Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Counseling Interventions for Students Who Have Mild Disabilities

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Counseling Interventions for Students Who Have Mild Disabilities

Article excerpt

During the past two decades, several federal initiatives to provide education and related services to individuals with disabilities have been enacted as laws-the Education of all Handicapped Children Act (PL 94-142,1975); Education of the Hanidcapped Act (PL 99-457, 1986); Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, PL 101-476,1990); and the 1997 reauthorization of IDEA (PL 105-17,1997). Together these laws mandated that all individuals between the ages of 0 and 21 will receive a free and appropriate public education with access to a wide range of related services. Counseling is one of those related services. With this mandate, school counselors are now being held responsible for providing preventative and supportive services for students with disabilities who are included in regular public school classes. If school counselors are to be competent in providing such services, they must understand the cognitive, affective, and social problems of these students, be sensitive to their psycho-social needs, and be knowledgeable of effective counseling interventions.

The U. S. Department of Education (1996) has reaffirmed that school counseling and guidance is one of the three related services most needed by exceptional children and youth. There continues to remain, however, a gap between performance expectations of counselors and their skill and training levels in providing counseling services to exceptional students (Johnson & Pugach, 1991; Turnbull & Turnbull, 1990). According to Hosie (1979),

There is a serious lack of specific programs for counselors to use to increase their understanding and skills relating to the disabled. Counselor education programs should include courses on serving the disabled, and include practica and direct experiences ... with disabled students in each application phase of training programs. Materials developed for counselors need to be specific in giving information that enables them to make use of already developed skills (p. 274). In order to provide appropriate remedial and preventative services, counselors must more fully understand the present legislative requirements, characteristics, terminology, and related counseling needs associated with exceptional learners. There are problems, however, in implementing current federal legislation, which has implications for school counselors. More than 20 years after passage of PL 94-142 and Hosie's (1979) admonition, neither school counselors nor general classroom teachers have been adequately prepared to provide appropriate interventions for students with disabilities who are now being included in general education settings. If these professionals' attitudes toward exceptional students are negative, information that they receive regarding the education of students with disabilities may not be utilized. With the advent of inclusion practices, most students with disabilities are being returned to general education classrooms for all or part of the day. As a result of this practice, and with the most recent mandate of PL 105-17, a greatly heightened need for increased participation of general educators and related service providers such as school counselors has been generated. Another problem brought about by the full inclusion of students with disabilities in regular education is that students who were previously in self-contained or resource-special education classrooms may experience reentry problems. While these students may have received remediation in terms of learning skills or may be functioning at (or near) grade level, they may not be ready emotionally or socially for regular classroom placement.

Charactis of Students with Mild Disabilities Often students with mild disabilities are not identified early in school because they have not been noticeably different from their peer group (Lerner, 1993). However, as learning tasks become increasingly more complex and difficult, the students with disabilities may begin to deviate significantly from societal norms in terms of school achievement and behavior (Vernon, 1994). …

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