Do paraprofessionals need more training?

The article below is a heartbreaking one, especially since I have been witness to negative behavior but unable to do anything about it because it was coming from someone above me on the chain of command. It raises an interesting question: do paraprofessionals get enough training?

I have noticed a trend of younger and younger staff being brought onto autism organizations to act as specialists, interventionists, and techs. At one point, I saw many positions on the front lines only needing a high school diploma, and the pay reflected this as well (and sadly, I have learned, still does). They are quickly trained on the basics of the therapeutic approach, some bit on autism, and then released into the wild. I have seen new hires come to me looking like deer in highlights after a week into the position. Despite all of their “training,” they know little about the actual in and outs of autism, and may have little to no direct experience.

That’s not to say that with guidance, they can’t learn. I can think of one young man in particular who I got to interview for a Behavioral Interventionist position. He didn’t have much experience with autism, but he wanted to learn. The dude was a sponge, soaking up everything those of us with experience told him. Within 6 months, he became an amazing BI.

Still, I saw so many bail on the job after a few months (or get fired) because they couldn’t handle it. They at least had the insight to know that this wasn’t for them. The scariest ones to me are the ones like the aide in the article, the ones who either don’t care or have several chips on their shoulders.

Despite all of our knowledge and experience, I still believe that the parents are the ones who know their kids best. I cringe whenever someone in the field says that “we’re the experts.” That’s my second least favorite statement, right next to “fix them.”

In any case, this is an open question. Do you feel that the paraprofessionals in the autism field need more autism training? Is there another solution to keep stories like this from happening?

My Paraprofessional Was Supposed to Help Me

Here is another article discussing the issue from Psychology Today: The Para-professional-Student Relationship

From Down Under…

I came across this article, and realized that it opens up a question that has always been simmering in the American psyche as well. I’ve seen it manifest in parents asking other parents to move their autistic kids to another pool, or another part of the playground, because they are being “distracting” or “bothersome.” I’ve seen it manifest in school systems who repeatedly try to shoehorn all special needs kids and teens into a few special education classrooms with no regard to their developmental levels, with over-extended and underpaid teachers (I mean, I feel all teachers here are underpaid, but you get the idea).

I definitely fall on the side of allowing mainstreaming if the child/teen is ready for it, because everyone involved grows from it. The other students learn acceptance (and may get some academic help from their new peers), and the teachers start learning to interact with a group of students that some of them seem to…I guess fear would be the closest word. Some teachers seem genuinely fearful of having to interact with special needs students; I think it may be because they aren’t really taught or trained on how to interact and teach them unless they take specific classes for it. They’re afraid of doing something wrong.

In any case, this article covers the debate in Australia fairly well. It recently came to the forefront with one senator suggesting that special needs students should not be mainstreamed at all because the other students are “held back” by the amount of time the teachers spend on the special needs student(s). Naturally, that angered a LOT of people.

What do you all think about the mainstreaming question? Yay, nay, or it depends?

Experts condemn Pauline Hanson’s comments about children with autism