Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

How Elementary School Counselors Can Meet the Needs of Students with Disabilities

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

How Elementary School Counselors Can Meet the Needs of Students with Disabilities

Article excerpt

This article presents the results of an ethnographic study that examined how three elementary school counselors meet the personal/social needs of students with disabilities. For this study, the term "students with disabilities" included any student with a disability who was receiving special education services in each counselor's school. Counselor strategies, reliance on theories, and use of the ASCA National Model[R] are explored. Critical themes to emerge out of this study included the influence of the ASCA National Model, advocacy, the variety of counseling strategies, collaboration and teaming, and leadership. Implications for school counselors are presented.


In 1993, the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) issued position statements on school counselor involvement with students with disabilities and suggested the following school counselor roles in working with students with disabilities: (a) advocacy, (b) transition planning, (c) behavior modification, (d) counseling parents, (e) making referrals to specialists, (f) improving self-esteem, (g) working as part of the school multidisciplinary team, (h) teaching social skills, and (i) serving as consultants to parents and school staff (ASCA, 1993). The most recent education and counseling reform movements--No Child Left Behind (U.S. Department of Education, 2002), the ASCA National Standards (ASCA, 2003), and the ASCA National Model (ASCA, 2003)--have further increased the focus of meeting the needs of all students, including students with disabilities (ASCA, 1993, 2003; Baumberger & Harper, 1999; Milsom, 2002; U.S. Department of Education). These new national standards call for school counselors to "change their emphasis from service-centered for some of the students, to program-centered for every student" (ASCA, 2003, p. 18).

School counselors do not have much training in working with students with disabilities, despite the fact that reform movements call for increasing their involvement with these students (Astigarra & McEachern, 2000; Deck, Scarborough, Sferrazza, & Estill, 1999; Helms & Katsiyannis, 1992; Milsom, 2002). With pressure to change their role in schools to ensure that all students' needs are being met, school counselors will quickly need to focus their efforts on changing the services they provide to all students, including those with disabilities, and to provide evidence and data to support that their school counseling activities are effective.


Many young children with disabilities have unique personal/social needs in addition to academic issues related to their disability. Current research suggests a number of personal/social difficulties that come with a diagnosis of a physical disability, emotional disorder, or learning disability. Some of these issues include higher levels of stress and anxiety (Margalit, 1992), poor social skills (Okolo & Sitlington, 1986; Voeller, 1993), and learned helplessness and low self-esteem (Barton & Fuhrmann, 1994; Bender & Wall, 1994; Bowen & Glenn, 1998; Glenn & Smith, 1998). Students with disabilities often have negative school experiences (Kottman, Robert, & Baker, 1995), maintain an external locus of control (Bender & Wall; Omizo & Omizo, 1994; Tabassam & Grainger, 2002), and demonstrate ineffective anger management strategies (Baker, 2000; Garcia, Krankowski, & Jones, 1998).

There is also an increased risk of suffering from depression, conduct disorders, and substance abuse, related to a diagnosis of a disability (Brumback & Weinberg, 1990; Larson, 1998; Rodis, Garrod, & Boscardin, 2001; Spreen, 1988). It now appears that students with disabilities develop low self-concepts in more areas than just academics alone (Kloomok & Cosden, 1994). Kish (1991) maintained that students with disabilities become more handicapped by their lack of personal/social skills than by their academic skill deficits, and research indicates that strong personal/social skills are necessary for future success as an adult and that these skills can be learned (Schumaker, 1992). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.