Schools around the country hire paraprofessionals known as teacher assistants to provide assistance and support to students and teachers who are part of the school's exceptional student education (ESE) program. The job requirements for a paraprofessional vary based on the type of assistant job being completed and on the needs of the teacher and the children who need support.
An ESE classroom assistant works in an inclusion classroom, where several ESE students are included in a traditional classroom routine, or in a classroom consisting of solely ESE students. These paraprofessionals typically work with all students in the classroom on assignments and behavior and may provide small group or one-on-one support to students who need additional assistance. In some cases, ESE paraprofessionals may accompany the class to the cafeteria or special area classes to provide students with additional support. When not working directly with students, the classroom ESE assistant often performs clerical duties for the teacher, such as making copies or grading student work.
ESE assistants are often hired as one-on-one assistants for a child needing specific services. The role of this paraprofessional is defined by the child's individual needs. For example, an assistant working with a blind child may help him navigate hallways between classes, read to him from class texts and ensure his safety throughout the day. Other one-on-one assistants may provide behavioral support for students with autism or a variety of services, such as bathroom and feeding assistance to a wheelchair-bound child. Though these paraprofessionals may provide educational support, that is usually not the main focus of their job.
Some ESE paraprofessionals are assigned to work with a specific special education teacher at the school, typically in situations where the teacher works with small groups of ESE students from a variety of classes and grades in her own classroom. This type of assistant may walk students to and from the ESE classroom, help the teacher supervise students, provide one-on-one assistance to children during their time in the classroom and complete clerical tasks for the teacher when students are not present.
Students of different age ranges and abilities often have different needs. While an ESE assistant in a preschool classroom will likely be changing diapers or teaching students how to use the bathroom correctly, an ESE paraprofessional in a high school setting may be attending on-the-job training opportunities with her students. As the needs of each student and class vary greatly, the role of the ESE teacher assistant must adapt to provide the specific services needed by her students at any time.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook 2010-2011 Edition -- Teacher Assistants; December 2009
- O*NET Online: Summary Report for Teacher Assistants
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