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Make no mistake; your child will have a staff supporting him. Initially, to parents of sweet young children, this is very encouraging. Consequently, it can be quite seductive to accept more and more help. Adults will become a barrier to you child’s ability to be seen as an equal by his peers.


There is a very thin line between staffing to support a student and staffing to provide scrutiny. None of us want our behavior scrutinized every minute of every day. Being a child with special needs in a general education setting does not change this.


This is what happens when lots of well-intentioned staff support one or two children. Kindergartners congregate in the coatroom. Two or three of them take each others hats, boots and gloves and toss them back and forth. One pushes someone else and yet another calls someone “Stinky”. This daily melee of three classes of 28 students (84 total) goes largely unnoticed by the very busy staff. The Kindergarten teacher is just finishing her break and waiting for the kids to come in. It is, however, observed by a few people. The paraprofessional assigned to observe a specific student (remember, assistants are supposed to be assigned to buildings or teachers) will observe that her charge has been of the hat stealers. He will be reprimanded, singled out and taught better behavior. The other hat stealers will learn from natural consequences; their hat will be taken tomorrow or the other child will express frustration and friendship will be limited until behavior improves. This is how most children learn socially appropriate behavior.


Example #2:


First graders are learning to print their spelling words. The very friendly girl with Down syndrome reaches over to write on her neighbor’s paper. Her paraprofessional sees what she is about to do; reaches for her hand, and prevents her from doing this. This happens 5 times the first day, 10 the second, and is a real problem by the end of the week. What if she had been allowed to write on her neighbor’s paper? Would not the other student have expressed annoyance/frustration? Would the student have changed her behavior?


None of this is done with any evil intention. The staff is required to help in every way possible. But I challenge you to think about how we deny our children with disabilities the opportunity to learn from natural consequences. If she would have written on someone else’s paper and had no intervention, her peers would have been annoyed with her. Their frustration would have led to either less interaction or maybe even ignoring her for recess! She would have changed her behavior the very first week and perhaps it never would have escalated to needing more support. Kids are great teachers!

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