Training Paraprofessionals to Support Students with Disabilities: A Focus on Function-based Intervention

Walker, Virginia Lee, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Snell, Martha, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

This dissertation is comprised of three independently conducted studies in the area of paraprofessional training, with two of the studies focusing on function-based behavioral intervention. Paraprofessionals typically receive inadequate training and are unlikely to possess the knowledge and skills necessary to support students with disabilities. Furthermore, paraprofessionals often are the least prepared among school personnel to address students’ challenging behavior. Yet, little is known about (a) the characteristics of intervention research studies exploring the efficacy of paraprofessional training, (b) paraprofessionals’ skill level and educational needs in function-based behavioral intervention, and (c) the efficacy of paraprofessional-implemented function-based behavioral intervention in improving students’ behavior. The three studies described in this dissertation address these limitations. In the first study, I systematically reviewed thirty studies to describe intervention research in which paraprofessionals received training applicable to student with disabilities. In the second study, I surveyed paraprofessionals working during the 2012-2013 school year in the state of Virginia to assess their perceived skill level and training needs in function-based intervention and to identify their preferred training delivery methods. Finally, in the third study, I evaluated the effects of paraprofessional-implemented function-based intervention on the appropriate and challenging behavior of three students with disabilities. Collectively, these studies further expand our understanding of the state of paraprofessional training intervention research. Furthermore, this research demonstrates the potential advantages of assessing paraprofessionals’ skills and training needs and teaching paraprofessionals to implement function-based behavioral intervention.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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