The Guam Department of Education (GDOE) Division of Special Education, in partnership with Guam CEDDERS, held a series of sessions during the week of January 30 – February 3, 2023 facilitated by Mary Schillinger, a nationally recognized expert on severe disabilities. Participants in the sessions included Special Education coaches, Early Childhood Special Education Preschool teachers, Head Start representatives, Elementary Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) coordinators, parents of children transitioning into kindergarten, school administrators, and division leadership members. The purpose of the week-long session was to provide guidance and support regarding the implementation of the Division’s new paraeducator procedures and fading plan within the IEP process, centering on building the capacity of special education coaches to assist district schools, informing parents and early childhood staff about paraeducator considerations during transition to elementary school, and helping school administrators and division leadership better understand the procedures for requesting paraeducator services for students with disabilities.

Currently, the percentage of GDOE students receiving special education services with paraeducators is one of the highest across the nation. Although there are varying factors that may have contributed to GDOE’s high percentage of paraeducators, continuous reliance on adult support negatively impacts the fostering of independent living skills and social interaction with peers. Thus, the GDOE Special Education Division recognizes the need for an improved process of determining paraeducator services for students with disabilities. Additionally, the fading plan, which will now be included in the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) of each student receiving paraeducator services, will outline strategies aimed to fade out full time paraeducator support over time.

The on-site sessions were held at the GDOE Tiyan Headquarters and Westin Resort Guam for school administrators.