Learning disabilities and success in post-secondary education how students make sense of their experiences at a Canadian university /

by Abreu-Ellis, Carla Reis.

Abstract (Summary)
Dr. Robert DeBard, Advisor The purpose of this research paper was to understand how students with learning disabilities made sense of their experiences in post-secondary education. More specifically, this study aimed to identify what students with learning disabilities perceived as the challenges and successes they encountered in higher education at a university in Ontario. In light of the epistemology of constructivism, this study operated from an interpretivist theoretical perspective grounded in the phenomenological paradigm using qualitative methodology. To understand the essence of the of students’ experiences, six students with learning disabilities from a post-secondary institution who were in line to graduate were recruited to contribute to this study. Participants volunteered to participate in a face-toface, in-depth interview and to share their stories with the researcher. Because this researcher wanted to discover what aspect of participant’s collegiate experiences allowed for their success, six women whom were close to program completion at the time of the study were chosen to participant in this study. However, their experiences in higher education were not always pleasant. Findings indicated that the participants faced two key challenges while at university: They had to cope with parental separation and learn to become more independent as they adapted to the university life; and they had to come to grips with their learning disabilities and deal with preconceptions of parents, peers, and faculty as well as their own in order to succeed in higher education. iv In terms of success, four themes emerged from the research findings: the influence of family and school personnel motivated the students to enroll in a postsecondary institution; support from faculty, who reduced barriers and made learning more accessible, facilitated the students’ positive achievements; strong support through an office of disability services was key in the students’ success; and, most importantly, the value of the participants’ own determination and desire to succeed was indispensable in their academic journeys. Post-secondary institutions should work in partnership with K-12 teachers and administrators to facilitate the identification and transition of students with learning disabilities to higher education. Faculty should receive professional development on hidden disabilities and strategies for reducing the stigma of learning disabilities Federal and institutional funding to support disability service providers is critical. It is the researcher’s hope that this study serves to open the door for future exploration and research in the area of disability and higher education. Further, this research may be useful to service providers, faculty members, and administrators to improve the services rendered to students with learning disabilities in post-secondary institutions. v This manuscript is dedicated to my children Mitchel and Brendon who demonstrated a great amount of patience and understanding which kept me motivated to complete this work. I love the way you say: “Mom is working on her dissertation!” To my husband Jason who was very supportive and encouraging during this incredible journey. I could not have done it without your love and understanding. My parents, Denise and Carlos Alberto, who reminded me to take a break and enjoy life. My brothers, Bruno and Luciano, who always remembered to check on my progress. My grandmother Neuza who devoted to me a life time of love and affection. In memory of my grandfather Otton Cabral Reis who taught me to believe in myself - “Eu hei de vençer!” vi
Bibliographical Information:


School:Bowling Green State University

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:learning disabled postsecondary education canada


Date of Publication:

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