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Special Education Classrooms often have many members of the team. It is important to work as a team. 

As a paraprofessional in an autism classroom, you’ve got a great opportunity to help shape the lives of your students. Students with  autism spectrum disorder may face plenty of challenges throughout their daily lives in terms of social and communication deficits. Autism affects nearly 1 in every 54 children in the United States today. That means you also have a great responsibility on your hands to guide your students and prepare them for the future. However, that’s easier said than done. There’s no doubt that being a para-edcuator in an autism classroom can be a demanding role at times. Yet on the other hand, it can also be a wonderfully inspiring experience. 

It shouldn’t be too surprising that paraeducators have a significantly higher burnout rate than their peers. But, that burnout doesn’t necessarily stem from the inherent difficulties of working with the students themselves. Instead, many of the daily frustrations of being a special needs teacher are rooted in the challenges of operating with others in the same small, crowded classroom space. But, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Here are 5 tips for an effective special education team-building strategy.

 

1. Act as a support network, not a group of coworkers.

Working with paraprofessionals presents unique challenges that general educators don’t necessarily experience, so it’s critical to function as a support network rather than a group of distant coworkers. Take care of one another with weekly check-ins, spend time doing extracurricular activities outside of work, and be honest when you need additional help and support. If you treat your coworkers like an extension of your family, you’re sure to get through the inevitable tough times with each other in a more manageable manner.

2. Student success equals team success.

Working together in a support network dynamic allows you to spend less time bickering or disagreeing about lesson plans, organization methods, or teaching techniques. Rather than feeding into negativity or dissent, your focus can be purely on your students’ success. Special education students need dedicated attention and care, so spend your energy channeling positivity towards them and keep your eye on the prize. There’s nothing more important than seeing your students thrive, and it doesn’t have to be overly complicated.

3. Keep things simple with your students and with each other.

Create an organization system that works for both students and teachers alike. By maintaining a consistent level of order and mitigating potential chaos, your students can continue to flourish, and your team can operate like a well-oiled machine. Structure and consistency are paramount for special needs students, so try to find ways to keep track of all your students, projects, and deadlines and always encourage that the classroom remains a clean, orderly environment.

4. There’s no such thing as too much communication.

Working as a paraprofessional often requires sharing space with dozens of students and 2-5 coworkers. So, it’s essential to overcommunicate with one another. Keep in mind that nobody wants to micromanage or be the recipient of micromanaging. But, at the same time, maintaining the simple, orderly system you’ve created requires regular communication between all team members. Have routine team check-ins, keep your students and team aware of any changes to the curriculum or deadlines, and don’t hesitate to speak up if you believe something isn’t correct or want to give positive feedback. You and your co-educators are all there for the same reason, to communicate effectively to achieve your goals.

5. Remember the common goal you all share.

You likely chose your career as a paraeducator because of your love and passion for education and helping students who need extra attention and care. Therefore, do your best never to lose sight of the “why” behind what you do at work every day. You’ve dedicated your life to serving the special needs community, so lean on your teammates and peers to stay entirely focused on the common goal you all share.

Special education team building isn’t easy, but if you’re committed to creating a more inclusive, communicative, and efficient classroom environment, you’re on the right track. There’s no doubt if you lead by example, your coworkers will follow suit. Everyone wins, particularly your incredible students.

For tips and best practices for paraprofessionals in the classroom, check out our Guidebook here.

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