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Dear Paraprofessional

Holly Shields (Physical Therapist) by Holly Shields (Physical Therapist)

Holly Shields (Physical Therapist)

Holly Shields (Physical Therapist)

Fitness, friends, and the great outdoors fill my days in addition to practicing my calling as a pediatric physical therapist.

Dear Paraprofessional,

Thank you for all you do day in and day out.

You are the unsung heroes of our schools. You are the champions of our students.

You are worth so much more than what is reflected on your pay stub.

Those who work with you know you are the heart and soul of the special education programs. Day after day you advocate for our children, treating them with dignity and respect. You show by your interactions with those who are differently-abled that you see no differences.

You see a person who has feelings, thoughts, and personality. We catch you laughing, singing and sometimes even dancing to engage these kiddos.

The eye contact, the meaningful touches, the intelligent conversation you practice tell students and the others nearby that different doesn’t mean less than.

Thank you classroom aides, teacher’s assistants and support staff for tirelessly wiping noses, changing diapers, giving feedings all with a smile on your face.

You may not have the title of classroom teacher but we see the care you provide and the love you give every single day. Thank you for your patience, your energy, your compassion and your enthusiasm.

You are willing to learn new tricks and go with the flow daily.

You give your body in service by repositioning, lifting, carrying, pushing the most vulnerable.

You may not write the goals or the lesson plans, but you are the ones we rely on hour-by-hour to make these goals a reality. If it weren’t for you, the daily walks in the gait trainer wouldn’t happen, legs would not get stronger from standing in the standing frame.

If it weren’t for you, those with mobility delays might not get out of their wheelchair to stretch their legs, those with fine motor delays may not get their clothing fasteners done, and those with speech impairments may never get to practice using the communication device.

You are these kids’ world. Yes, you are seen.

Because of all the hours you spend up close and personal, you are the one who gets the special giggle, the messy hugs and slimy kisses, and the well-earned friendship and trust from some of our most valuable players.

You matter in the life of a child!

As a school-based physical therapist, the paraprofessional oftentimes carries out my physical therapy plan for a student.

Whether it be lifting, transferring, standing or stretching a child, I rely heavily on the classroom staff to implement my therapeutic activities.

Whereas a physical therapist has a student for 30 minutes a week...

A teacher’s aide attends to the student’s needs the entire school day.

Without a para repeating similar tasks as a therapist a child may not make progress toward his goals or, even worse, he may not be able to participate in educational and daily life tasks.

Similarly, a classroom teacher makes lesson plans and educational goals, but without the assistants, growth may not occur. The paraprofessionals are the ones in the trenches: on the playground, in the lunch room, in the bathroom and wherever else the student goes.

Behind the scenes, they make things happen.

Rarely getting the glory, most aides I know love what they do even though it is exhausting and not financially equitable to the work they do.  INVALUABLE best describes their role.

So, the next time you see your child’s or school’s paraprofessional, thank them!

From me, Maria, Haley, Shayne, Felicia, and Kara-you guys are the best!


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