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This research paper explores 3 published articles that report on the career development for the learning disabled (LD). They define the concepts of what a learning disability (LD) is and also go into great detail about the research being conducted through the present as well as the past. Dombrowski et al. (2006) goes into detail of past diagnosis of learning disabilities, and if we are able to learn from history so that we avoid repeating ourselves throughout our research. Research by Hitchings and Retish (2000) discusses the career development needs of students with learning disabilities who seek a college career and ways in order for students to achieve their career goals. Ohler, Levinson, and Sanders (1995) give us insight to an employment counselor's view when working with the LD population and what should be taken into consideration.
Career Development for the Learning Disabled
A learning disorder is when a person has difficulty learning, caused by factors that occur in the brain affecting the ability to process and receive information. Past research has set the groundwork for many theorists to figure out new and different perspectives on learning disabilities. It is the researcher's responsibility to learn from previous methods and according to Dombrowski et al. (2006) the Solomon effect encourages us to learn from history so that we avoid repeating it. Hitchings and Retish (2000) reports there has been a significant rise in the number of students with learning disabilities seeking and obtaining a college degree due to employment verifying the improvement in the career development in LD students. Ohler, Levinson, and Sanders (1995) discuss what employment counselors should know when dealing with young adults with a person diagnosed with a LD and also discusses career maturity and how it relates to career development. These articles are used to show the career development process for students with LD is being upgraded and these students are in a position to do more than they were able to do in the past.
Dombrowski et al. (2006) states "Let us not return to the folly of poor LD diagnostic practice. Instead, let us learn from history to ensure that the definitional, practical, taxonomic, and measurement problems of the past are not repeated" (p. 361). They go on to present the countless issues confronting the field. Dombrowski et al. (2006) recommends that the field attends to five key issues when establishing a diagnostic definition of learning disabilities:
(1) The definition needs to be unambiguous; (2) it must be universally accepted across
professions, researchers, and governmental entities; (3) it must incorporate clearly defined
sub-types of learning disabilities; (4) it must be empirically supported; and (5) it must point to
valid, reliable, and cost-effective procedures for the identification of children with and
without learning disabilities (Dombrowski et al., 2006, p. 361)
Dombrowski et al. (2006) believes that the field must attend to these issues in order to avoid rushed adoptions of LD diagnosis that ultimately could be deemed ineffective in the long run after subsequent research.
Hitchings and Retish (2000) research gives readers a better understanding of the career development needs of college students with learning disabilities. They also give recommendations for strategies to use when providing career counseling services to LD client population. They explain how some people have obvious disabilities yet learning disabilities can be subtle and affect the person only at certain times or even in certain situations. "People with learning disabilities may have inefficient reading, writing, mathematics, or problem-solving skills that result in limitations similar to those with sensory problems" (Biller, 1985; Sitlington, Clark, & Kolstoe, 2000; Whilte, 1992).
Hitchings et al. (1998, 2000) found that 90% of the students with learning disabilities were not actively engaged in the career development process (Hitchings & Retish, 2000, p. 223). They believe that these students had little control over their career decision making process attributed to the parents and teachers perceptions of these students because of their disabilities. This results in parents making most educational and career choices for their children in attempts to protect them from failure and disappointment and that these ongoing actions lead students to believe they have little control over or responsibility for their career decisions (Hitchings & Retish, 2000, p. 223).
Hitchings and Retish (2000) feel that the broader issue may center on the perception of the role of career development at the college or university level. That these universities sometime believe that students who are diagnosed with an LD have such unique needs that only specially trained people are able to work effectively with them (p. 224). Hitchings and Retish (2000) believe that most counselors can work effectively with students who have a learning disorder and in doing so, recognize that while in high school, students with learning disabilities probably did not engage in any systematic career planning and should also modify their approaches to career development planning (Aune & Kroeger, 1997; Rabby & Croft, 1991).
Hitching and Retish (2000) conclude that colleges and universities are responding to the academic challenges faced by students who are diagnosed with a learning disability (p. 228). That these institutions are only beginning to consider such career development needs of students with LD whereas they were not doing so in the past. Yet, such students need to gain "an understanding of the disability, understand how the disability may impact their career(s) of interest, and must be able to identify and use potential accommodations that may enable them to be successful on the job" (Hitching & Retish, 2000, p. 228). They believe that if these students are able to gain such information thru colleges and university resources, then these students with LD may have a brighter future and achieve success (Hitching & Retish, 2000, p. 229).
Ohler, Levinson, and Sanders (1995) believe that many students with LD who have learned compensatory strategies for dealing with academic deficiencies can be expected to obtain college degrees and jobs. They feel that this is due to career maturity in these young adults diagnosed with learning disabilities. Success can be attributed to many factors including self-awareness, occupational awareness, and adequate decision making skills (Ohler, Levinson, Sanders, 1995, p. 74). It is the employment counselor's responsibility to assess students with learning disabilities and to provide them such unique support services that is needed to secure and maintain employment (Ohler, Levinson, Sanders, 1995, p. 75). Students with more severe learning disabilities are most in need of the support services provided by employment counselors. In order to do so, Ohler, Levinson, and Sanders (1995) conclude that the support services developed by counselors need to include the following elements:
(a) transdisciplinary vocational assessment (Levinson, 1993), including an assessment of
intellectual ability, academic skills, personality, interests, and career maturity; (b) guided
awareness and exploratory career activities, including reading, informal interviewing,
shadowing, and job simulation; (c) individual academic and career counseling to develop a
plan of study appropriate to the student's goals and assets; (d) hands-on experience
(experiential learning) in the form of part-time or summer jobs, volunteer work, supervised
credit-bearing internships, or cooperative education; (e) participation in social skills training
with emphasis on interpersonal communications, self-awareness, and job-seeking skills; (f)
shared monitoring of career development needs and progress by employment counselors,
parent's (if applicable), rehabilitation personnel, and school personnel; (g) appropriate
placement assistance including job development, instruction in job-seeking skills, and follow-
up to promote successful transition to the world of work; and (h) proactive faculty
consultation regarding the nature of the learning disability and its effect on vocational
potential (Ohler, 1994).
This information is to help provide employment counselors with an initial base of information pertinent to their ability to address the needs of young adults whom are diagnosed with learning disabilities (Ohler, Levinson, Sanders, 1995, p. 75)