Pros and Cons of Inclusion versus Self-contained Services for Disabled Students

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Current research argues the pros and cons of inclusion versus self-contained services.  Discuss the placement options available on the continuum of services and list the strengths and weaknesses of each placement for students with significant cognitive disabilities.  In addition, choose a problem relative to the inclusion of students with severe/profound disabilities and develop a change plan to address those issues.           

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According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the educational placement of a student with disabilities is determined by the Individual Education Plan (IEP) team in accordance with the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) provisions under IDEA §§300.114 through 300.118 (U.S. Department of Education’s Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Website). The least restrictive environment can be defined as educating children with disabilities, to the maximum extent appropriate, with children who are nondisabled (U.S. Department of Education’s Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Website §§ Sec. 300-114). The range of placements on the continuum of services model are the regular education classroom, resource classroom, special classroom, special school, homebound services, and hospitals or institutions (Ross Pike Educational Service District, p.1). These placements are ordered from least restrictive (regular education classroom) to most restrictive (hospitals or institutions) in which the number of children decrease as the continuum moves from least restrictive to most restrictive (Ross Pike Educational Service District, p.1). The Ross Pike Educational Service District highlighted another important aspect of determining placements for students with disabilities, “The IEP team is to make the placement option decision after it has been decided what are the educational goals and the necessary accommodations and services a student needs to be as successful as possible (p.2).” This is important step in allowing students with disabilities to participate in their least restrictive environment for the most time appropriate by utilizing 21st century techniques, supports, methods, services and technological strategies that make up supplementary aides and services (Ross Pike Educational Service District, p.2). Based on IDEA, our education system hopes for every student with disabilities to be included and learn with their general education peers as much as possible while accomplishing their individual educational goals. Although some students educational journey involve more restrictive classroom, there are supports in place for them to move across the continuum of services, at their own pace, to increase educational opportunities with their nondisabled peers.

Students with significant cognitive disabilities have unique and multifaceted needs. A range of information is needed (i.e. observations, assessments, interviews, background, diagnostic testing) are needed to get a complete picture of a student with a significant cognitive disability (Timberlake, 2016).  The present levels of academic and functional performance can be synthesized from the information collected and ongoing data collection then appropriate, individual educational goals can be created. Supplementary aides, services, and supports enable students with significant cognitive disabilities to be educated with their nondisabled peers (Timberlake, 2016). In all of these prior steps, the IEP team must collaborate and agree upon each of them to make the most appropriate decisions for a student with a significant cognitive disability.

The educational placement options for students with disabilities include the regular education class, resource class, special class, special school, homebound services, and hospital or institution programs (Kleinert, Towles-Reeves, Quenemoen, Thurlow, Fluegge, Weseman, Kerbel, 2015).

In the regular education class, students with disabilities receive specially designed instruction with supplementary aides and services to actively engage and learn in the regular education classroom. Modifications can be made to the curriculum and accommodations can be devised so that students with disabilities can access the regular education content (Kleinert et al 2015). Assistive technology, peer supports, and individual aides can be implemented in the regular education class to support students with disabilities (Dowdy, Patton, Polloway, Smith, 2011). There are strengths and weaknesses of the inclusion setting as an optimal educational placement for students with significant cognitive disabilities. The strengths of inclusion mainly involve social and behavioral benefits. Typical peers can serve as models and mentors for students with significant cognitive disabilities in the realm of social skills (initiations and responding), appropriate behaviors, and classroom activities (cooperative learning groups) (Dowdy et al 2011). The inclusion setting fosters comparable or improved cognitive and academic outcomes, increased adaptive behavior skills, and improved self-determination skills for students with significant cognitive disabilities (Marks, Kurth, Bartz, 2014). Peer acceptance, natural friendships, and classroom community are all cultivated through the inclusion model and immensely impact students with significant cognitive disabilities positively (Dev, Haynes, 2015). One weakness of the inclusion classroom setting for students with significant cognitive disabilities is unattainable accommodations for the student, classroom, activities, assignments, and teacher or teacher assistant all day every day (Kleinert et al 2015). A large portion of instruction time is direct instruction in the regular education classroom. And regular education teachers usually lecture during direct instruction time and this learning strategy is not effective for students with significant cognitive disabilities (Kleinert et al 2015). . Therefore these students with disabilities have difficulties accessing the general education curriculum. Lastly, the lack of time, skills, training, or resources for general education teachers to collaborate and meet the needs of students with significant cognitive disabilities hinders successful inclusion (Causton-Theoharis, 2011, p.73).

In the resource class, students with disabilities receive specially designed instruction in a small, special education class. These students usually have mild to moderate disabilities and have deficits in academic skills (Dev, Hayes, 2015). They participate about a quarter of the day in the resource class and the rest of their day in the regular education class (possibly with supports) (Dev, Hayes, 2015). Because students with significant cognitive disabilities have substantial academic and functional needs, a resource classroom would not be an appropriate placement. Students with significant cognitive disabilities need supports academically and functionally (and supervision) for a large portion of the day and a resource class usually does not offer specially designed instruction in functional skills and can support students for large portions of the day (Dev, Hayes, 2015).

In the special class, students with disabilities receive specially designed instruction in the special education classroom. These students usually have more severe and profound disabilities and have deficits in functional and academic skills (Kleinert et. al 2015). They participate about a half or more of the day in the special education classroom and the rest of the day in the regular education classroom (Causton-Theoharis, 2011, p.68). While in the regular education classroom, these students require supports such as assistive technology, behavior plans, modified curriculum and assignments, classroom environment accommodations, breaks, or paraprofessional assistance (Marks et al 2014). The special class placement is ideal for students with significant cognitive abilities. The benefits of a special class include structured learning environments and supports, more opportunities for one-on-one or small group learning, and individualized learning for students to access content and teachers to monitor progress (Kleinert et. al 2015). Students with significant cognitive disabilities need access to learning via unique and diverse methods therefore these students’ needs could be met in the special class placement (Timberlake 2016). Some disadvantages of the special class placement are the lack of social learning opportunities they would receive in the regular education classroom. Peer models and mentors along with natural friendships and encounters would be missed in the special class placement for students with significant cognitive disabilities (Kleinert et. al 2015). However, creating an arrangement between a special class placement and inclusion class placement for a student with significant cognitive disabilities would be an ideal balance of academic and functional learning along with social opportunities and learning for those students (Kleinert et. al 2015).

In the special schools, students with disabilities receive specially designed instruction in the special education classrooms at the special school. These students usually have severe or profound disabilities or significant emotional difficulties (Dev, Hayes 2015). These students have many unique and complex needs and school systems cannot meet those needs. These students may require highly specialized personnel (behavior, medical) and live on the grounds of the special school (Dev, Hayes 2015). Students with significant cognitive disabilities would benefit immensely from the structure and alternative teaching styles special schools have to offer. Special schools usually have access to a plethora of valuable resources and supports to meet the needs of their unique learners. The student to teacher ratio is much small therefore one on one instruction is a primary mode for learning and increasing students skills academically and functionally (Marks et al 2014). A major disadvantage would be the lack of socialization students with significant cognitive disabilities would be receiving in special schools. Because the only students at special schools are students with either profound learning disabilities or emotional disabilities, these students would have very limited access to regular education peers and socialization (Dev, Hayes 2015). This could be detrimental for a student with significant cognitive disabilities to have zero access to regular education peers and could affect them in the future.

For the homebound services, students with disabilities receive specially designed instruction at their home because of physical disabilities or special health problems. These students usually have fragile medical conditions or chronic illness and need consistent medical attention at home (Dev, Hayes 2015). IEP meetings are held normally, and service providers and special education teachers deliver instruction at the student’s home. Similar to special schools, homebound services benefit students with significant cognitive disabilities in regards to individualized teaching and learning (in their most comfortable environment, at home) however, they would be missing that instrumental piece of socialization with typical peers (Marks et al 2014). Another advantage of homebound services is the opportunities for collaboration of medical specialists, school specialists, and parents on a regular basis as the student is treated and instructed in the home. That high level of communication and cooperation amongst specialist and parents about a student with significant cognitive disabilities is extremely valuable for their success.

For the hospital or institution programs, students with disabilities receive specially designed instruction at the hospital or institution. These students are usually mentally unstable and dangerous to themselves or others, or committed offenses determined by the judicial system to warrant removal from the community (Dev, Hayes 2015). Students with significant cognitive disabilities would receive the appropriate and intense instruction and therapy if a hospital or institution was chosen for their educational placement. Their emotional and functional needs would be met first to gain foundational skills then academic and social skills would be incorporated (Dev, Hayes 2015). Students with disabilities in hospital and institutions have extremely limited opportunities with their typical peer that is again, detrimental to their social learning (Dev, Hayes 2015).  The benefits of hospitals and institutions as educational placements for students with disabilities is that they are getting the support and instruction they need from highly trained specialist in individualized environments (Dev, Hayes 2015). . These specialists number one goal is to give these students the skills to behave appropriately in society, which brings the philosophy of inclusion full circle.

The word “inclusion” has transformed from an educational placement to a mindset one uses in life. To include others means to gain their perspective and interact appropriately. School communities have genuinely adapted the philosophy of inclusion and the research has supported the benefits for both students with disabilities and nondisabled peers.

Students with severe and profound needs require specific evaluations and professional observations to gain the information needed to identify students strengths and needs. Once the deficits are identified, the IEP team can implement services to build upon those deficits and progress towards more difficult goals. The IEP team works rigorously to explicitly instruct skills for students to progress towards their IEP goals. And the specialist (SLP, OT, PT) are continuously in communication with the special education teacher because of co-teaching models and transitions throughout the day. The missing piece to the puzzle is generalizing those skills for students, with severe and profound needs, in the inclusion setting. Team planning periods are either spent with the special education team within the school or the general education teachers in the grade level. Because there is no overlap, there is a gap in communication between the special education team and general education team and curriculum. This leads to meaningless time in the regular education setting for students with profound and severe needs because of the lack of collaboration between the special education and general education plan. If the special education team knows the specific skills to work on for students with severe and profound disabilities and the general education team know the skills taught in the grade level, then why is there not more collaboration amongst teams to implement inclusion properly. This lack of planning and communicating amongst teams results in confusion and less purposeful class time in the inclusion setting for students with severe and profound disabilities.

My change plan to conquer the lack of collaboration and communication for students with severe and profound needs in the general education setting is for action plans to be documented in the IEP of when inclusion times will occur and how the IEP goals will intertwine with the general education curriculum. This action plan will hold general education teachers, special education teachers, therapists, specialists, and teacher assistants accountable to ensure these skills are being worked on in the general education setting. This action plan will also ensure that the special education team and general education team remain on the same page to progress monitor and amend instruction as needed. My two recommendations to build these action plans are to have common planning time and related services in the inclusion setting. The common planning time will allow the special education team and the general education team to collaborate and communicate regularly in order to plan activities and opportunities for the students with severe and profound needs to participate in the general education setting. Allowing related services (speech, OT, PT) to complete their services in the inclusion setting will enhance students with severe and profound disabilities’ skills across settings and support the generalization of skills. Related service providers time in the inclusion setting will also allow them to see what is going on in the general education classroom and gain perspective for those students with severe and profound disabilities in those classrooms. These two recommendations would assist in implementing the action plan and hold professionals accountable for including students with severe and profound disabilities in the regular education classroom.


Causton-Theoharis, J., Theoharis, G., Orsati, F., & Cosier, M. (2011). Does Self-Contained Special Education Deliver on Its Promises? A Critical Inquiry into Research and Practice. Journal of Special Education Leadership, 24(2), 61–78.

Dev, P., & Haynes, L. (2015). Teacher Perspectives on Suitable Learning Environments for Students with Disabilities: What Have We Learned from Inclusive, Resource, and Self-Contained Classrooms? International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences: Annual Review, 9, 53–64.

Dowdy, C., Patton, J., Polloway, E., & Smith, T. (2011). Teaching Students with Special Needs in Inclusive Setting (6th Edition). Pearson. 11, 13-14, 19-26.

Educational Rights and Responsibilities: Understanding Special Education in Illinois [PDF]. (2009). Chicago: Illinois State Board of Education Special Education and Support Services.

Holahan, A., & Costenbader, V. (2000). A comparison of developmental gains for preschool children with disabilities in inclusive and self-contained classrooms. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 20(4), 224–235.

IDEA and Continuum of Special Education Services [Pamphlet]. (n.d.). Piketon, OH: Ross Pike Educational Service District. 1-2.

Kleinert, H., Towles-Reeves, E., Quenemoen, R., Thurlow, M., Fluegge, L., Weseman, L., & Kerbel, A. (2015). Where Students with the Most Significant Cognitive Disabilities Are Taught: Implications for General Curriculum Access. Exceptional Children, 81(3), 312–328.

LRE Requirements, §§ Sec. 300-114 (U.S. Department of Education’s Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Website 2012).

Marks, S. U., Kurth, J. A., & Bartz, J. M. (2014). Exploring the Landscape of Inclusion: Profiles of Inclusive versus Segregated School Districts in the United States. Journal of the International Association of Special Education, 15(2), 74–84.

Placements, §§ Sec. 300-116 (U.S. Department of Education’s Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Website 2016).

Timberlake, M. T. 1. maria. timberlake@cortland. ed. (2016). The Path to Academic Access for Students With Significant Cognitive Disabilities. Journal of Special Education, 49(4), 199–208.

SPED 6720 Promoting Family-Professional Partnerships for Exceptional Learners

The two parts of IDEA that span the range of children in early childhood and special education are Parts B and C.  The role of families in the referral, assessment, qualification of services, and planning and implementation of goals and objectives varies based on whether a student qualifies under Part B or Part C.  Discuss the differences and/or similarities between the two parts of IDEA as it relates to family roles and responsibilities.  In addition, discuss how a teacher can promote family engagement in the various roles previously listed for Part B and Part C.  Your responses should be based on best practice and you should identify/cite empirical research that supports your responses.

According to the U.S Department of Education website:

“The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law ensuring  services to children with disabilities throughout the nation. IDEA governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education and related services to more than 6.5 million eligible infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities. Children and youth (ages 3-21) receive special education and related services under IDEA Part B. The Grants for Infants and Families program (Part C) ensures that appropriate early intervention services are made   available to all eligible birth-through-2-year-olds with disabilities and their families.”

The primary differences between Part B and Part C of IDEA is that Part C provides services for children from the age of birth to two years old and their families, and Part C provides services for youths ages 3-21 (Clarkin-Phillips, Carr, 2012). The process of referral, assessment, qualification of services, and planning and implementation of goals and objectivesare all similar processes within Part B and Part C of IDEA (Clarkin-Phillips, Carr, 2012). For both Part B and Part C, the evaluation process is very similar. A parent or guardian must give permission before an evaluation can take place (Garbacz 2017). Once the consent for an evaluation is received, the early intervention center or school has to complete the evaluation within a reasonable amount of time (Rosetti 2017). Part input is a requirement during this stage for both Part B and Part C. Both Part B and Part C explain that all children who receive services have an individualized plan in place. In Part C, this plan is called an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) because it focuses on the needs of the family (Rosetti 2017). In Part B, it is called an Individualized Education Program (IEP) because it changes its focus to the individual needs of the child. Both Part C and B require family participation in all decisions about the child’s individualized plan (Rosetti 2017). However, under Part C, services can be provided to the child’s family in order to help them meet the needs of their child. Under Part B, all services are child-specific (Rosetti 2017).

In Part C and Part B of IDEA, promoting family engagement is a very important aspect for the child and the family. For Part C, service coordinators focus on creating opportunities for and addressing needs of children and their parents together (Carr 2016). Service coordinators also want to build strong relationships with families by validating their concerns, helping to prioritize, and allocating resources for them (Carr 2016). Their relationship should also be built upon receptive communication, responsive actions, and respectful nature when working together (Carr 2016). Protective factors are circumstances or characteristics that can help reduce or eliminate risks families face to the health and wellbeing of their children and family (Future Topics, 2016). Protective factors help parents find and use resources, or strategies to help them effectively cope, even in stressful times (Future Topics, 2016). It is important for service coordinators to play in intregal role in ensuring risk is minimized in families (safety is important above all). Professional development can also be provided for support staff to appropriately engage and collaborate with families (Van Nest, 2017). During Early Intervention, it is important for the service coordinator to foster relationships that are built on trust and for families to see them as a help and not a hindrance. Service coordinators can promote familiy engagement by providing families with resources and skills for them to feel empowered in their roles as teachers, and communicate consistent messages in which ways parents can help their children (Van Nest, 2017). Asking and listening to parents and families, allows service coordinators to gain insight into their needs of their child. It is important for educators to promote family’s effort at helping their child plan for the future and in supporting him or her during the transition process (Van Nest, 2017).

The Iris Peabody Module (Kohler, Paula) stated the following:

“…that other than the students themselves, parents are often the only people who remain part of the transition planning process and their child’s IEP team throughout the school years. Because transition planning includes areas other than academics parents often serve as the bridge between school and community involvement for their child. As such, educators should ensure that families are active participants and that their input is valued (Kohler).”

Therefore it is essential for family involvement in a child’s education from very early ages and throughout their educational career because parents are the consistent thread that runs through all school ages. Parents and families have unique and deep perspectives of their child, or sibling relationship to the student with special needs. This perspective can be vital when planning life long goals and opportunities for a student with special needs. And it is the role of the special education teacher to promote family engagement in the educational journey of their family member with special needs.

According to the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Policy on family engagement, family engagement can be defined as:

“Family engagement refers to the systematic inclusion of families in activities and programs that promote children’s development, learning, and wellness, includingin the planning, development, and evaluation of such activities, programs, and systems.”

In promoting family engagement with families of special needs students, special education teachers can use a plethora of strategies and techniques to positively and actively foster family and school partnerships. The first and most important technique is open and active communication between families and schools. The special education teacher can use the four A’s approach to use communication as a vehicle for flourishing family and school partnerships. The four A’s are approach, attitude, atmosphere, and actions (Flammer‐Rivera et al 2015). A teachers approach to family and school partnerships should come from a perspective that both the family and the school care about the growth and development of the student with special needs, therefore they both share responsibilities for that student. And the relationship between the school and family is essential for responsibilities to be understood, and growth and development to happen (Flammer‐Rivera et al 2015). A teachers attitude, or thoughts and beliefs, toward family and school partnerships must be genuine, constructive, and healthy in order incorporate everyone perspective and expertise to strive for the best possible outcome for the student with special needs (Flammer‐Rivera et al 2015. It is important for a special education teacher to create an atmosphere that is open to diversity, welcoming to families, time allocated to getting to know families, and an environment where no generalizations or assumptions are made (Flammer‐Rivera et al 2015). The actions that can be taken by the special education teacher to accomplish this include establishing regular meeting times that are convenient for families, sending twice as many positive messages as negative messages, and regular progress notes to monitor growth and development (and keep families “in touch” with what is going on in school)(Flammer‐Rivera et al 2015). Parent friendly IEP meeting is another great technique when building family and school partnerships. These meeting could include role playing with parents to convey information or examples of their child’s current skills or growth, providing opportunities for educators to learn more about the child’s home environment and allowing the families to learn more about the child’s school environment, inviting parents to their child’s classroom (s) and special events, and always allotting time and attention for parents to express their thoughts, ideas, and concerns in regards to their child’s education (Flammer‐Rivera et al 2015). Home and school notes are another excellent mode of promoting school and family engagement in their child’s education. Home and school notes provide consistent, direct, and purposeful communication between home and school, which directly promotes school and family partnerships. Some examples of home and school notes could include daily behavior report card, school note, or school-home daily report card. Home and school notes could include academic productivity, behavior outside classroom, following classroom rules, homework, peer relationships, responsibility for belongings, and teacher relationships (i.e. respectful)(Flammer‐Rivera et al 2015). The key part of home and school notes is that both families and teacher are taking the time to reflect upon these areas and communicate current situations to the other party, to ensure everyone is on the same page. When communication is open and active, students with special needs will have the stability for growth and development.

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As a special education teacher it is very important to promote family engagement so that students with special needs can have consistent and stable environments both in school and at home, which will support their growth and development. Special education teachers need to foster relationships with parents and families that are accepting of them as equal partners, considering family preferences in all aspects of planning, and supporting parents as their child’s best advocates in making decisions (Henderson 2002). If the school and family partnership is strong and healthy, the student with special needs growth and development will happen!


Carr, T., & Lord, C. (2016). A pilot study promoting participation of families with limited resources in early autism intervention. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 25, 87–96.

Clarkin-Phillips, J., & Carr, M. (2012). An Affordance Network for Engagement: Increasing Parent and Family Agency in an Early Childhood Education Setting. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 20(2), 177–187. Retrieved from

Future Topics. (2016). Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 36(3), 131.

Flammer‐Rivera, L., Giovingo, L., Paczak, H., Coulter W., Future of School Psychology Task Force on Family School Partnerships, University of Nebraska, Lincoln. (January 7, 2015). Building Family/School Partnerships New Parent Involvement Curriculum. Retrieved from

Garbacz, S. A., Herman, K. C., Thompson, A. M., & Reinke, W. M. (2017). Family engagement in education and intervention: Implementation and evaluation to maximize family, school, and student outcomes. Journal of School Psychology, 62, 1–10.

Henderson, A.T., & Mapp, K. L. (2002). A new wave of evidence: The impact of school, family, and community connections on student achievement. Southwest Education Development Laboratory. Accessed online October 19, 2018 at:

Kohler, P. (n.d.). What can school personnel do to help students in the transition planning process? Retrieved October 13, 2018, from

Rossetti, Z., Sauer, J. S., Bui, O., & Ou, S. (2017). Developing Collaborative Partnerships With Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Families During the IEP Process. Teaching Exceptional Children, 49(5), 328–338.

Van Nest, S. (2017). Tools to Enhance Family Engagement in Early Intervention: A Roadmap to Acceptance. Zero to Three, 37(6), 37–43. Retrieved from

SPED 5370 Transition Education and Services for Exceptional Learners

Identify the perspective each theory takes in defining key elements of the individual with a disability taking into account the work place, and the interaction between the two.  From these differences in perspective, determine and compare the important interagency linkages that should be developed for each theory.

Define the key elements for each theory: the individual, the work place, and the interaction between the two. Remember to identify the important interagency linkages influenced by each theory. In addition, your response must evaluate which theory may more adequately address certain student needs and profiles. Choose any disability category as you see fit.

The three career development theories explained in this response are the learning theory, developmental theory, and work adjustment theory. In 1908, Frank Parson established the Vocation Bureau in Boston that fostered career guidance to prepare people for the work force (Sampson 2014). Parson believed in three foundational pillars in the development of careers: first a clear understanding of individual knowledge, interest, and limitations, second is knowledge of employment requirements and conditions, and third is the ability to coordinate the first and second pillar to create successful career guidance (McMahon 2011). Since Frank Parson’s findings in regards to career guidance, there are a plethora of theories and perspectives for career development specifically individual focused theories (Sampson 2014).

John D. Krumboltz developed the learning theory for career development. He believed that career development and decisions were based on social learning. Krumboltz explains that learning takes place through observations as well as through direct experiences (McMahon 2011). And these observations and experiences take place with different people, in different places, at different events overtime, which molds a persons learning, and eventually their career-based decisions (Chen 2003). Krumboltz identified these four main factors that influence career choice: genetic influence, environmental conditions and events, learning experiences, and task approaching skills (Chen 2003). The consequence of these factors, primarily learning experiences, then direct people to evolve beliefs about the nature of careers and their role in life. Role models, such as parents, teachers, coaches, play a significant role in their career choice because of the observational learning experiences that have taken place (Chen 2003). The outcomes of the learning theory in career development for people with disabilities include self-observation generalizations, worldview generalizations, task approach skills, and actions (McMahon 2011). When choosing a particular work place, people with disabilities thrive at tasks they believe are like those performed in that occupation. Work places are attractive when they have observed a valued model be reinforced for activities like those performed by member of that occupation. When valued friends or relatives describe the advantages of a work place to people with disabilities, they observe the positive images and words associated with it (Chen 2003). The interaction between the person with disabilities and their work place is where career counseling plays a vital role. Counselors play a major role in handling all career issues while empowering their people to take action and advocate for themselves (Chen 2003). Counselors steer people in their career by preparing them for changing work tasks and expanding their capabilities and interests. Career counselors assist people with disabilities build knowledge and skills in their work place by learning new skills and exploring other interests, correcting faulty assumptions, learning new skills for coping with new work tasks, and identifying effective strategies to address issues emanating from interacting with others either in the work place or in life (Chen 2003). The disability category that coincides with the learning theory for career development would be people with intellectual disabilities. People with intellectual disabilities are observant of stimuli around them and often learn behaviors from spending time with family and friends. They also meet success when simple tasks are modeled and new skills or tasks are taught based on prior knowledge or experiences. People with intellectual disabilities are able to fluently generate new exemplar (i.e. recently met cousin, new pop singer), switch attention between tasks, and possess personality traits, which lead them to social endeavors. People with intellectual disabilities have the capacity to develop a career path through observations and direct experiences in a field in which they are familiar with, emulate, and could envision themselves doing in life.

The developmental theory of career development revolves around the idea of choosing and adjusting to work as a continuous process (Sampson 2014). Donald Super is widely associated with the developmental approach to career guidance (Super 1957). Super explains career development as a person going through five stages of growth: growth, exploration, establishment, maintenance, and decline (Sampson 2014). And as that person grows through the stages, they develop an idea of themselves, their self-concept. At that point, the person can use the developed idea of himself or herself and match that idea against a picture of the occupation they foresee for themselves (Sampson 2014). The developmental theory has guided career education programs to gradually expose self-concepts and work concepts in curriculums that represent Super’s career development ideals for people with disabilities (Sampson 2014). The growth and exploration stages of the developmental theory are the important aspects when preparing and planning careers for people with disabilities. The growth stage involves developing self-concept and transitioning from play to work orientation (Sampson 2014). The exploration stage aims to develop realistic self-concept and apply vocational preferences (through exploration or role tryouts). Then preferences of career possibilities are gradually narrowed and people with disabilities can make choices about their occupation (Sampson 2014). Career counselors combine a person with disabilities skills with the work force by using an approach called “life stories.” Life stories reflect a person with disabilities development through their perspective (Sampson 2014). This information is used by career counselors to look for themes or common threads that make sense of their past, explain the present, and draw a blueprint for the future (Sampson 2014). A team of career counselors, school and community representatives, and the person with disabilities (and family), plan and develop a program for successful vocational and transition goals (Sampson 2014). This program details the person with disabilities developmental strengths and weakness, along with preferences and choices to find career options that fit the profile of this person (Sampson 2014). The career counselors supervise the implementation of the program, which includes specialized services to bridge the gap between the worker and the work. The career counselors also evaluate the person with disabilities success at the work place to plan and implement necessary improvements (Sampson 2014). Interagency agreements are pivotal to vocational and transition programming implementation. These agreements between schools and communities outline; which services provided by each agency, which people will receive services, when services will be initiated (Athanasou 2010). The interagency agreements hold all parties accountable for proper implementation of the person with disabilities vocational plan (Athanasou 2010). The developmental theory for career development is an effective framework for people with multiple disabilities to adopt when planning and transitioning to the vocational world (Athanasou 2010). People with multiple disabilities have concomitant impairments that cause severe educational needs (IDEA§300.8(c)(7)). Because people with multiple disabilities have unique strengths and needs (because of the variety of impairments a person could have), the developmental theory is an ideal avenue to assess all skills as they pertain to the Super’s stages of development (Athanasou 2010). Once the skills and stages are identified, the team can plan and develop appropriate transition and vocational plans for a person with multiple disabilities. The developmental theory for career development matches perfectly to people with multiple disabilities because of the different levels of impairment along with the different stages of development (Athanasou 2010).

The work adjustment theory for career development can be described as “achieving and maintaining correspondence with a work environment…” (Zunker). Hershenson developed the model of work adjustment primarily for people with disabilities and his work later influenced vocational practices (Garske 2014). The work adjustment theory contains three facets; (1) work personality, (2) work competencies, and (3) work goals, which reflects the person’s work congruently with the person’s environment. Work adjustments consist of three elements: task performances, work role behavior, and work satisfaction (Garske 2014). The outcomes of work adjustment theory are active adjustments, environmental (work place) adjustments, reactive adjustments (individual and environmental/work place). These outcomes can occur when there are discrepancies between a person and their work environment (Garske 2014). Active adjustments is when an individual changes their working environment, more specifically the content of the job to reflect their abilities or different reinforcers (Garske 2014). The environmental or work place adjustments aim to change persons abilities through training or change their expectations in the work place (Garske 2014). Reactive adjustments for an individual includes changing their behavior to better serve the environment. Reactive adjustments for environments or work places include changing responsibilities of role to better suit the natural strengths of the individual and/or altering reinforcers to attempt to increase job satisfaction (Garske 2014). For a person with disabilities in the work place, the first step in the work adjustment theory is to identify their abilities and values in order to meet their occupational needs (Garske 2014). Career counselors have access to a plethora of resources and assessments to gather information about a persons abilities and values in life (Harris 2000) Then, initial career choices are planned based on the person’s values and abilities through collaboration of the transition team. The career counselor provides services to teach and support people with disabilities to work through and overcome work adjustment stressors (barriers to satisfaction) (Harris 2000). If dissatisfaction or job termination occurs, career counselors will assist people with disabilities in exploring new or alternative career choice (Harris 2000). A person with a moderate diagnosis of autism would be a prime candidate for the work adjustment theory of career development. A person with autism embodies giftedness that could be very beneficial for a work place environment. Some of these strengths include: detail orientation, logical thinking in decision-making, punctuality, and visual thinker/learner. And they also have their weaknesses, which may include: lack of social or collaboration skills, inability to see big picture, or generalizing concepts. With strong transition supports and close evaluations to ensure deficits skills are progressing in the work place, the work adjustment theory would be an ideal framework to shape a person with autism’s behavior, with reinforcement and satisfaction.

In determining and comparing interagency linkages within the learning theory, developmental theory, and work adjustment theory, it can be concluded that all three theories lacked comprehensive assessments or comprehensive information collection prior to putting their theories into action. The learning theory depended upon observations for information, the developmental theory used a rubric technique but no insight into the individuals life, and the work adjustment theory used job competencies from the real world to measure a person with disabilities strengths and weaknesses in every facet of life. These theories did not particularly reflect seeing people with disabilities in a holistic way, but instead in a way they thought they would fit into their career development theory. The learning theory’s approach to career development through observations and direct experiences is very naturalistic and can be authetic data collection. But the learning theory does not follow a logical plan to adapt to diverse abilities (i.e. people that are blind) and environmental factors (learned behaviors from technology). The learning theory does not access a wide enough range of information about a person with disabilities to decide their career in life. The developmental theory and the stages of development are exceptionally helpful when comparing a person with disabilities and their typical peers. Preferences and choices are embedded in the decision making of a person with disabilities career development however, those preferences and choices could change. And if our goal is for people with disabilities is to maintain jobs, then doing more extensive collections of information is needed in order for these people to feel successful. It seems the work adjustment theory wants a homogeneous work force and those who do not fit the blue print can actively or reactively adjust to the work environment. People with disabilities have strengths and weaknesses, and the work adjustment theory simply harps upon their weaknesses. If more background information was collected or interest inventories were completed, maybe less people would have to adjust and work places would focus on people with disabilities strengths. Overall these theories are helpful and informative in guiding the career development of people with disabilities however I think a more personal holistic approach would better guide their decision-making.


Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 42 USC § 12102 (2006).

Athanasou, J. (2010). Career development and systems theory. Connecting theory and practice (2nd ed.). Australian Educational Researcher (Australian Association for Research in Education), 37(1), 154–155. Retrieved from

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Garske, G. G. (2014). Career Development, Employment and Disability in Rehabilitation: From Theory to Practice. Journal of Rehabilitation, 80(1), 45–46. Retrieved from

Harris, A. H. S. (2000). Using Adult Development Theory To Facilitate Career Happiness. Career Planning and Adult Development Journal, 15(4), 27–36. Retrieved from

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Sampson, J. P., Hou, P., Kronholz, J. F., Dozier, V. C., McClain, M., Buzzetta, M., … Kennelly, E. L. (2014). A Content Analysis of Career Development Theory, Research, and Practice-2013. Career Development Quarterly, 62(4), 290–326.


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