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SPCL 7922 Multicultural Counseling & Consultation in Schools: Session 10 - Module 10: Ableism, Body Privilege, & Intersectionality

Open Educational Resource (OER) created for Professor Elizalde-Utnick's SPCL 7922 course.


Please complete the following PRIOR to our class session on November 14:

1. Readings/Case Scenario/Videos

READ the assigned articles and take notes


Abakoui & Simmons

The Case of Monique

VIEW the three videos: "Psychology and Disability"; "Sizeism"; "Fat, Black, and Woman"

2. Blackboard Journal #7

Go to Blackboard to the Journal link and post to the "Ableism & Sizeism" journal.

3. Prepare for Quiz (RAT#10)

The 5-question multiple-choice quiz will be on the assigned readings and videos.

4. Submit Counselor Cultural Narrative Paper on Blackboard by Sunday, November 20


In this session we explore the social construction of ableism and able-bodied privilege, as well as sizeism. We also look at how they intersect with other identity domains. 


VIDEO (2:07)

VIDEO (9:41)

VIDEO (5:48)



1. What are your reactions to the current therapist bringing her own race and appearance into the treatment room?
2. How might experiences of oppression be contributing to Monique’s presenting problems?
3. How is Monique’s biracial identity related to her body image and self-concept?
4. How do you understand Monique’s overeating behavior? How might you address it in treatment? Consider a HAES Treatment Plan and The Spiral of Acceptance.


George is a white, male, 16-year-old, high school student who was born with cerebral palsy (CP). George walks with a very pronounced bilateral limp, his arms tend to jerk spasmodically, and he drools. He has a learning disability but above-average IQ. His speech is labored and difficult to understand. Sometimes he tries a different word, or to spell a word, when someone does not understand him.

In the 1st grade he was placed in special education with children with autism and intellectual disabilities. His mother fought to place him in a regular classroom and prevailed by 2nd grade, but George knew that others assumed he was “slow.” Throughout school he has been receiving services to help with carrying his books, feeding, and writing. Since middle school he spends part of the day in resource room because he needs to dictate his homework. Sometimes a friend of his hangs out with him, but usually he is alone with his aide.

George is quite depressed. When he is not in school, he is generally at home and rarely socializes. For most of his life he has lived alone with his mother. His father left soon after George was born when his CP was diagnosed, telling his mother, “I didn’t sign on for this.” She relays this story often to George in his childhood.

George carries a backpack because he can’t get a wallet out of his packet, and he exerts a lot of energy when he walks. He often has body odor, as if he had been working out. When he gets up from the chair in counseling with the school psychologist, he splays his lower limbs out, drops to the floor on his knees, turns toward the chair, and hefts himself to a standing position.

The school psychologist, a relatively young, able-bodied, female, was eager to show that she was okay with disability, but her discomfort could be seen in small acts. She was embarrassed to ask him to repeat more than once something she did not understand. She never remarked on his body odor. She plunged into a description of the social model of disability, telling him that there is nothing wrong with him that some social activities couldn’t fix. George’s response was to say, “I don’t want any of that victim shit,” which puzzled the school psychologist. She was only trying to say that it was society’s problem, not George’s. She was relentlessly upbeat and full of ideas for George to try, even if they had not worked in the past. She assumed his depression was normative for someone with a significant disability, and hence she encouraged his expression of negative emotions, which only further discouraged him.

1.Do you, as the school psychologist, feel discouraged about the roadblocks facing George? What role does counseling play? Consider the various models of disability that you read about.
2.Given that George has a significant disability, what are the odds of him having experienced sexual or physical abuse? Who would be most likely to have abused him? What might have been the reaction of others if he told someone about any abuse?
3.When you think about the “good enough” mother, what does this include for the mother of a child with a significant disability? What are some essential topics of conversation you would want her to have with George? How might she convey her attitude toward his disability? What do you think of the story she told George about why the father left?
4.What are your personal reactions to the physical descriptions of George? Does this image evoke discomfort in you? What could you do to become more comfortable?
5.Was it a mistake for the school psychologist not to comment on George’s body odor? Would commenting be experienced as judgmental or as failing to understand disability issues?

Excerpted and adapted from: Olkin, R. (2014). Clinical applications with persons with disabilities. In   In D. W. Sue, M. E. Gallardo, & H. A. Neville, Case studies in multicultural counseling and therapy (pp. 231-235). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.