PARAPro Course

Online Course for Paraprofessionals:
Autism Spectrum Disorder for Paraprofessionals: Providing Effective Instruction and Supports

Upcoming offerings:

  Dates   Registration
February 6 - 28, 2023          

This course is estimated to require 20 contact hours to complete.

Course Information Contact:

Technical Support:  Lucian Friel, 804-827-1434 or email:

In response to the need for comprehensive training for individuals working with students with ASD in Virginia as well as House Bill 325 and the Virginia Department of Education's (VDOE) Training Standards for Paraprofessionals Assigned to Work with a Teacher Who Has Primary Oversight of Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (PDF) (Word) , VCU-ACE has developed online training opportunities for paraprofessionals. The training is provided through the use of online technology. Our online training activities offer high-quality, intensive training on aspects of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). To participate, you need a computer with internet access (preferably high-speed), Adobe Flash Player software within your browser, and a sound card with speakers in order to listen to the lectures (full text transcripts are provided for all lectures and multimedia).

Video transcript:  Plain text

Although training is an important element in learning and developing successful skills and strategies for working with individuals with ASD, it is imperative that training be followed by support, coaching, and mentoring to ensure successful implementation of skills and proficiencies. Local educational agencies are strongly encouraged to follow ACE training activities with support to assist the paraprofessional with implementation in the school setting.

Paraprofessionals have provided very positive feedback about the course. Here are just some of their comments:

  • "This was so complete. I did not even feel like I was learning. I'm just so glad to have had the opportunity to take this course. It was wonderful!"
  • "I enjoyed the course. The information will be invaluable with my interactions with my students."
  • "I did enjoy this course. I learned a lot of new information and plan to implement a few of the strategies with the help of my supervisory teacher!"
  • "I really enjoyed taking this course, it was very helpful and I enjoyed sharing this with my leading teacher. We shared many great discussions about the materials in this course. Thanks again for the opportunity to take this course."

To see more about what paraprofessionals who have taken the course think about it, please see the course feedback page.

Course Overview

This course is designed to provide paraprofessionals with skills and knowledge needed to support students with an ASD in the school setting. The course will provide an overview of the potential roles and responsibilities the paraprofessional may be asked to deliver. Participants will learn how to carry out their responsibilities while maintaining respect for the students and exhibiting sensitivity to beliefs, values, and cultures. Teaming and communication with professionals and parents will also be highlighted. The course will provide participants with an overview of ASD including primary and secondary characteristics. Information regarding the development and implementation of the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) will be discussed. Participants will gain knowledge of educational modifications, accommodations and educational strategies used to support students with ASD. A focus of the course will be on understanding interfering behaviors which students with ASD may demonstrate and effectively supporting the student to reduce these behaviors and increase positive skills.

A new section of the paraprofessional course runs monthly. Participants may register on the ACE website for any of the upcoming available sections. Participants have the entire month for which they registered to complete the online course. New sections open on the first week day of the month and close on the last week day of the month. You can register for the course any time for available sections, but you will not be able to access the course until the section for which you registered opens. For example, you may register in April for a section that begins in July. At the beginning of July, you would receive an e-mail with information about how to access the course.



This course is designed to target paraprofessionals who provide any type of instruction or behavior support to students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. However, the course is appropriate for any person who works in a support role within the school division or any person who interacts with students with Autism Spectrum D isorder but may not have primary responsibilities for the student. This can include but is not limited to:

  • Paraprofessionals who support one particular student
  • Hallway monitors
  • Cafeteria monitors
  • Bus drivers and assistants
  • School nurses
  • Resource teachers (physical education, art, music)
  • Librarians
  • Computer lab personnel
  • Office personnel

and anyone else who would like to learn more about Autism Spectrum Disorder.


Course Requirements

The course consists of 5 modules. Participants are to complete each module in order until all are successfully completed. The course begins on the first day of each month and closes on the final day of the month. Participants can complete each of the 5 modules at their own pace. However, access to the modules will be staggered over the month to help ensure the participant completes the modules in the correct order and devotes the appropriate amount of time to each. Participants will be given access to the modules using the following schedule:

  • Modules 1 & 2 will be open during the first week of the section.
  • Modules 3 & 4 will open during the second week of the section.
  • Module 5 will open during the third week.

Each module varies in length; however, we estimate it will take approximately 20 hours to complete the entire course. Participants can use the entire month to complete all 5 modules but will not be able to begin a module until access is provided.

The modules are comprised of narrated presentations with video examples. Participants are to listen to each presentation in its entirety. Each module will also consist of the following activities:

  • Guided learning activities
    • During the presentations, participants will apply content using learning activities in the form of case studies. Additionally, other learning activities are provided which encourage participants to apply the content to students with whom they work. These activities are to be done outside of the time spent online. They are optional: however, participants are strongly encouraged to complete the activities and share them with their supervising teacher.
  • Quizzes
    • Once all content is reviewed in a module, completion of a module quiz is required. A score of 80% or better is needed to move to the next module. Participants will have two attempts to complete the quiz with a score of 80% or better. Participants need to obtain a score of 80% or better on all five quizzes. If participants are unable to meet this requirement, they are welcome to complete the course without receiving a certificate of completion or discontinue the course at that time and register for the next available section of the course and would have to complete the entire course again.
  • Discussion board postings
    • Participants are required to answer each of three discussion board questions based on a case study and respond to their assigned instructor's comments for a total of at least two posts per discussion board. Participants must answer all three of the discussion board questions and respond to their instructor in order to receive their certificate. If participants do not answer all three discussion board questions and respond to their instructor, they would have to register for another available section of the course and complete the entire course again.



Module One:  Overview of Autism Spectrum Disorder
Module Two:  Responsibilities of the Paraprofessional and Description of the Educational Process
Module Three:  Instructional Strategies and Considerations
Module Four:  Social and Communication Strategies
Module Five:  Behavioral Support

Learning Objectives

This course meets the requirements of House Bill 325 and the Training Standards for Paraprofessionals Assigned to Work with a Teacher Who Has Primary Oversight of Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (PDF) (Word) . A complete list of the competencies covered will be provided to participants.

Upon completion of this course, the participant will be able to:

  1. Identify the core characteristics of ASD and discuss the impact of these characteristics on a student with ASD.
  2. Discuss what it means to "presume competence" and how to demonstrate respect for individuals with ASD
  3. Describe the different components of the Individualized Education Plan (IEP)
  4. Identify team members instrumental in supporting individuals with ASD and describe the importance of communication and collaboration in the educational process
  5. Identify strategies for effective communication with educational team members
  6. List ethical and legal considerations and describe the importance of confidentiality in the educational environment
  7. Identify legal and general responsibilities of the paraprofessional
  8. Describe different ways to structure the environment to support individuals with ASD
  9. Describe how to implement a variety of educational modifications and accommodations to provide an individualized education
  10. Discuss how to structure instructional activities for success
  11. Define prompting, shaping, chaining, task analysis, and reinforcement and describe how to teach using these strategies
  12. Describe how to use visual supports to promote understanding and independence and discuss how to use schedules, first-then boards, choice boards, and work systems
  13. Describe strategies to promote communication and socialization of students with ASD
  14. Define the term "behavior"
  15. Identify and discuss the functions of behavior
  16. Describe the Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) and identify how it is used in the educational setting
  17. Describe strategies used to deescalate interfering behavior and ensure safety

Technical Questions

I haven't received my user name or password yet, how do I get it? On the day the course begins, your user name and password will be sent to you. The log in information will be sent no earlier than the day in which you begin the course. We send this information to the e-mail address you provided upon registration. If you have not received it by the start date, you need to check your junk and/or spam folder as some of our messages may get filtered into these folders mistakenly, especially for participants who have a Yahoo e-mail account. If you are unable to locate the message, please contact Lucian Friel at or by phone: 804-827-1434.

My user name and password are incorrect, what should I do? First, you'll need to make sure you're clicking the appropriate area. Once you've arrived to the Blackboard log-in page, click the option that says "Non-Credited, Other Login." If you choose the option that says "VCU BLACKBOARD LOGIN" you will not be able to log into the course. Next, you'll need to make sure you're typing in your user name correctly. The first two letters of your user name begin with a double "R" and not an "N" as some have made this mistake previously. Additionally, make sure to type an underscore which looks like this: _ and not a hyphen which looks like this: -. Your user name may contain a period in the middle. You must include this period when typing your username.

Can I change my password? No, your password is unable to be changed.

The audio presentations will not load, what should I do? You'll need the most recent version of Adobe Flash Player. You can get this program by clicking this link:

I'm using an iPad/tablet for the course, is this compatible? We do not recommend using iPads and/or other tablets for the course. If you are unable to view the presentations, we recommend reading the transcripts, which can be located on Blackboard. The transcripts will have all of the information you need for the course. The transcripts are in a Microsoft Word format.

Only one question is showing for the quiz, what should I do? The problem is the internet browser you're using. Internet Explorer and Safari users tend to see this happen the most - you'll need to switch the browser to one that is supported. We recommend Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.

In which group should I post and who is my group leader? You can find this information located on Blackboard located on the left side of the page under the tab "Course Information." From there, find the blue link that says "Group Assignments." After you've clicked the link, a page will load displaying all of the participants in the course. Find your name on this list and then look at the top of the column to see which group leader has been assigned to you.

I scored below 80 on a quiz and need the password to an alternate quiz, what should I do? You need to contact your group instructor to receive a password. Your group instructor is the same person who leads your discussion board group.

When will I receive my certificate? Certificates will be e-mailed to those who have completed the course approximately one week after the course has closed. This allows time for course instructors to finish grading and enter information into the data base.

I think I have completed all of my assignments, how do I check to see what I am missing? Should you need to inquire about missing grades or assignments, you should first check the course syllabus and ensure you fully understand the assignments required in the course. If you are still unsure of missing grades or assignments, your group instructor should be the main point of contact. Your group instructor is the person you correspond with on the discussion board.

I have posted in the wrong discussion board group by mistake, what should I do? It is important to ensure your responses to the discussion board are posted in the correct group. If you find you have posted in the wrong group, simply post a new reply in your correct group. Responses posted outside of your group may not receive credit.

I need to withdraw from the course who should I contact? First, double check with your school division to verify that you are not in violation of any requirements provided by your employer and that you do not need to take the course or may do so at a later date (In some cases, a course may be required by your employer within a designated time frame.) If there are no requirements of concern, contact Lucian Friel at or by phone at 804-827-1434. You may withdraw from the course or you may ask to take the course at a later date. Be advised, any work completed prior to the withdrawal may not be transferred.

My discussion board responses are not showing, what should I do? If you have not yet received a response from your group instructor, you will need to make sure you did not click the option that says "Save as draft" when you originally typed your message. If you did click the option that says "Save as draft," your response will be located in the thread along with the other participants. Click the option that says "edit" and then "submit." If you do not see your response at all, you will need to retype your response. Please give the group instructors at least 48 hours to respond to your discussion board posts.


Certificate of Completion from Virginia Commonwealth University Autism Center for Excellence

Participants can earn a Certificate of Completion if they have reviewed all content, have scored a minimum of 80% on each of the five quizzes, and answered the required discussion board questions. Certificates will be made available to participants who successfully complete the course after the completion of their section.

Many school divisions use the VCU-ACE Paraprofessional online course to meet the requirements of HB 325, which requires training for paraprofessionals. You may be asked to provide a copy of your certificate to the school division where you are employed.

In addition, a school division may ask VCU-ACE for the names and/or certificates of participants who have registered for or completed the course. To assist school divisions in accurate record keeping, VCU-ACE will provide the names and/or certificates of participants who registered and/or completed the course to their school divisions if requested.

If you, as the participant, do not wish to have your name or certificate information shared with a school division, you may opt out in writing by contacting Teresa Cogar at

Accessing the Course

To participate, you need a computer with (preferably high-speed) internet access, Adobe Flash Player software within your browser, and a sound card with speakers in order to listen to the lectures (full text transcripts are provided for all lectures and multimedia).

Participants will be able to access course materials on VCU's "Blackboard" website. Each participant is provided the course URL, a unique username, and a password on the first day of class for the section that they have registered. Please note that each participant must have his or her own email address that is not shared with other individuals.