Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Elementary Counselors and Inclusion: A Statewide Attitudinal Survey

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Elementary Counselors and Inclusion: A Statewide Attitudinal Survey

Article excerpt

School counselors are accountable for providing developmental, preventative, and responsive servises to their school populations, and do so by using counseling, consulting, and coordinating skills (American School Counseling Association, 1990). Glosoff and Koprowitz (as cited in Carroll, 1993) argued that the problems in schools are best prevented or solved through early identification and intervention. They believe this means that elementary school counselors will always be on the edge of any new movement or model in education. Brown and Srebalus (1996) confirmed that there is a reliance on elementary counselors to prevent serious educational and psychological problems from arising. One of the most significant movements toward greater participation is at the classroom level, where "inclusion" is taking hold. Inclusion is the most recent response in education to the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (PL 94142,1975); reauthorized and renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (PL 101-476, 1990). The first response to the law was mainstreaming-the placement of students with disabilities in regular education classrooms for part of their education. Inclusion is a new perspective from the late 1980s, when work by Wang, Reynolds, and Walberg (1986) and a strong position by Will (1986) advocated that students with disabilities be automatically assigned to regular education classrooms on a full-time basis with appropriate supports and accommodations as indicated in students` Individualized Education Programs (Planning for Inclusion, 1995). This new approach has created great change in the roles and tasks of counselors.

The Different Roles of School Counselors

The practice of elementary school counseling has been distinguished from middle and secondary counseling in several ways. Gysbers (1990) noted that secondary counseling had its roots in vocational counseling and involves activities that support academic and vocational development, while elementary school counseling is rooted in developmental models that promote social and emotional development. Nugent (1990) noted that elementary counselors have much more contact with families and teachers than school counselors at other levels.

Hardesty and Dillard (1994) suggest that there have been few studies that directly compare counseling duties between school levels. They noted several, however, in which elementary counselors identified working with teachers concerning problem students and consulting in general as more prevalent than did their secondary counterparts. Yet, their study, when identifying school counselor activities for differentiation, did not specify any which were involved with responding to the needs of special education students. Carroll (1993) also noted the paucity of research into elementary school counselors' roles. His research tested actual versus ideal roles and ferreted out discrepancies in consultation with parents and in training for coordination of special needs referrals and parent communication. He also identified that elementary counselors perceived a greater need for teacher skills than did their secondary counterparts.

The American School Counselor Association (ASCA, 1990) outlined the different roles that counselors must play depending upon the developmental stages of students and the organization of the school. ASCA defines the elementary school counselor role as including cooperating with other school staff in the early identification, remediation, or referral of children with suspected disabilities. Roles outlined for middle and secondary school were rooted in vocational and academic issues. Thus, elementary school counselor roles and daily activities involve inclusion more than their middle and secondary school colleagues.

School Counselors and Consultation

Aubrey (1978) prophetically predicted that counselor consultation in schools would increase as a specific result of increased mainstreaming, and one can extrapolate that this is especially true as schools move toward inclusion. …

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