How Are Goldilocks and Para Support Alike?

How Are Goldilocks and Para Support Alike?


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As we continue our blog series about paraprofessionals and support for students, let’s just take a moment and remember the main points from last week’s blog.


Last week we talked about what to avoid doing when working with paraprofessionals.  We stressed how having a para shadow our children can produce unintended consequences, like:


  • Too much help is given which can lead to your child being less independent
  • Staff can be dependent on the para being the only one to provide support, which can lead to staff not trying to implement other researched-based practices like Co-teaching, Universal Design for Learning, or cooperative learning groups.
  • When there is only adult support, the use of natural supports, like peers is diminished.
  • Too much adult support can seriously reduce opportunities for kids to make friends.

This is usually the result of their past experience and training.


Are you still wondering, what Goldilocks and support from a para-educator have in common?  Think of the story of Goldilocks And The Three Bears. She found porridge that was too hot, too cold, and finally porridge that was just right.  In school some students get too much support, too little support, and we want to make sure they get just the right amount of support.


Before you child begins getting extra adult support you need to know exactly what the level of support will look like and what the plan will be to fade that support, when appropriate.

Here are the different levels of support or prompts and what they can look like:

  1. Natural: No cues or prompts are given. Instead the natural cues in the setting are what help the student to know what to do next.  Example: The student notices everyone is cleaning up and then sitting quietly. The student begins cleaning up.


  1. Gestural: A physical cue is given, shaking head “no”, thumbs up. Support person points to the next math problem. Student does the next math problem.


  1. Indirect verbal: Ask a question that makes them think. Jason, what do you do when you’re finished with your paper?  Jason pauses and then remembers he has to put his paper in the teacher’s basket when he’s done.


  1. Direct oral/verbal: The student is told the verbal directions: The student is told what page to turn to in the book. Student does that.


  1. Modeling: The student sees a demonstration of what he/she needs to do: the support person shows how to do the first two steps of dissecting the frog and then the student does it.


  1. Partial physical: direct physical assistance is given for some of the activity: the support person uploads the worksheet on the computer and the student types in the answers.


  1. Full physical support: greatest amount of support: hand-over hand assistance for helping a student tie his shoes.​​​​​​​

It’s important for IEP teams to decide when a student may need extra support at school. This can be included in the Needs section of the IEP.  It helps to include the reason why additional support is needed. For instance, it could state, “Rosa needs adult support in the bathroom 3 times a day because she is unable to transfer from her wheelchair to the toilet.”


The IEP team will need to also note the level of support the student currently needs to perform a certain task. Finally, the team can decide what level of support he’ll/she’ll need a year from now and have that written in the IEP goal.


Thinking of a student whom needs help transferring from the wheelchair to the toilet.  Right now, the student may need the most support which would be at Level 7: Full physical assistance.  The IEP team could predict that in a year the student may only need partial physical support.  That level of support can be written into the child’s IEP goal.


A second example is a student that needs adult support when he’s eating his morning and afternoon snacks and during lunch so he doesn’t choke.  The student may now be at a Level 5. of support – he needs someone to model or demonstrate chewing each bite of his food for 10 times before he swallows it.  The goal may be to fade that need for modeling and in the future, he’ll just need to see someone touch their mouth, gesture level of support, and that is a reminder for him.


There are a few different ways to change the amount of support a child is given.  One way is to start with the least amount of prompts and if the student isn’t successful to go to the next higher level of support.  For instance, a teacher gives the class the direction, to get their Science textbook out.  If the student doesn’t do this, the support person (could be a classmate) could point to the Science book in the student’s desk.  If the student still doesn’t do it, the next level of support would be to ask the student what book he needs to get out.

There may be times when safety is the primary issue.  In many of those cases, the support person will need to start at a more intense level of support and see when they can safely move to giving less support.


Today we got a chance to look at the different levels of support we can give students.  This can not only be used at school, but also at home and in other places.   We gave examples of helping students starting with the least amount of support and increasing it, only if needed.  We also said there will be times when we need to start with the most support needed and only decrease it when we are sure the student will be able to respond appropriately.


If you have questions about the support your child is getting or not getting at school, just send me an email and ask.  I read all my emails and will respond to you. And as always, I’m also available for free 30 minute phone consultation.  Just email me at and we’ll set up a time to talk.


Take care,

Let’s Stay Connected!       208.340.5874



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