Psychology students in U.S. colleges are educated about the minority group of the disabled, the least. Oh yes, the mental illnesses are the main focus, but according to a study published by the “Society of the Teaching of Psychology,” and authored by Kathleen Bogart, an assistant professor of psychology at Oregon State University:
“We are not properly preparing students to interact with this group.”
“Overall, the study found that all of the colleges in the analysis offered classes on psychiatric disabilities, but just eight had courses focusing on physical disabilities though such issues are more common.”
“Courses tended to take a medical approach, focusing on diagnosis, treatment and cures rather than looking at social issues like coping, acceptance, prejudice and policy implications.”
When a disabled person seeks to join the mainstream of life, he/she does so with the expectation of being accepted for what he/she can do, not for what they cannot. Unfortunately, whether the disability is obvious or not (hidden – “you don’t look sick”), the majority of the “normal” population is sidelined and doesn’t know how to react to people who are considered “different.”
Not all disabled persons are outwardly disabled – they don’t wear a sign saying, “I am disabled.” There are many diseases that humans suffer that cannot be discerned just by looking at the patients.
When the disability is found out, a series of circumstances or occurrences can begin to happen. People will stare; they will be afraid to have conversation; they will ignore; they will assume the disabled person cannot behave or converse in a “normal” way; they lose trust and confidence in the person’s ability to perform the tasks. The worst part is that the disabled person can be made to feel like a pariah; a person who is unworthy; a person who is not a person at all.
Many disabled persons seek the assistance of psychologists, or “counselors” or “therapists” in order to discover ways to deal with their disappointment, and the prejudice, the discrimination, and yes, the open hostility.
If psychologists are not taught how to counsel people with physical and medical disabilities, in addition to mental problems, when confronted with the above reactions to their disabilities, how can help be forthcoming?
There are many areas lacking attention in the U.S. universities’ educational programs, and more attention and a proactive approach by the psychology and medical advocacy communities should be given to this problem.
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[Disability clip art from: bingdotcom]