Group consultation as a support for paraprofessionals

Nancy Russo-Petryna, Fordham University


The process of group consultation as a supportive service for paraprofessionals implementing inclusive education programs was explored. Participants included five paraprofessionals as consultees and the five elementary school children with special needs with whom they worked. The treatment consisted of a pre-session, eight group consultation sessions, and a post-session. A case-study format guided by a two-layered simultaneous clinical replication series using multiple methods of analysis was used to conduct the research. The first layer was the group consultation process. The second layer involved the use of paraprofessionals to support a student with handicaps in an inclusive education program. Results from the first layer indicate paraprofessional increases in confidence, knowledge, skill, and objectivity. The paraprofessionals valued input from their peers and described learning from the experiences of each other leading to the prevention of problems in their own situations. Group consultation efficiently addressed individual needs in several consultees lacking training. Themes emerged indicating benefit in the areas of prevention, interaction with peers, group acceptance, evaluation and feedback, weekly monitoring, and extended time to problem solve. These potential benefits of group consultation can lead to improved functioning among paraprofessionals that may ultimately better support children with disabilities. Suggested changes included more time for meetings and balance between monitoring and discussion of new ideas. In the second layer, group consultation led to the development of interventions by three of the five paraprofessionals. The interaction of consultee characteristics, environment, consultant and child impacted the process. Paraprofessionals successfully implemented interventions in two of the three case studies resulting in desired changes in behavior for the children. Another outcome resulted in a better defined role for the paraprofessional. All paraprofessionals described benefits of acting as co-consultants. These outcomes suggest group consultation provides skills and support to consultees. The use of untrained or minimally prepared paraprofessionals to support children with disabilities is increasing. This represents a need for training and support. Group consultation can be an important tool for school psychologists to meet this need.

Subject Area

Educational psychology|Special education

Recommended Citation

Russo-Petryna, Nancy, "Group consultation as a support for paraprofessionals" (1997). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9809017.