Paraeducators in Physical Education: The Trend toward Increased Inclusion Has Created the Need for Greater Instructor Support. Paraeducators, Long Used in the Classroom, Can Fill This Need in Physical Education
Piletic, Cindy, Davis, Ronald, Aschemeier, Amy, JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance
Due to school closings in the district, there is a new class of special education transfer students at Henry M. Flag Elementary School. There are 13 students, taught by Ms. Jackson, and all are labeled as having a severe disability. Full programming and services must be provided to the students, including physical education class, which the students participate in daily. The class is brought to the gymnasium by the classroom paraprofessionals, who upon arrival proceed to the stage area, where they remain uninvolved for the rest of the class period. The physical educator, Ms. Lopez, has been teaching elementary physical education for 15 years. During her preparation in college, she had an introductory course in adapted physical education; however, during her career, she has never taught an entire class of students with disabilities. Ms. Lopez would really appreciate having some assistance from the paraeducators, but she has had limited interaction with them in the past and therefore does not know how to use their talents. What can she do? How can she employ paraeducators in her physical education class? What do paraeducators know about physical education?
What Do Paraeducators Do?
Paraeducators have been a part of school systems for decades and have always played a large role in the education of students with disabilities in the special education classroom. Over the years the specific roles and responsibilities of paraeducators have been left undefined by school districts (French, 1999). In the past, the paraeducator has been responsible for providing one-on-one instruction to students with disabilities. Paraeducators have been hired to aid the classroom teacher by implementing student behavior-management plans, assisting with student assessments, helping to implement tasks associated with the individualized educational plan (IEP), or providing assistance with group activities (Doyle, 1997). Paraeducators have also provided assistance in the classroom setting in the area of personal care for students, such as restroom needs or assistance during wheelchair transfers (Giangreco, Broer, & Edelman, 2002; Giangreco & Doyle, 2002). Primarily, the one-on-one instruction that has been provided in the classroom has not spilled over into the "special" or "elective" areas of instruction (French, 1999). Some paraeducators have expected to have the period of physical education as a break or planning period (Block, 2000). This is because paraeducators rarely have been expected to assist the general physical education teacher, and in many cases they were not told that they would have to work in the physical education setting when they accepted the position (Silliman-French & Fullerton, 1998).
The role of paraeducators is changing in our schools as more students with disabilities are taught in the general education setting. Therefore, it is time that paraeducators undertake the same responsibilities in the physical education setting as they have in the classroom. Mach (2000) indicated that paraeducators should receive training in emergency procedures as well as an orientation session in physical education. Also, the physical educator working with the paraeducator must have clear expectations, and should give appropriate direction and guidance, in order to ensure the usefulness of the paraeducator (Lieberman & Houston-Wilson, 2002).
The paraeducator and the physical educator must work as a team, and, for that to occur, both professionals need to understand the environment they are working in and how each can contribute the success of the student with a disability. The physical educator's needs resemble those of the classroom teacher in working with students with disabilities; therefore, the physical educator must help the paraeducator understand his or her role in physical education. It is important that physical educators assist paraeducators in developing this working knowledge because in most cases the paraeducator will not have acquired such knowledge from any prior training. …