Promoting the Involvement of Students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders in Career and Vocational Planning and Decision-Making: The Self-Determined Career Development Model

Article excerpt


The authors examined the effectiveness of a support model to instruct five youth with EBD to self-direct the problem-solving processes and promote self-determination skills by enabling them to: (a) set employment/career related goals, (b) develop and implement a plan toward goal attainment; and (c) adjust and evaluate progress toward meeting their goals. Participants chose individualized employment goals and worked through the model as a support to planning, implementing, and attaining their goals. An AB design was used to evaluate goal achievement. The results revealed that all participants made progress toward each of their goals. Additionally, all participants reported that they achieved their target goals and were satisfied with the support that the model provided. Results support the potential utility of the model in promoting self-determination skills and increasing positive employment outcomes for youth with EBD.

By all accounts, meeting the needs of youth with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) as they transition into adulthood has proven to be a difficult task (Eber, Nelson, & Miles, 1997). Youth with EBD experience challenges unlike those faced by other students with disabilities (Fitzgibbon, Cook, & Falcon, 2000), with outcomes for these students impacted by poor social skills, social stigma, mental illness, and higher unemployment rates. Youth with EBD typically have higher rates of academic failure and grade retention, drop out of school at a higher rate than their peers, and are more likely to be educated in separate schools or residential placements (Cheney & Muscott, 1996; Hagner, Cheney, & Malloy, 1999; Maag & Katsiyannis, 1998; U.S. Department of Education, 1998). Further, these students experience high rates of social isolation, are more likely to interact with the juvenile justice system, and have higher rates of unemployment and under-employment, and job turn-over (Warner, Cheney, & Pienkowski, 1996). Issues of unemployment and underemployment are of particular concern, given the importance of employment on quality of life.

For many youth, acquiring and maintaining a job is a step to independence and gaining control over one's life that affords them a sense of self-worth and esteem. Frank, Sitlington, and Carson (1995) reported, however, that unemployment rates for youth with EBD ranged from 42% to 72% during the first 5 years after exiting high school. Equally disconcerting were findings from the National Longitudinal Transition Study (NLTS) that indicated that youth with EBD lag far behind their peers across many adult domains (Blackorby & Wagner, 1 996). These authors found that 41 % of youth with EBD were employed 2 years after high school as compared to 59% of youth without disabilities. Additionally, youth with EBD tend to secure lower-paying jobs as compared to students with other types of disabilities (Bullis etal., 1994; D'Amico, 1995).

Successful employment outcomes for this population are positively correlated with variables such as vocational education coursework (Aspel, Bettis, Test & Wood, 1998; Bullis et al, 1994; Wagner, 1995), paid work experience in high school (Benz, Lindstrom, & Yovanoff, 2000; Lueking & Fabian, 2000), or social skills training (Maag & Katsiyannis, 1998). One factor that has been identified as a critical variable leading to positive adult outcomes for youth with disabilities is self-determination (Agran, Blanchard, Wehmeyer, & Hughes, 2002; Thoma, Nathanson, Baker, & Tamura, 2002; Wehmeyer & Palmer, 2003; Wehmeyer & Schwartz, 1997).

There has been limited examination of the impact of self-determination on adult outcomes for youth with EBD. Wehmeyer (1996) defined self-determined behavior as "the attitudes and abilities necessary to act as the primary causal agent in one's life and to make choices and decisions regarding one's quality of life, free from undue external influences or interference" (p. …


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