Procedural Guidelines for Determination of Additional Paraprofessional Support Needs Through the Individual Education Plan

Updated 8/10/15

The goal for all students with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is to develop and maintain independence in the curricular and extracurricular activities in the least restrictive school setting. (20 U.S.C.§ 1400(C)(1); 34 CFR.§300.1. See also Appendix A to the federal regulations, section III [Fed. Register, Vol.634, No.48; p. 12474]). For all students, additional paraprofessional support may only be included in the IEP within the context of this goal. Thus, when an additional paraprofessional is assigned to assist the student in fulfilling an IEP goal or goals (e.g. behavioral, self-help, academic, communication, etc.) the annual IEP goal(s) for which the paraprofessional will provide support should reflect as much independence as is appropriate for the student; and short-term objectives or benchmarks should be written to reflect increased independence, as appropriate for the student, until the annual goal is reached.

State and federal special education laws require that all students with disabilities, to the maximum extent appropriate, be educated with their regular education peers, and participate in nonacademic and extracurricular activities. Removal from the regular education environment may only occur if the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in the regular class with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily. In making program and placement decisions, the IEP team must consider a continuum of program options, and select the option that is the least restrictive environment (LRE), in which the goals and objectives of the student can be met. If supports, services (i.e. related services/designated instructional support services) or modifications are needed in order for the child to benefit from his/her educational program, including supports for the teacher, these must be provided.

[The IDEA's] LRE is intended to ensure that a child with a disability is
served in a setting where the child can be educated successfully. Even
though IDEA does not mandate [general] class placement for every
student with a disability, IDEA presumes that the first placement option
considered . . is the school the child would attend if not disabled . . .Thus,
before a [student with a disability] can be placed outside of the [general]
classroom setting, LRE must be considered. (Federal Register, March 12, 1999
[Vol. 634, No. 48] p.12471).

The consideration of supports and services must be made for each of the placements along the
continuum. For example, if an IEP team is considering placement in a nonpublic school or
residential setting, it must have considered the ability of the student to learn in a special day class (SDC)
with supports and services and have determined that progress cannot be achieved satisfactorily in the that placement.

"Consider" does not mean that an IEP team must actually try the student in all placements along the continuum. It does mean, however, that the IEP team must use its best judgment, based upon knowledge of the student, to select the appropriate learning environment for the student.

Use of Paraprofessionals

Appropriate Use of Paraprofessional Support
1. Placement in the least restrictive environment: The use of a paraprofessional is only one support or service that may permit a student to achieve satisfactory progress and participate in a less restrictive environment. Unless this additional assistance is assigned with the goal of fostering independence, such a support can actually restrict the student's access to the general curriculum, social opportunities and other benefits of being assigned to a general education classroom. An IEP may include additional paraprofessional support only within the context of IEP goal(s) and objectives(s) that are written to reflect attaining as much independence in the performance of the of the goal(s) and objective(s) as is appropriate for the student. The IEP must also include a schedule for evaluating the student's performance on meeting the goal(s) and objective(s) and for withdrawing or fading the support, as appropriate.

In every case, the first steps before assigning an additional paraprofessional are to (1) carefully define the student's needs, and (2) review all existing staff, programs and resources at the school site. This review must include a review of general, as well as special education, resources, and should consider such alternatives as peer support for the student, the use of existing paraprofessionals at the school site, and mentoring and other collaborative models for teacher support. A decision to assign an additional paraprofessional may never be made outside of the IEP process. In all instances, the final decision must involve the appropriate program administration. A training plan for the teacher and paraprofessional, and a plan for withdrawing the support, shall be developed.

2. Assistance in addressing behavioral problems: To implement behavioral plans for students with serious behavioral problems, it is often necessary to have a paraprofessional present to intervene and record responses to the interventions, etc. Paraprofessional support may only be included in an IEP to support behavior if the student has a detailed Positive Behavioral Intervention Plan that includes a schedule for evaluating the plan and withdrawing or fading the support, as appropriate.

3. Medically or physically fragile students: A very small percentage of the school population will require part-time or full-time assistance. Students who are on ventilators, have serious seizures, allergic reactions or are subject to other life-threatening events may need the supervision of a specialized health care attendant, as specified by the IEP team in accordance with medical protocols. Other students with serious physical limitations may need relatively constant supervision and assistance with turning pages, complex medical procedures, self-care such as eating and toileting, and travel from one location to another.
However, even in these instances, paraprofessionals must never be provided on a one-to-one basis without first considering less intrusive alternatives that do not compromise the student's safety or ability to fully participate, and without a written plan to ensure that the student is permitted to do as much for himself/herself as is possible. In addition, it should never be assumed that these students will need such supports permanently, without medical evidence to the contrary; and the goal should always be to foster as much independence as is possible and appropriate for the student.

Inappropriate Use of Paraprofessional Support
1. Student groupings: If the grouping in a classroom is such that the teacher cannot meet the needs of the students without additional paraprofessionals, the grouping maybe inappropriate and the classroom composition may need to be reconsidered. However, the first step should always be to consider existing school staff and resources that might be put together in a collaborative way to assist the teacher; e.g., review of existing paraprofessional schedules in the school, peer support from general education, etc.

2. Disability / Placement stereotyping: Every student's needs must be addressed individually, and determinations must be based upon the student's needs, not labels or programs. A student with a cognitive impairment or a student included with his/her non-disabled peers does not compel the conclusion in every case that he/she requires additional assistance or any given program that is based upon such a model.

3. Class or program change: The need for the assistance of an additional paraprofessional should first be carefully defined, and all alternatives to meet the need considered before determining that a paraprofessional is the only answer. It should not be assumed that a student moving from one program option to another (e.g. preschool to kindergarten, SDC to RSP, special education to regular education setting, etc.), or one grade level to another will continue to require the assistance of an additional paraprofessional.

4. Supplemental instructional time / tutoring: Direct instruction is the responsibility of the classroom teacher. Paraprofessional support is provided to assist a student with accessing the teacher's direct instruction, but does not supplant that instruction. Further, paraprofessional support is provided under the supervision and direction of the classroom.

Procedures for Determining the Need for Additional Paraprofessional Support

Step 1 - Process initiated
The process to determine the need for additional assistance is initiated when the staff or parent recommends the addition of paraprofessional support to the student's special education program.

The student's case manager or department chair contacts the program administrator. If the request or recommendation was made by the parent, the program administrator will respond in writing to the parent within 15 days, describing the district's intent to follow the Procedural Guidelines to determine the need for paraprofessional assistance.

The appropriate case manager or administrator and the referring staff member or parent, complete Forms A-1 and A-2: Request for Additional Paraprofessional Assistance.

Step 2 - Case manager or administrator convenes the IEP team
The IEP team reviews the information presented in Forms A-1 and A-2.

The IEP team completes Forms B-1 and B-2. Completion of these forms will assist the team in identification of target needs, critical aspects of the program, and available resources.

The IEP team determines whether additional assistance is needed. The IEP team may determine that:

A. No additional assistance is required. In this case, the IEP team identifies other strategies and services to be included in the IEP, attaches Forms A and B to the IEP, provides written notice to the parents of the team's decision, and determines the next review date.

B. Additional information is required in order to make a decision. In this case, the IEP team completes an Assessment Plan for parent signature and provides the parent with a copy of the Procedural Safeguards. Proceed to Step 3.

C. Additional assistance is required for this student. Complete Form D and proceed to Step 4.

Step 3 - Refer for Diagnostic Review
The IEP team determines the method of data collection and which staff members will be responsible for completing Forms C-1: Observational Evaluation to Determine the Need for Additional Support, and C-2: School Day Description. Participants might include: school psychologist, special education teacher, nurse, behaviorist, speech/language pathologist occupational therapist, program specialist, program manager and/or paraprofessional.

Assigned staff members complete the following tasks:

Conduct observations.

Obtain input from other appropriate staff and parents.

Verify implementation of Behavior Intervention Plan.

Review records for current level of performance, standardized test results and attendance.

Assess changes in the learning environment that would change level of support needed.

Identify existing interventions and their effectiveness.

Identify existing goals that require additional support and determine if new goals are needed.

Complete Form D: Summary Report of Findings.

Schedule IEP meeting within 60 days of receipt of signed Assessment Plan.

Move to Step 4.

Step 4 - IEP Revision
If it is determined that the student requires additional paraprofessional assistance, the IEP team will:
Document that alternatives were considered (Review Form D).

Develop goal and objectives that address the independent functional skills that need to be taught in order for paraprofessional assistance to be appropriately faded.

Schedule the review of the student's program and need for additional assistance (Form B) within 6 months. In cases of ongoing medical need, the review may be scheduled up to one year from date of this IEP meeting.

Note frequency, duration and location of the paraprofessional services on the IEP form.

Note behavioral supports required, and changes to the Behavior Intervention Plan to reflect the additional support provided.

Develop a training plan for the paraprofessional assigned to the program.

Click here to download and print "Procedures Guide-Paraprofessional Support"

Click here to download and print Paraprofessional Support Forms

Click here to download and print One to One Aide Flow Chart (8/11)