Masters Thesis

Supporting the Mental Health Needs of Students with Developmental Disabilities

The purpose of this study is to investigate how educators can support the mental health needs of students with developmental disabilities and what role an educator can play in the identification of a student’s mental illness. This study was conducted with 23 teacher candidates who were enrolled in their first year of a teaching credential program. A mixed methods approach was used through a survey that contained both fixed-choice and open-ended questions. Preceding a training held by the researcher, the survey was distributed to the subjects one week prior; then they were given the survey directly after attending the training. Along with the survey, the researcher collected anecdotal notes taken during the training based on subject-driven discussions. Based on the gathered data, the researcher found that a majority of the subjects admitted to feeling a lack of knowledge on mental illness and mental health resources, confusion over identifying a student’s behavior versus potential symptoms of a mental illness, and the need for a whole team support approach. All of the subjects reported an opinion that, while an educator should play some role within the identification process and daily support of a student’s mental health needs, that it should not be solely the educator’s responsibility. Rather, it should be a team of professionals that assist with the identification or daily support of a student’s mental health needs.