The value of counselling in a school for children with complex needs
Flitton, Beverley Jane
Background to the study Reports have indicated that young people with learning difficulties are at greater risk of developing mental health problems; yet there is very little provision for this client group and a lack of understanding of what might be appropriate. This study evaluates counselling in a school for students with complex needs. The project seeks to underst~nd the effects of humanistic counselling for young people with learning difficulties from the students', teachers', teaching assistants' and counsellor's perspectives. Method The study is a mixed methods intervention stugy using both qualitative and quantitative measures. Thirty students were referred for counselling by the staff at the school. Fifteen were selected for the first year intervention; the other fifteen acted as a comparison group for the first year, and then were given counselling for the second year. The counselling provided was evaluated using data of four kinds: the counsellor's notes of sessions; the students' selfconcept at four times; their opinion of the value of counselling; the staff responses to the student's functioning in the classroom at four times; the students' responses to the PiersHarris 2 questionnaire. Results Results indicate that many' of the students in this project did benefit from humanistic counselling. Staff in the school identified benefits to over half of the students and reported that the students' behaviour, communication, concentration in class, and general levels of happiness improved. Data from the students and counsellor support these results. The students' were able to lessen their secondary handicap, improve communication, mcrease their level of autonomy and manage everyday life events more effectively. Conclusion The study demonstrated that participants benefited from the intervention; that counselling met a significant need among students; that additional support for school staff and parents was desirable; and that counselling of this kind should be much more widely available.