Mascoutah High School The Irish Immigrants Discussion

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Psychologists who conduct assessments in private settings and in non-educational arenas are usually charged with identifying disorders. This term is more specific in that a disorder implies that something is wrong. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-5, is chock full of different types of disorders that could apply to children or adults. Some of the more commonly diagnosed disorders in children are attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder and, more recently, bipolar disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).Psychologists and other professionals in the school setting are not so much concerned with disorder per se, but rather with identifying and addressing disability. One of the most important reasons behind this is that a student with a disorder may be performing successfully in school. For example, it is not unusual for a student who has been identified as gifted/talented to also be diagnosed (rightly or wrongly) with ADHD. In addition, various disorders diagnosed in many children and adolescents are well controlled with medication. Some parents do not even reveal prior diagnoses to school staff because they do not want teachers or other staff members to be unnecessarily biased or to set the bar too low in their approach to these children. Therefore, many children come to school with previously identified disorders that current staff never even learn about. School psychologists focus on disability rather than disorder because, by definition, a disability is a condition that negatively impacts an individual’s functioning in whatever setting is being considered. Students with disabilities will likely need educational adjustments (i.e., accommodations) or even special services in order to achieve their full potential.Why do professionals label children and adolescents with disorders and disabilities, anyway? There are several important reasons for this practice. First, assigning a label to a condition can provide incredibly valuable information for the individuals involved with the child. For example, if a child or adolescent has been identified with autism, the adults surrounding the student who are knowledgeable about this disorder can prepare to handle specific types of characteristics in that student, including issues with language development and atypical social functioning. This will be addressed in more depth in a later module. Second, assigning a label to a condition can be crucial in establishing eligibility for some types of services, both inside and outside the school setting. Society has set up a system that provides a broad range of services to needy children, adolescents, and even adults, including speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy, as well as the accessibility of funds under certain conditions for groups of individuals who meet certain criteria (e.g., social security funds for individuals with certain types of disabling conditions). However, these funds have a limit and must be reserved for those who are truly in need to avoid depletion of funds. Labeling is used to identify those who are justifiably entitled.Not everybody approves of the idea of labeling people, no matter what the reason. This is because labels carry with them the possibility of stigma, premature judgments about a person, and even prejudicial behavior—all very real concerns. Because of this, a significant minority of people have advocated for a service provision model that does not rely upon labeling. Although this is an admirable idea, there is currently not a way to do this without creating chaos and serious funding issues. So, for at least the present, the current system continues to rely upon labeling practices.

Reference…American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing.



From your personal perspective, what are the pros and cons of labeling individuals, particularly those with disabilities? Provide examples to support your answer, as well as specific examples from your personal experiences. How does the use of labels affect us individually and the community as a whole?

PART B —What factors do you think led to our past and current treatment of disabled individuals? Do you think our attitudes and treatment of this group have changed substantially? Why or why not? What challenges do you think remain in relation to the acceptance and treatment of the disabled? What issues raised in the Lost in Laconia video have relevance for today’s schools and service systems? Provide specific examples to support your thinking.

Prof. Angela


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