1 Status of disability content 1 Running head: Status of disability content Status of disability content in social work curricula: A cross-national comparison Elaine Jurkowski, MSW, PhD 1,2 Patricia Welch, MSSA 3 1 Corresponding author 2 Assistant Professor, School of Social Work College of Education Southern Illinois University Carbondale M/C 4329 Carbondale, Illinois (618) (phone) (618) (fax) 3 Doctoral Student George Warren Brown School of Social Work Washington University Campus Box 1196 One Brookings Drive St. Louis, Missouri (314) (phone) (314) (fax) Key Words: Disability, social work education, curricula issues
2 Status of disability content 2 Status of disability content in social work curricula: A cross-national comparison ABSTRACT Recent trends reveal an increase in global graying coupled with the growth of people with functional impairments. Consequently, the need for trained social work professionals familiar with issues related to disability has heightened. This article examines the current status of disability content in social work curricula across the U.S. and Canada. Findings indicate numerous gaps and challenges related to disability content within accredited schools of social work. Recommendations are provided to address these issues and finally, implications for the field of social work are discussed.
3 Status of disability content 3 Status of disability content in social work curricula: A Cross-National Comparison Introduction: Recent social, political, and demographic trends have resulted in increased opportunities for social workers to work with people with disabilities. Already there has been an increase in the community census of people with functional impairments. This growth is expected to accelerate in light of two factors - the aging North America population and the likelihood of disability increasing with age (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1997). Not only impairments, but also chronic conditions are a great concern. Most older people report having at least one chronic health problem (Treas, 1995, p.32). While impairments account for 26.7% of all disabling conditions in the U.S., chronic health disorders and injuries constitute 73.3% of these activitylimiting conditions (U.S. Department of Education, 1996). In fact, chronic conditions are the leading cause of illness, disability, and death in the U.S. today (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 1996). Another important trend involves the increased visibility of people with disabilities within the community. We live in a society, which embraces people with disabilities as part of their Constitutional Rights (Canadian Constitution, 1980 and Americans with Disabilities Act, 1990). This social phenomenon both supports and promotes community integration of people with disabilities. However, people with disabilities continue to be isolated or marginalized from the remainder of society (Gray & Hahn, 1997, p.395). Hence, the need for trained social work practitioners in the area of disability. This article examines the current status of disability content in the social work professional education experience offered through accredited schools of social work in the U.S. and Canada. Additionally, it identifies training and supplemental educational needs for programs to be in compliance with accreditation standards. Finally, it sets the stage for the development of supplemental materials, which can be used by faculty in all sequences. Methodology: The research reflects a collaborative effort between two schools of social work - Southern Illinois University Carbondale (a small, rural, public institution) and George Warren Brown,
4 Status of disability content 4 Washington University (a large, urban, private institution). First, a database was developed using addresses of all accredited schools of social work in the U.S. and Canada. Addresses were taken from compilations published by the Council on Social Work Education and the Canadian Association of Schools of Social Work, respectively. The survey was designed modeled after questions from a similar survey, developed and used for accredited schools of public health by the late Allan Meyers, Ph.D., Boston University. The survey consisted of 6 questions related to disability content. These questions are described in the next section. A question comprised of 6 demographic parts was included in the survey for comparative purposes. Question 7 asked respondents to describe their school or program: (1) urban versus rural school of social work; (2) location; (3) size of degree program; (4) person responding to the questionnaire; (5) external resources available such as UAP s, ILRC s, and OT/PT; and (6) model used for integration of content (i.e. infusion versus elective versus alternative). The final question asked for any comments and suggestions to facilitate an understanding of the current status of disability in the various curricula streams of schools of social work. Rather than a traditional paper mailing, the survey was distributed by electronic means. A virtual survey was sent via as well as a web site posting using Survey Suite (University of Virginia, There were two follow-up mailings to the initial mailing in Fall Respondent characteristics: In total, 38 states and six provinces were represented in the sample. The majority of respondents reported their social work school or program in an urban setting (62.5%), rural area (25%) or other region (12.5%). Descriptions for other included urban/rural combination, the population number 129,000 and the suburban metro area. Regarding size of degree programs, responses for BSW programs ranged from 0 to 600, MSW programs ranged from 0 to 500, and PhD programs ranged from 0 to 50 students. Findings:
5 Status of disability content 5 The first survey question asked Does your school or program now have one or more courses dealing exclusively or nearly-exclusively with disability? Respondents (65%) indicated no while the remaining respondents (14%) indicated yes, while the remaining respondents (21%) were uncertain. The types of courses offered within schools and listed by respondents included ethics and diversity; disability and social work practice; human behavior, diversity and oppression; clinical social work practice in health, aging and disability; health and disability in social work; physical and psycho-social aspects of disability; disability issues in Saskatchewan Independent living in policy and practice; advanced theories of human behavior, health and illness; social work and developmental disabilities; introduction to early childhood intervention; social and emotional aspects of illness; aging and old age: social work practice and issues; and social work with the disabled individual. Similarly, the majority of respondents (94.7%) stated that there was no graduate level track or concentration on disability. Only 5.3% respondents stated there was a graduate level track or concentration on disability. When asked about the models used for the integration of disability content into the curriculum, respondents identified infusion (68%), elective (17%), other (12%) and don t know (3%). Other included the following: concentration, inclusion, integration, double major, mixed method, and advanced concentration. A question was asked regarding dual degree or multi-disciplinary programs that highlight disability (for example, programs with physical or occupational therapy; special education; psychiatry; law or research. Again, most responses (84.3%) were no and a smaller amount of responses (15.7%) were yes to this question. Resources available to social work programs related to disability included at least 15 different associated health or policy based programs or Institutes. Programs included school of Community Practice, programs in vocational rehabilitation and aging; psychiatric and physical rehabilitation, Centers through the College of Physical and Occupational Therapy, College of Health Professions, Department of Nursing, Department of Health Sciences, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Department of Special Education, Institute on Human Diversity, Gerontology Certificate Program, University Affiliated Programs and Institute of Aging and Public Policy. of
6 Status of disability content 6 Community Practice, While the findings suggest a great deficit of disability content within schools of social work, the future does not appear much brighter. A question asked if your school or program currently planning to increase coverage of topics related to disability. The majority (74.4%) responded no while the minority (25.6%0 responded yes to this question. The Council for Social Work Education (CSWE) has articulated three specific models for the inclusion of diversity into Social Work curricula. An elective model offers students content on a specific topical issue through course electives only; an infusion model infuses content throughout various topical areas of the curricula, which an integration model integrates the concepts throughout the major course objectives and course materials. Respondents were asked which model was used to integrate disability content within their school s curricula. The majority identified an infusion model (68%); followed by an elective model (17%); 12% indicated other, while 3% did not know. Other models included a concentration on disability; inclusion models, and integration through double majors with other programs. Several gaps were apparent within the analysis of responses from both countries. There was no mention of resources such as Independent Living Resource Centers and no mention of any type of interface with Disability Studies programs. Both offer valuable resources for the development and integration of meaningful resources. In addition, respondents did not identify any types of collaboration between urban rural social work programs for resource development. Overall, the data from both countries respondents indicated a lack of integration of disability content within the core competencies in the social work curriculum (ie: social policy, research, human behavior within the social environment, generalist practice and practice based courses as well as field seminar. This lack of available resources with disability content includes materials that could be integrated or used within micro, meso and macro levels. Case studies, integrating various aspects of disability and ablement are not evident within core curricula, or within syllabi. Data bases with disability content is available but not well utilized within the meso and macro levels within course content within all core competencies. Policy based materials are necessary for inclusion of disability related materials in both Canada and the United States. Tools which
7 Status of disability content 7 can be useful in single system design evaluations to measure functional status at a micro level, or prevalence of specific aspects of functional status are lacking within research based curricula.
8 Status of disability content 8 Numerous challenges were identified by respondents, which, in their view accounted for the limitations of disability oriented curricula. Firstly, smaller programs struggle with limited resources, in efforts to continue meeting some of the educational ctations, particularly in Canada. This is compounded by the fact that BSW programs, due to their generalist focus and resources available, have difficulty providing specialist courses on disability. Secondly, there is a need to understand disability among groups identified as culturally diverse, especially groups like Aboriginal and Native Americans. Thirdly, the context of mandating the rights of people with disabilities has only recently become a critical issue in society, as legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) and Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1980) have evolved. In contrast, the fields of Child Welfare or Corrections have been mandated programs for at least a Century. Despite this, the Canadian Association of Schools of Social Work (CASSW) is currently investigating and drafting standards specifically related to the inclusion of disability content within curricula. Conclusions Preliminary findings by the investigators have identified that content is included where possible on disability issues both in Canada and in the United States, but intensive infusion of content is still required and necessary in both countries. Further investigation is needed into available resources and training of disability integration issues for Schools and faculty in US and Canada. Discussion: Preliminary findings from this study suggest that several challenges for the 21 st Century exist. Firstly, disability content for social workers needs to be more thoroughly infused within curricula content across all core competencies. Secondly, stronger initiatives will be needed to infuse content through integration models of education. Despite the need, philosophical
9 Status of disability content 9 perspectives will need to be considered, since a clash occurs between the medical and social models of care. A medical model relies upon DSMIV foundations, and disease etiology, approaches taken within health/mental health tracks at Schools of Social Work. Social models of care do not necessarily rely upon deficit models of care, nor do they focus on the individual s limitations. The concept of able-ment has only recently been mandated across the life span through the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) and Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1980). Consequently, programs to service people with disabilities do not share the same tenure for mandated programs as child welfare in both countries, and resources become limited. North America s aging population, and the shift in communities demographic face will raise new challenges for the preparation of practitioners to deal with functional impairments across the lifespan. As society within both Canada and the United States ages, and people with chronic diseases (ie functional limitations) remain in communities, there will be a need to more adequately prepare social work practitioners across all core competencies on disability content (research, policy, practice, human behavior in the social environment and field practicum). The implementation of internationally recognized materials (i.e. ICIDH-2 assessment and diagnostic criteria within the assessment process) can also assist in building this theoretical foundation. The development of partnerships and linkages can also strengthen resources and content within social work curricula in both countries. The partnerships between the academic community, consumers with disabilities and students will also facilitate a balanced perspective. Partnerships and linkages between rural and urban academic settings, as well as private and public settings to foster disability studies and integration into social work curricula can also strengthen programs and ameliorate resource limitations.
10 Status of disability content 10 Conversely, cross border linkages can also strengthen perspectives on disability and lend to the development of resources. Linkages between Canadian programs, and US can strengthen content and practice, or field experiences. Collaboration between academics, consumers and the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) and Canadian Association of Schools of Social Work (CASSW) can lead to the development of adequate teaching materials and strengthen the use of human resources within both countries. Collaboration with the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and CASSW can promote collaboration and consistency around advocacy based issues within practice based settings and across borders. Lastly, within Canada, an effort to strengthen the collaboration between CASSW and the Canadian Center for Disability Studies can lead to the development of resources and improve disability content within curriculum offered at Schools of Social Work in Canada. Implications for social work and curricula development: The findings from this study identify several venues, which can have implications for social work, and the development of curricula content related to disability. Firstly, findings will suggest a clearer definition of necessary content within core courses, especially policy and research. This can result in the development of best practice models and can highlight examples for Schools in need of improving target area. The development of resources, which can improve social work students knowledge, attitude, and ability to effectively deal with people who have disabilities, will improve the outcomes for people with disabilities. Lastly, advocacy efforts and empowerment of people with disabilities can result from trained practitioners.
11 Status of disability content 11 References Council on Social Work Education. (1994). Curriculum Policy Statement for Baccalaureate Degree Programs in Social Work Education.[on line] (http://www.cswe.org/bswcps.htm) Council for Social Work Education. (1994). Commission on accreditation; Handbook of accreditation standards and procedures. DC: The author. Gray, D. & Hahn, H. (1997). Achieving occupational goals: The social effects of stigma. In C. Christiansen & C. Baum (Eds.), Enabling function and well-being (pp ). Thorofare, NJ: SLACK. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (1996, August). Chronic care in America: A 21 st century challenge. New Jersey: Author. 47. Treas, J. (1995). Older Americans in the 1990 s and beyond. Population Bulletin, 50, 1- U.S. Bureau of the Census. (1997). Disabilities affect one-fifth of all Americans: Proportion could increase in coming decades (Census Brief No. 97-5). Washington, DC: Government Printing Office. U.S. Department of Education. (1996). Health conditions and impairments causing disability (Disability Statistics Abstract No. 16). Washington DC: Author.
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