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siblings -paraprofessionaOver the past 6 years as an autism paraprofessional, I’ve studied interactions between paraprofessionals and families and I’ve found a simple communication formula that almost guarantees a better relationship between the paraprofessional and your family.

Here are 6 important topics to discuss with your child’s paraprofessional, allowing you to avoid common mistakes that stem from poor communication.

1. Challenging Behaviors
Find out if the paraprofessional will be the right fit for your child by letting the paraprofessional know about challenging behaviors your child may have before you hire. If the paraprofessional is aware of the challenging behaviors before they start working with the child, they’ll be able to respond appropriately to the behavior when it does occur.

I’ve worked with children who exhibited behaviors such as biting, kicking, and screaming. My job was much easier when I was made aware of challenging behaviors prior to accepting a job. That way I would know what to expect and I could think about the best way to handle the issues before the behavior began.

Make a list of your child’s typical behaviors and challenging behaviors, even if they seem insignificant. Let the paraprofessional know about these behaviors when hiring.

2. Interests
Paraprofessionals use the child’s interests to help motivate children to learn new things or work on their goals.

Discuss your child’s favorite things and interests with the paraprofessional. What does your child play with for hours without getting bored? What could your child talk about for hours and hours? Don’t let the paraprofessional guess your child’s likes and dislikes. This information is especially important when you hire someone new to work with your child.

3. Bathroom Issues
Does your child have bathroom issues? They may need to be reminded to pull up their pants before they come out of the bathroom, or they may need help going to the bathroom.

When I first started as an autism paraprofessional, working with children in their homes, I had no idea how to handle bathroom-related situations. Most inexperienced paraprofessionals will not know what to do with the child bathroom situations.

As the parent, you are aware of your child’s bathroom habits and it’s up to you to help the paraprofessional avoid bathroom mishaps. Inform the paraprofessional about your child’s bathroom habits or behaviors when you hire.

4. Elopement
Elopement is a very serious concern to many parents of children with isms. It may not be obvious to the paraprofessional but not all people working with your child may be aware of the dangers of elopement, or that they should be keeping an eye out for this issue.

It’s very important to let your paraprofessional know if your child has shown any escape behaviors in the past, and you should tell your paraprofessional how you best avoid elopement. There is a simple and powerful way to illustrate this to the paraprofessional who will be working with your child.

5. Cell Phones & Social Media
In this age of cell phones and social media, you may need to remind the paraprofessional to refrain from texting or using the Internet while they work with your child. The paraprofessional may not be watching over your child’s safety if they are using technology during work sessions.
Discuss technology usage rules with the paraprofessional before they start working with your child.

Remind the paraprofessional that he or she should not post details of any job on social media sites, and that they should never post photographs of your family or home. This is against confidentiality rules that paraprofessionals should know before accepting a job.

6. Siblings
It can be natural for a sibling to want to join in sessions with the paraprofessional. Ask the paraprofessional if it would be appropriate to have the sibling join in. Siblings can make a great addition to sessions; they can help with turn taking skills, for example. But, sometimes they can be more of a distraction than a help.

Is it important that your child get one-on-one time with the paraprofessional? If this is important, it’s a good idea to keep siblings occupied with other activities while the session is going on in your home.

During the first sessions with the paraprofessional, it’s important to be very aware of what is happening in your home. Always keep the lines of communication open between you and the paraprofessional. Remember, even if you hire a “special needs expert” or someone with a lot of experience with special needs, you as the parent are the best expert on your child.