Counselors have always been a part of all types of educational institutions. For these professionals, the holistic development of students is the main priority. They help students realize their potential and grow in the best way they can. This task proves essential, especially for high school students at the crossroads about their future and career paths.
But counseling can do more than guide teenage students when considering their future. Counseling can also help students who are under special education programs.
But what is the importance of counseling? Will it affect students in the special education program? Before we can answer this question, we must first identify who students with special needs are.
Which Children Can Counselors Help
There are many types of children with disabilities and special needs. They may be unable to perform in school activities, like sports or simple reading exercises, due to their inherent limitations.
Here are just some examples of disabilities a child may have:
- Anxiety disorder
- Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
- Dyslexia, dyscalculia, and other learning disabilities
- Hearing, visual, and other sensory impairment
- Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)
- Physical disabilities
- Speech and language disorders
Special students also include those with an advanced intellect. The talented and gifted students often possess leadership, creativity, communication skills, and intelligence well beyond what’s expected of their age. They often feel underwhelmed by the lack of challenge in their schools.
But children with mental and physical disabilities aren’t your only kinds of special students. Those who are at a disadvantage or have a harder time learning because their brains cannot take it are also special students.
Now, and especially during the pandemic, education continues to be a privilege. Students need superior connectivity to the internet to join classes and find resources. They should also have at least one gadget of their own to submit class requirements.
While these problems may be difficult to solve, their consequences can be controlled. Luckily, counselors can help with most of these issues. Now, let’s talk about the benefits counseling gives.
Counseling Identifies Special Social And Emotional Needs
First, counseling can help in identifying students with special needs. With their background, they can pick up on actions and social cues signaling a student’s difficulty integrating with a group.
For example, children with learning disabilities may look as if they’re the same as other ordinary kids. They may only begin to show signs of their disability when reading, to write or to solve problems. So, while they may seem well-adjusted at first, students with learning disabilities may progress slower in time.
Children who have developmental expressive language disorder (DELD) also often have difficulty expressing their thoughts and emotions. Because of this, they may need specialized care. Fortunately, they can learn about and develop thought processes and expression. Counseling can help children with DELD to learn how to express themselves better.
Another example would be the children with disabilities. While their conditions aren’t limitations themselves, they can still hinder them from socializing in fear of being different. This fear may be hard to identify, especially if a child is already very reserved.
Additionally, students with advanced talents and intelligence may feel underwhelmed. This feeling can then lead to demotivation as they continue to yearn for more challenging activities. Studies also show how this demotivation can then result in underachieving and underdeveloped children.
Luckily, a counselor can identify these challenges in children. Identifying problems may only be the first step, but it’s essential in helping children with special needs.
Counseling Helps Develop Necessary Skills
Once counselors identify which students have disabilities and which special needs they require, they can start working on these limitations.
For students with learning disabilities, counselors can help them slowly learn techniques to make academic requirements bearable. Counseling can help them improve their time management and organization skills. They can also help students create study habits fitting to their inherent limitations.
On the other hand, counselors can also design special education programs for disabled children. During counseling, counselors can also evaluate the benefits and detriments of their special education programs. Special education programs may include these changes:
- Assistive learning devices
- Educational and psychological assessments
- Modified learning environment
Thus, students can learn the same lessons as their classmates, thanks to new teaching methods that consider their limitations.
All of this development usually happens during one-on-one sessions with a counselor. However, counseling can also be done by the group.
During such sessions, students can improve on their social, communication, and other interpersonal skills. They can also build friendships in small counseling groups. Students with special needs can then rely on this newly-found relationship for support, even after counseling ends.
Counseling Helps With Gaining Self-Confidence
Lastly, counseling can help students under special education gain self-confidence. Counselors can also help these children learn more about their respective conditions.
One of the hot discussions for the disabled community is the Identity-first language. The identity-first language movement aims to break any stigma or negative connotations previously associated with terms such as “disabled” or “autistic.” This movement thus promotes the use of such terms when describing a disabled person.
On the other hand, some people prefer the person-first language. This movement, on the other hand, seeks to recognize people first before their disabilities.
Both of these movements are well-meaning and have valid points of their own. But at the end of the day, the child in question deserves to decide how they want to be referred to. Counseling can thus help children discover their strengths and weaknesses. With the proper education about their limitations, children can learn to accept their condition and build an identity from there.
In conclusion, counselors in the school setting do more than just talking to students in detention or helping the soon-to-be-graduates transition. But also, counselors help the disabled, marginalized, and limited children.
It does so by identifying problems early on, even for those students with seemingly hidden disabilities. After this first step, counselors can then help these children work on their weaknesses and limitations. Most importantly, counseling helps students with special needs finally embrace their inherent disabilities and build their own strong identity.