Developing self-advocacy : the experience of college students in structured learning disabilities programs

Miller, Rachel Nottingham, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Kenyon, Heather Rowan, University of Virginia
Wathington, Heather, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Lloyd, John, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Deutsch, Nancy, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

The number of students with disabilities arriving on college and university campuses is increasing. Of those students reporting a disability, over half of them state they have a learning disability. Unlike high school, the burden is on the student in college to demonstrate the need for services and communicate this need to the institution in a timely manner. It is therefore essential that students possess adequate self-advocacy skills to receive the services they need to be successful. This study describes three U.S. institutions' structured learning disabilities programs. The theoretical framework was based on Chickering and Reisser's (1993) third vector of college student development which notes the importance of moving from a state of dependence through a position of autonomy to a state of interdependence; and Aune's Interactional Model of Disability which focuses on the importance of the context in which the individual lives and works. Students' academic experience is grounded in the environment of the learning disabilities program and the broader campus climate of the university. Interviews with students and university personnel confirmed that students in these programs do exhibit a sense of selfadvocacy. Conversations with faculty, the original focus of this study, were considered a less important factor in students' development of communication skill than conversations with tutors. Self-efficacy and motivation emerged as essential foundational components of self-advocacy. However, students' development of interdependence did not occur in the way outlined by Chickering and Reisser's third vector. At all three institutions discussed, the atmosphere was one of acceptance and support rising from a long history of disability services, reflecting the importance of Aune's Interactional Model of Disability. One of the most salient findings of this study is the construction of the Circle of Support by the learning disabilities program and other university personnel. This was found to be one of the most critical aspects of the programs' success and, coupled with the self-advocacy skills fostered by the communication skills developed in conversations with tutors, it helped to create an environment in which students with learning disabilities have the ability to thrive.

Note: Abstract extracted from PDF file via OCR.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
self advocacy, disabilities, higher education, students

Digitization of this thesis was made possible by a generous grant from the Jefferson Trust, 2015.

Thesis originally deposited on 2016-02-18 in version 1.28 of Libra. This thesis was migrated to Libra2 on 2017-03-23 16:34:30.

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