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The Dissection of Paraprofessional Support in Inclusive Education: ‘You're in Mainstream With a Chaperone’

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 August 2013

Ben Whitburn*
Deakin University, Australia
Correspondence: Ben Whitburn, Faculty of Arts and Education, Deakin University, 221 Burwood Highway, Burwood, Vic. 3125, Australia. E-mail:


The experiences of young people with disabilities of inclusive schooling are largely underresearched. This paper reports recent findings of a small-scale Australian qualitative study, in which secondary students with vision impairment spoke about their experiences of receiving paraprofessional support. Two overarching themes emerged from this study: ‘light’ and ‘heavy’ paraprofessional support. The results presented here demonstrate that participants described that support personnel upheld the strong arm of the special education tradition, which was manifestly detrimental to their inclusion. Raw data is presented to elucidate the emergent themes, and to explain the various pedagogical and general support roles of class and special educators in eliminating the need for direct paraprofessional presence in lessons. The light and heavy model of support is also examined in terms of how it fits into the complexity of the education discourse and the young people's own aspirations for full inclusion.

Copyright © The Authors 2013 

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