An investigation into the school counselor's role with students with learning disabilities

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling and Human Services


Alan D. Goldberg


School counselor, Learning disabilities, High school students, Counselor role

Subject Categories

Education | Special Education and Teaching | Student Counseling and Personnel Services


Students with learning disabilities have been shown to be at risk for social, emotional, and behavioral problems. Although some studies have been devoted to the increasing role of school counselors in working with students with disabilities in general, very few have addressed the role of the school counselor in working with students with learning disabilities. Theoretical articles have suggested roles that school counselors should play while offering no empirical evidence to validate such claims. This dissertation has sought to fill the gap that exists in the current research literature.

This study examined six research questions. What activities were high school counselors engaging in with students with learning disabilities? Which activities are counselors more or less likely to see as their role? Do they perform activities that they do not perceive to be their role? What is the relationship between perceived preparation and activities performed with students with learning disabilities? What variables predict whether counselors perform activities? What barriers prevent counselors from working with students with learning disabilities?

A survey instrument, developed for this study, was divided into five parts assessing demographic variables, coursework and training, activities performed, perceived adequacy of preparation, perceived role, barriers, and knowledge in working with students with learning disabilities. Five categories of activities performed were identified: Identification and Multidisciplinary Teamwork, Counseling Services, Career and College Transition Services, Working with Teachers, and Working with Parents. Surveys were sent to a random sample of 600 high school counselors in New York State (25% of 2,473 counselors statewide), excluding New York City. A return rate of 41.5% was achieved with 247 usable surveys returned.

Analyses revealed that most counselors were performing all listed activities and tended to perceive all to be their roles. However, they did not believe that their counseling masters programs had adequately prepared them to perform the activities.

Regression analyses revealed that caseload factors and coursework taken predicted some categories of activities. Perceived adequacy of preparation was a significant predictor of activities performed in all categories except identification and multidisciplinary teamwork. Perceived role and activities performed were significantly related in all five categories.


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