Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Improving Prediction of Significant Career-Related Constructs for High School Students with Learning Disabilities

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Improving Prediction of Significant Career-Related Constructs for High School Students with Learning Disabilities

Article excerpt

Preparing students with learning disabilities (LDs) to make the transition into the world of work is considered an essential preparation that high schools can provide. However, existing services are limited for career development preparation, and available programs rely on assessments normed for samples of students without LDs. This study examined the predictability of critical career-related constructs of dysfunctional career thoughts, career maturity, and vocational identity in high school students with LDs, using a sample of 139 such students. Data analyses were performed using multiple regression and t tests. Results indicate that it is possible to predict important career constructs for students with LDs using standardized instruments, which can inform subsequent interventions.

Keywords: learning disabilities, high school students with LDs, postschool transition, career maturity, vocational identity

Learning disabilities (LDs) have become the most widespread handicapping disorder in U.S. public schools (Dipeolu, 2002; U.S. Department of Education, 1994). Available prevalence data rates indicate that boys outnumber girls by a 3:1 ratio for LD diagnosis (National Health Interview Survey, 2003). Generally, LDs (in various forms) have been used to describe students who are failing to learn in school as expected. For this population, the discrepancy model was the predominant model for the diagnosis of LDs until 2004. The 2004 version of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act noted that the "difference between academic performance and ability may not be the only approach used to identi& students. The recommended alternative is the use of students' responses to scientific research-based interventions" (Shaw, 2006, p. 109), hence the emergence of the Response to Intervention model.

Recognizing that deficits associated with LDs do not disappear in adulthood, the U.S. government included school-to-work transition programming for high school students in the crafting of Public Law 101-476, in 1990, and specifically mandated career development activities for all students (Ward, 2006). The 2004 revision and reauthorization of Public Law 94-142 (Individuals With Disabilities Education Act) reconsidered issues pertaining to postschool transition planning (Dipeolu & Cook, 2006). Along with other federal mandates, this law emphasized the importance of transition planning to prepare high school students with disabilities for the postschool world. Although transition programming in public schools seems well intentioned, these services do not adequately prepare students for a successful transition from school to work and/or to postsecondary education, especially in the areas of self-advocacy, selfdetermination, career exploration, and career planning (Carter, Trainor, Cakiroglu, Swedeen, & Owen, 2010; Shaw, Madaus, & Banerjee, 2009).

Nevertheless, public schools have witnessed growth in the array of services tailored to remediate academic challenges facing students with LDs in recent years. Compared with the earlier generations of students with LDs, many are now receiving better academic preparation while in school (Dipeolu, Reardon, Sampson, & Burkhead, 2002); however, services are extremely limited (and sometimes nonexistent) in the area of vocational and career development (Gregg, 2007). Yet, preparing these students to make the transition into the world of work is an essential preparation service school officials can provide. To attain the level of transition necessary for successful postschool life, existing academic activities need to be augmented with evidence-based career development services to assist young adults with LDs to successfully make the postschool transition. Without an engaging career development and vocational preparation plan, the existing transition mandates alone may not guarantee success for these students.

Young adults who are able to demonstrate a higher level of career maturity or readiness, show a clear sense of vocational identity, and possess positive career- related thoughts are more likely to be successful in mastering the transition from school to work or further education (Hitchings et al. …

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