The Paraprofessional's Guide to the Inclusive Classroom: Working as a Team (2nd ed.), by M. B. Doyle. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes, 2002.
Paraprofessionals play a critical role as team members for students with disabilities in inclusive classrooms. They serve in a variety of roles, ranging from clerical and organizational tasks to providing personal care for students and implementing teacher-designed instructional programs. For a variety of reasons, including shortages of fully qualified teachers, lack of financial assistance to schools, and the many demands placed upon teachers, paraprofessionals are increasingly called upon to assist teachers in meeting the needs of students with disabilities. Yet, very few training or certification programs exist for paraprofessionals. As a result, they are often underpaid and devalued. They often have to “hit the ground running” and learn on the job. Realizing this state of affairs, Doyle has made a significant contribution to the field of inclusive education with the second edition of this guide for practicing paraprofessionals.
The book contains 136 pages, including six chapters, an index with several sample formats, and a subject index. Doyle begins with an excellent discussion of the changing roles and responsibilities of paraprofessionals. Classroom responsibilities, training and supports needed, and role differentiation between educational team members are addressed. This material is followed up with a discussion in chapter two of collaborative teams and a paraprofessional's membership and role within these teams. Extremely practical information, such as developing the paraprofessional's daily schedule, is included.
Chapters three and four are focused on how paraprofessionals can support individual students. Gathering assessment information through student profiles, Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), and student learning priorities and support are described. Developing appropriate curriculum content and adaptations are emphasized. Strategies such as multilevel curriculum, curriculum overlapping, instructional prompts, and other curricular adaptations are detailed with practical examples included.
One major change from the first edition of the guide is the inclusion of content on positive behavioral supports in chapter five. Tenets of positive behavioral support, the purposes of behavior, determining the communicative intent of challenging behaviors, and strategies for managing challenging behaviors in the classroom are highlighted.
In the final chapter Doyle presents a discussion on communication among collaborative team members. She begins with an excellent discussion of positive systems of communication among adults. Examples of strategies to facilitate proactive communication are provided. Issues surrounding confidentiality and ideas for protecting student confidentiality are also offered.
This guide for paraprofessionals has a number of strengths. First, the discussion and writing style are straightforward and direct. Numerous examples from actual classrooms are sprinkled throughout to illustrate the author's points. Second, enabling activities and sample forms and formats are employed very effectively as pedagogical features to reinforce the text and bring to life the content. The appendix has numerous examples that are easy to interpret and practical, which should be especially useful. Third, this text should be of value not only to paraprofessionals, but to special and general educators, as well as parents. Readers will gain a clear and thorough understanding of the role of paraeducators, how they can assist students with disabilities in the inclusion process, and the nature of their membership in collaborative teams.
There are, perhaps, two omissions from the guide. First, although the material on managing challenging behaviors is excellent, the author falls short of addressing the most serious kinds of behavioral challenges presented by some youngsters, such as physical aggression. This is unfortunate, because in some cases it is the paraprofessional who is expected to work one-on-one with these students. Second, there is no direct mention of access to the general education curriculum. This is somewhat puzzling, because such access is addressed by current federal disabilities legislation, mandated to be reflected on IEPs, a standard part of determining a school's compliance with state and federal laws, and a central component of the inclusion process. It is hard to imagine any discussion of inclusion in 2002 that does not include this issue.
Overall, Doyle has written a direct, straightforward and clear guide for paraprofessionals. Although much of the content is available in other sources, she has compiled in one volume the essence of critical information for paraprofessionals, thus making it easier for educators to access. The guide should be a useful and valuable resource for paraprofessionals, special and general educators, and parents. In addition, it would make an excellent supplementary text for pre-service and in-service college courses and workshops. The author is to be congratulated for this important contribution to the professional literature, particularly in an area that has been largely neglected.