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Towards Mobilizing Support for Dignity – Guidance and Counseling for Students with Disabilities-

The International Day of Persons with Disability is observed with the purpose of promoting an understanding of issues related to disability. It is important to develop awareness on possibilities of building  a society that accept disability as diversity that is natural. Dignity to persons with disabilities lies in giving them equal opportunity.  This write up is an effort to provide equal opportunity in education with little understanding about them.

There is no disagreement to the fact that children in present day schools are under more stress than children in earlier times.  As a direct consequence of this, parents and teachers of these children may also be under additional stress. Hence it is crucial that children, teachers and parents are guided as to how to cope with the changing times with its unique challenges.  When this is the situation for all the children, what will be the plight of children with disabilities, their parents and teachers? Teachers dealing with them in their schools have to be geared up to face this special challenge in the coming years. To do this the teacher has to wear the hat of a counselor at the call of time.

Like all people, students with disabilities also have basic needs for security, affection, belonging, and achievement.  In general students with disabilities are like their age level peers.  They need the warmth and security of their parents; as adolescents they seek group identification and peer acceptance; as they move toward young adulthood they become increasingly concerned with their sexual identity and as they continue to mature they seek increased independence in work and social lives.  Because youth with disability share the same basic needs, interest, values, and aspirations as their peers, guidance and counseling goals and methodologies are also parallel.   Guidance and counseling needs have to be addressed during their adolescence, to prepare them for adult living.

The major reason why people with disability suffer psychological trauma is due to the reaction of significant people to their disability.    Have we not observed that some children with disability are so well adjusted?  Hence it is mainly the way the people surrounding them understand them and provide support and encouragement.  This helps them to cope with the situation and achieve their maximum potential.  The role of a teacher is very crucial in developing this positive environment in the society.  The right act of the teacher is appreciated and emulated by scores of eager budding youngsters in the making.

Teachers have to keep in mind the following guidelines while dealing with children with disabilities.

  • They are their own persons.  There is absolutely no reason why they should be compared with their siblings, peers or even others with similar disabilities.  This could be true for academic achievement and for all other activities.
  • Each person  is different, and no matter what label is attached for the convenience of others, every person is “unique” which has to be valued.
  • The persons with disabilities are  persons first.  An instrument of achievement and production is next, for the satisfaction of parents, teachers and society
  • They have the same needs as anyone else, to love, and be loved, to learn, to share, and to grow.  That has to be catered to before augmenting their potential.
  • They have the same right as others – to fail, to fall, to suffer, to criticize, to cry, to curse, to despair. Give them a chance to do everything and learn for their experience.
  • Only those who are with disability can show or tell  what is possible for them. We who love them must be attentive, attuned observers to identify their strengths and encourage them to achieve in the field of their interest.
  • We can supply the alternatives, the possibilities, the necessary tools-but only they can put these things into action. We can only stand fast, be present to reinforce, encourage, hope and help, when we can.
  • They like ourselves are entitled to life as we know it. They, too, must decide to live it fully in peace, joy, and love, with what they  have.
  • Persons with disabilities, no matter the degree, have a limitless potential for becoming – not what we desire them to become but, but what is within them to become.
  • They must find their own manner of doing things.  There are many ways of tying a shoe, drinking from a glass, finding one’s way to a bus stop. There are many ways of learning and adjusting. They must find the best way for them.
  • The students with disability also need the world, and others, in order to learn.  Our job is to act as loving human beings by providing the opportunity they need.
  • All persons with disabilities have a right to honesty about themselves, about everyone and about their condition.  To be dishonest with them is the most terrible disservice one can perform.  Honesty forms the only solid base upon which all growth can take place.

There are certain dangers which have to be kept in mind while dealing with children with disabilities.

  • By practice, the society looks at people with disability with sympathy. The feeling of pity which emerges in the tone, voice or facial expression is detrimental to the self esteem of the individual.  The teacher counselor has to come out of this state of mind deliberately before taking a student for counseling.
  • The counselor cannot be a savior angel. In an effort to help, counselor has to be conscious not to increases the student’s dependence.
  • We should be patient in identifying the students’ interest and aptitude. There is so much of diversity in disability. We can never judge what is best for the student by our instincts and experience. We need to be cautious not to come in the way of the student’s autonomy and self worth.
  • Counselor becomes tense because of feeling of inadequacy regarding the ability to help. The counselors unconsciously reject the student because of their lack of knowledge.  This could also happen if the counselors have a tunnel vision that children with disabilities are not able to do anything.
  • There is also a danger that a student’s achievement is overvalued. This may limit the student’s actual potential and come in the way of improving the skill.

Good intentions, commitment to the task, and appropriate attitude toward students with disability will go far toward positive counseling outcomes.  However therapeutic change is increasingly found to be largely dependent upon the competence or skill of the teacher counselor.  The competent counselor then is one who is committed to helping students with disabilities and radiates confidence in their ability to lead productive, satisfying lives.  In addition, the teacher counselor possesses the necessary skills to build a therapeutic relationship with the student and judge an appropriate method and techniques to further the student’s progress.

It is towards this end, that each school should have guidance and counseling services made available to their students who have lost their way and need someone who can support them in finding their way again. Guidance and Counseling is also needed for parents and teachers to learn how to cope with situations involving their children with disabilities.

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