPICE advisory board member.


Compilation posted by Missy Garber:

  • Make sure the paraeducator has an opportunity to read the student’s IEP.
  • Provide inservices for school staff and classmates and include a discussion of issues related to independence for students who are visually impaired.
  • Schedule sessions in which paraeducator observes you working with the student.
  • Be clear with the paraeducator about your expectations for your students.
  • Provide training to paraprofessional in Braille, especially as it relates to interlining assignments.
  • Provide training to paraeducator in relevant technologies as well as how to seek and use technology support.
  • Pool your knowledge with the paraeducators. He or she has day-to-day knowledge of a particular student.
  • Schedule sessions with paraeducator in which she demonstrates her way of presenting activities to students.
  • Request that the student’s IEP team provide justification for the need of a paraeducator.
  • Approach the assignment of a paraeducator as temporary.
  • Develop with the IEP team an independence plan for student. Review each subject area of inclusion and student level of need for support in each area. Use targeted goals for independence-building.
  • Invite the paraeducator to attend workshops, training sessions, and conferences with you.


Posted by Ayala ballonoff, msS. ED., CTVI:

Some weeks ago, Missy Barber posted a list of suggestions for working with paraprofessionals. Paraprofessional training is something I’ve given a lot of thought to, and I imagine every TVI and special education teacher will need to address in some form. I looked over the suggestions and wanted to add some thought on the topic.

I actually started in education as a paraprofessional, and I’ve met, worked with, and observed many through the years. In the best case scenario, a paraprofessional can be your right hand, right arm and right brain! In the worst case, a paraprofessional can be like the last person on the island with you on Survivor! Her are some suggestions based on my experiences:

  • Meet with the paraprofessional early in the year, or before school starts. Listen to their concerns, experiences and review their job description. Present your expectations and address their concerns.
  • Find out what, if any, other staff responsibilities they may have and how that will impact the VI case load. In various schools, paraprofessionals are assigned to lunch duty, bus duty, other direct work with students, bookroom and other office-related tasks. You may need to get clarification from the principal or department head on the paraprofessional’s availability.
  • Find out if there are any union-imposed restrictions (or building or district restrictions) on what the paraprofessional can do.
  • If possible, give the paraprofessionals their own desks.
  • If there is undesirable work to be done, work with the paraprofessional to get the job done. Let them see that is is not “beneath you” to do such things. If you work with young or multi-handicapped students, let the paraprofessionals see you get down on the floor with children, get wet, dirty or be physically active with the kids.
  • Discuss with the paraprofessional your expectations for contact with parents or other staff who are not directly involved with the student. Parents who are interested in their child’s progress may ask the paraprofessional about progress, concerns, etc. Make a plan for how to communicate with parents. Review any written correspondence between paraprofessional and parents. You might create a multiple-choice checklist, or other teacher created tool for interaction between paraprofessional and parents if problems persist in written communications.