Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

The Role of Counselors Serving Deaf or Hard of Hearing Students in Public Schools

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

The Role of Counselors Serving Deaf or Hard of Hearing Students in Public Schools

Article excerpt

SINCE ENACTMENT of Public Law 94-142, residential schools for d/Deaf or hard of hearing (d/Dhh) students have lost enrollment to public schools. Public school counselors now must meet d/Dhh students' counseling needs. There is little literature on if and how counselors are doing this. The present study used a survey to evaluate the job satisfaction and expectations of 22 counselors working with d/Dhh students in programs across the United States. Follow-up interviews were conducted with 6 participants functioning as counselors for d/Dhh students. Results indicated that the counselors were generally pleased with their role, which, however, diverged markedly from the American School Counselor Association (2003) national model. The interviews revealed 5 themes that may be unique to counselors serving d/Dhh students in public schools: Authority Based on Experience, Director of Collaborations/Negotiations, Isolation, Surrogate Parent/Insightful Social Confidante, and Martyr.

Prior to enactment of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 (Pub. L. 94-142), d/Deaf or hard of hearing (d/Dhh) students were educated primarily at residential schools (Moores, 2001). These schools generally employed a spectrum of service providers including teachers, psychologists, social workers, counselors, and other support personnel. Many of these personnel were d/Dhh themselves, and all were expected to be fluent users of sign language, in many cases American Sign Language (ASL). This gave students direct access to a plethora of supports, including counseling and psychological services, provided by the residential facility.

Since the early 1970s, there has been an exodus of students from residential schools for d/Dhh students to neighborhood schools. Researchers (Gallaudet Research Institute, 2003; Moores, 2006) have identified several historical trends in the education of such students. In particular, the migration from residential schools began a few years prior to the passage of Public Law 94-142 and continues today (Luckner, Muir, Howell, Sebald, & Young, 2005; Moores, 2006). While counseling as a profession was still fairly young in 1975 (see Gladding, 2003, for a history), residential schools for d/Dhh students found ways to meet the counseling needs of these children and youth. Frequently, individuals fluent in sign languages, including ASL, and knowledgeable about the psychosocial needs of d/Dhh children were identified as "counselors" on residential campuses. While these early counselors were not trained as such, they were recognized by colleagues as possessing the skills necessary to assist with the psychological development of students (Vernon & Andrews, 1990).

In the period following enactment of Public Law 94-142, public school systems were mandated to change the way they educated students with disabilities (Marschark, Lang, & Albertini, 2002; Moores, 1987, 2001). The result was a forced evolution that played out in public schools. Prior to 1975, public schools had little or no need for specialists trained in the combined fields of counseling and deafness, as most of these schools were unlikely to serve d/Dhh students. However, legislation and parental action resulted in the growth of public school programs for students with disabilities, including d/Dhh students.

The deaf services coordinator for the Denver, CO, public school system, R. F. Allen (personal communication, June 27, 2007), expressed concern over the apparent large numbers of students who transferred from the state residential schools for d/Dhh students with individualized education programs (IEPs) for counseling who suddenly had no counseling needs once they entered their local education program. Allen's office conducted a study (in preparation at the time of the present article was written) that found that 70% of d/Dhh students in Colorado had an emotional or behavioral concern flagged by a teacher.

In a study of counseling accessibility for deaf students (N = 1,485), Brant and Moore (2005) found that 23% of their participants in residential schools, all of them students at residential schools for d/Dhh students in the South, were receiving individual counseling. …

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