School Counselor Preparation to Meet the Guidance Needs of Exceptional Students: A National Study. (Counselor Preparation)

By McEachern, Adriana G. | Counselor Education and Supervision, June 2003 | Go to article overview

School Counselor Preparation to Meet the Guidance Needs of Exceptional Students: A National Study. (Counselor Preparation)


McEachern, Adriana G., Counselor Education and Supervision


A representative sample of counselor educators at U.S. universities were surveyed to identify the kinds of curricula school counselor preparation programs use for preparing students to work with exceptional students (ES). Program courses in exceptional student education (ESE), competencies, field experiences, state certification requirements for ESE courses, the degree of importance accorded by counselor educators to prepare graduates to serve ES, and the educators' level of satisfaction with current program requirements were investigated. Sixty-two percent of the programs surveyed did not offer a specific ESE course; however, 53% of these programs (N = 146) reported that ESE competencies were incorporated in other program courses.

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During the past two decades, federal legislation, such as the 1975 Education for All Handicapped Children Act (later amended in 1990 and 1997 as the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act [IDEA]) and the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), has had an impact on the role of school counselors and their work with children with disabilities (see Thompson & Rudolph, 2000). These laws have influenced how counselors interact with these children within the school setting (Parette & Holder-Brown, 1992). In addition, the school-aged population of students with disabilities has increased rapidly during the past two decades (Office of Special Education Programs, 1997). It is estimated that approximately 18% of school-aged children have special needs (Wood Dunn & Baker, 2002). These students need the services that can be provided by professional school counselors (Parette & Holder-Brown, 1992).

Counseling Needs of Exceptional Students (ES)

Thompson and Rudolph (2000) asserted that not enough research has been conducted on counseling children with special needs, although it is known that children with disabilities confront problems that require individualized attention. For example, many of these children know from an early age that they are somehow different from other children and, because of this, may experience rejection and isolation from their peers (Thompson & Rudolph, 2000). Children who have late onset impairments will need assistance with the adjustment process (Snyder, 2000). Many children with disabilities are mainstreamed into regular classrooms, although some are placed in exceptional student education (ESE) programs and attend special classes so that they can achieve their potential (Snyder, 2000). Students who have been placed recently in ESE classes may also need counseling and guidance to assist them in understanding the academic, personal, and social benefits of these placements (Snyder, 2000). Parents and teachers can also benefit from interventions provided by school counselors (Parette & Holder-Brown, 1992). Many parents may not understand the physical and psychological impact of their children's impairments, they may experience feelings of guilt, or they may deny that the disability exists (Hardman, Drew, & Winston Egan, 1996). In addition, if teachers do not understand the effect of the disability on learning and day-to-day functioning, they may experience frustration, helplessness, and confusion when confronted with special needs children in their classrooms (Snyder, 2000). Counselors can help by providing information, resources, and strategies for teaching these children (Gerler, 1991).

The Role of Counselors With ES

The 1997 IDEA required that school counselors participate in the development of the Individual Education Plan (IEP) and in child study placement meetings (Helms & Katsiyannis, 1992; Synder, 2000). In some cases, counselors also have the added responsibility of coordinating and documenting the activities of the IEP placement team (Korinek & Prillaman, 1992). Counselors consult and collaborate with parents, teachers, and other school and agency personnel and may act as advocates for ES in the educational placement process (Snyder, 2000; Trotter, 1993). …

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