Introductory psychology classes are among the most popular on college campuses, and many colleges require at least one psychology class in their general curriculum.
Disabilities pose numerous psychological challenges, and people with disabilities represent one of the largest minority groups in the United States. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 56.7 million people—almost 1 in 5 adults—had a disability in 2010. People with disabilities may face discrimination as well as a heightened risk of secondary mental health concerns such as depression.
Inadequate Disability Education in College Psychology Classes
Researchers reviewed course descriptions of nearly 700 psychology classes in 98 high-ranking undergraduate psychology programs. Though every program offered a course on psychiatric disabilities, just eight offered classes on physical disabilities—even though chronic health issues and physical disabilities are significantly more common.
Disability courses also focused on a medical model of disability, providing students with information on treatment, management, and diagnosis. Thanks in part to various movements for disability rights, this model is changing.stigma, integrating people with disabilities into the community, and advocating for people with disabilities.
The study’s authors suggest a better approach would be to make disability studies a part of the larger psychology curriculum, rather than relegating disability topics to special classes. Because almost everyone interacts with a person with a disability at some point, the researchers say it is especially important to provide information about disabilities in introductory courses. This may require additional training for psychology faculty members or new textbooks containing updated information on physical disabilities.
- College psychology classes lack curriculum about disabilities. (2016, February 23). Retrieved from http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-02/osu-cpc022316.php
- Disability rights. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.aapd.com/what-powers-us/disability-rights/?referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F
- Nearly 1 in 5 people have a disability in the U.S. (2012, July 25). Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/miscellaneous/cb12-134.html
- Related conditions. (2014, March 31). Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/disabilityandhealth/relatedconditions.html
- Rosa, N. M., Bogart, K. R., Bonnett, A. K., Estill, M. C., & Colton, C. E. (2015). Teaching about disability in psychology: An analysis of disability curricula in U.S. undergraduate psychology programs. Teaching of Psychology, 43(1), 59-62. doi:10.1177/0098628315620885
- Study: Disabilities underrepresented in college psychology classes. (2016, February 24). Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2016/02/24/study-disabilities-underrepresented-college-psychology-classes
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