APA Guidelines on Disabilities

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The American Psychological Association has announced, in the January 2012 issue of American Psychologist, “Guidelines for Assessment of and Intervention With Persons of Disabilities.” This document lists twenty-two practice-guidelines for psychologists who work with persons displaying disabilities of various kinds. The task force for this report was chaired by Kurt F. Geisinger of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

The first five guidelines cover the following areas: Psychologists strive to learn about disability paradigms, examine their beliefs and reactions toward those with disabilities (and how this may affect their own work), increase their knowledge about working with persons with disabilities, learn about federal law that support and protect people with disabilities, and provide barrier-free barriers for services.

Guidelines six through ten cover these concerns: Psychologists strive to use respectful behavior toward persons with disabilities, understand the experiences common to disabilities, recognize social and cultural diversity in the lives of persons with disabilities, learn how attitudes and misconceptions may influence development across the life span, and recognize that families of individuals with disabilities face both strengths and challenges.

Guidelines elven through fifteen cover the following: Psychologists strive to recognize that people with disabilities may be at increased risk for abuse, learn about the opportunities and challenges presented by assistive technology, consider disability as a dimension of diversity, apply fair assessment approches, and determine whether accommodations are appropriate to yield valid test scores.

The final seven guidelines, sixteen through twenty-two, emphasize the following: psychologists strive to balance quantitative, qualitative, and ecological perspectives, maximize fairness and relevance in interpreting assessment data, collaborate with clients and families when designing interventions, be aware of the effect of work structure on clients, recognize that interventions may focus on enhancing well-being, be advocates for client self-determination, and recognize and address health promotion issues for individuals with disabilities.

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