By Kelly Walling, BSW Senior


Think back to your education... did you ever have a class where you were able to learn about disabilities??? If so, that is incredible! If not, then you're like me. Throughout my undergraduate and graduate career, I have not had access to a disability-focused course. We had classes that included disabilities in their course and teaching, but never one that focused on what having a disability looks like, means, and what we, as social workers, can do to best serve clients.

The UCEDD at the University of South Carolina's School of Medicine, Center for Disabilities Resources, has had interns from the College of Social Work working on a project over the last few months. Meghan Trowbridge, Assistant Director, supervises students in the BSW and MSW programs at the university. Meghan and the UCEDD have had a growing desire to bring back a course that used to be offered to MSW students at the college. The course is called Social Work Practice and Developmental Disabilities, and it focuses on the growing need for social workers to have knowledge and awareness of developmental disabilities and how they impact individuals, their families, and communities. Taken straight from the class syllabus, here is a little bit about the course: "This course presents knowledge, explores values, and addresses issues important for successful social work practice with individuals with developmental disabilities, their families, and their communities. Social workers are entering the disability field in a variety of positions. They are integral members of a team of professionals working in the developmental disabilities field. In addition, social workers in other practice settings are frequently in contact with individuals with developmental disabilities in areas such as child welfare, corrections, health and mental health, adoptions and aging. Knowledge about the needs of people with developmental disabilities, their families, and intervention strategies that enhance social functioning in the community enable social workers to better perform their jobs."

Meghan speaks very highly of this course and has been wanting it to be offered to students again. She states: "I think it is important because disability is one of the great equalizers - any one of us could join this population at any time. As social workers, we advocate for all marginalized groups, and people with disabilities are found within each disenfranchised population."

In an effort to promote this class being offered again in the fall, both BSW and MSW students that work with Meghan have been creating and presenting posters with information about their field placements and how they relate to and work with individuals with disabilities. These posters have been, and will continue to be, put up in the lobby of the College of Social Work building on USC's campus.

This class is such a great opportunity for students to not only learn more about disabilities in a classroom setting, but also to learn about organizations around Columbia, South Carolina that offer field placements working with individuals with disabilities. If you think having a course at your school would be beneficial, start advocating for it to happen. Even something like a training to raise awareness in organizations and places of work could be a great idea!