To address this need in the field of school counseling, the CSCOR has developed the National Panel for School Counseling Evidence-Based Practice, which is composed of school counseling educators and practitioners who have been identified as experts in the field. Panel members are currently evaluating existing methods of evidence-based practice by reviewing the research literature so that they may establish rules of evidence to determine whether a practice can be identified as evidence-based. The panel is identifying rules for judging strong evidence, identifying needed research, and communicating their findings to other practitioners and researchers. (McGannon, Carey, and Dimmitt, 2005)
The work of Jeremy M. Linton entitled: "Perceived Therapeutic Qualities of Counselor Trainees with Disabilities" states that a learning disability (LD) is present when the person's achievement in a specific academic area is significantly below the level expected for age, schooling, and level of intelligence. In general, individuals with learning disabilities tend to be viewed less positively than individuals without learning disabilities." (Linton, 1999) Children who have learning disabilities are stated by Linton to be "less popular in sociometric ratings than non-learning disabled peers, and social reject of LD children is common." (1999) the work entitled: "Can School-Based Interventions Enhance the Self-Concept of Students with Learning Disabilities?" states that school experiences "play an important role in the development of self-perceptions and can have powerful and long-term effects on a child's self-esteem. Individuals with learning disabilities (LD) are especially vulnerable to low self-concept." (Elbaum and Vaughn, 2008) LD has been found to be linked with poor self-concept making it clear "that students with LD often experience academic challenges that can drain self-esteem." (Elbaum and Vaughn, 2008)
Elbaum and Vaughn states that there is still much that is not understood completely about factors that affect the self-concept of children however, it is known that "students' self-concepts are related to their academic achievement. Students with lower levels of academic achievement have lower self-concepts than students with lower levels of academic achievement." (2008) Two approaches have been utilized in classroom interventions with a design for improvement of self-concepts of LD students: (1) the self-enhancement approach; and (2) the skill development approach. (Elbaum and Vaughn, 2008) Elbaum and Vaughn report a research study, which was a synthesis of the literature aimed at making identification of studies of "school-based nonclinical interventions conducted between 1975 and 1997 that included students with LD and used a quantitative measure of self-concept to assess the impact of the intervention." (2008) Findings of this study states that school-based interventions "can lead to beneficial changes in the self-perceptions of students with LD." (Elbaum and Vaughn, 2008) Findings additionally state that interventions involving group-counseling techniques "produced favorable outcomes for students of varying ages." (2008)
Stated as a "key component" of the interventions that are successful is an "emphasis on students working collaboratively with their classmates and receiving feedback from classmates on their progress." (Elbaum and Vaughn, 2008) in fact, Elbaum and Vaughn note that these type of interventions "appear to give students with LD a dual payoff" as follows: (1) They do better academically; and (2) self-concept is enhanced. (Elbaum and Vaughn, 2008) the duration of the intervention does not appear to be a factor in the success of the intervention. Noted as the most positive benefits were those observed "...when self-concept was defined globally or more narrowly in terms of academic self-concept."(2008) Conclusions stated by Elbaum and Vaughn include the fact that there is not a "single, most effective technique for improving students' self-concept." (2008)
The work of Higgins, Goldberg and Raskind (2005) entitled: "Life Success for Students with Learning Disabilities: A Teacher Guide" states the importance of expanding "the circle of support" beyond the classroom and even beyond the very school stating that "It is clear from research with many different at-risk populations of children, including children with learning disabilities, that growing up with wide school, community, and familial support systems increases the chance for success in adulthood. Furthermore, studies of curriculum designed to foster positive social skills and self-concept development in children with learning disabilities point to the increased effectiveness of programs that use both classroom teachers and counselors to effect change in student behavior." (Higgins, Goldberg, and Raskind, 2005)
The work of Milsom (2002) entitled: Students with Disabilities: School Counselor Involvement and Preparation" makes an examination of the role that school counselors play n the academic lives of students with disabilities" and does so through conduction of a survey focused toward making a determination of: (1) activities that school counselors engage in related to students with disabilities; (2) level of preparedness of school counselors related to students with disabilities; and (3) trends in school counselor education programs in training school counselors to work effectively with students with disabilities. (Milsom, 2002)
Implications that arose from this study is that school counselors should advocate for three specific changes: (1) training programs should better prepare school counselors for working with LD students; (2) School counselors should advocate for disability education in their own school through in-service activities and professional development; and (3) school counselors can create networks with one another, administrators, and other school personnel to provide support and mentoring in working with students with disabilities. (Milsom, 2002)
In a publication of the American Counseling Association entitled "The Truth about School Counseling" it is stated that counseling services in schools are not optional and in fact, are a necessity. Specifically stated is that the Institute of Medicine "reports that 'mental health and psychological services are essential to enabling many students to achieve academically, these should be considered mainstream, not optional services." (American Counseling Association, nd) Stated additionally is that only a mere 20% of students received the help that is needed. In fact, it is stated that counseling in school "increases students' ability to concentrate, study, and ultimately learn. Students who attend schools with counseling programs earn higher grades." (American Counseling Association, nd)
SUMMARY of the LITERATURE REVIEWED
The literature reviewed in this study has clearly demonstrated that school counseling is effective in assisting students with learning disabilities achieve academically. School counselors have a responsibility to assist students through professional development and training as well as aligning the resources of the school and partners of the school and other agencies within the community. School-counseling assists students who are learning disabled by teaching them social skills and through increasing the emotional intelligence of students so they are better able to socially interact in the classroom learning activities. It is important as well that the support base for students with learning disabilities be extended beyond the school and into the community. The literature reviewed in this study has also clearly shown that school-based interventions result in changes that are greatly beneficial to student self-perceptions and that interventions that are in the form of group counseling resulted in positive outcomes for students. Key components of the successful interventions is the emphasis that is placed on collaborative work among students.
RECOMMENDATIONS for FUTURE RESEARCH
More research is needed to assess the best practice formation of multidisciplinary teams in working with students with learning disabilities as the formation of these types of partnerships both within and beyond the school are noted in the literature that has been reviewed to be of utmost importance in the school counseling strategy for assisting students with learning disabilities.
Carey, John; Dimmitt, Carey McGannon, and Carey, Wendy (2005) the Current Status of School Counseling Outcome Research. School of Education - University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Research Monograph, Number 2, May 2005.
Problem Solving and RTI: New Roles for School Psychologists by Andrea Canter, 2006, February, Communique, 34(5). Available from www.nasponline.org
Linton, Jeremy M. (1999) Perceived Therapeutic Qualities of Counselor Trainees with Disabilities. Journal of Instructional Psychology March 1999.
Elbaum, Batya; and Vaughn, Sharon (2008) Can School-Based Interventions Enhance the Self-Concept of Students with Learning Disabilities? National Center for Learning Disabilities. 2008. online…