Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Adults with Learning Disabilities: Educational and Social Experiences during College

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Adults with Learning Disabilities: Educational and Social Experiences during College

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: Forty-nine adults with learning disabilities were interviewed about their college experiences. Most of the respondents adjusted well to the demands and complexities of college. Approximately 90% of the participants graduated from college in approximately 5.5 years. In addition, students typically attended more than one college or university and pursued a variety of majors. Keys and barriers to success were examined, and recommendations were also made for improving educational outcomes.

Obtaining a college education represents an important accomplishment for students with learning disabilities (LD), particularly in terms of their ultimate success in the workplace. People with LD who graduate from college are much more likely to hold professional and managerial positions than those who only graduate from high school (Greenbaum, Graham, & Scales, 1994; Rogan & Hartman, 1976, 1990). Similarly, almost all of the highly and moderately successful people with LD identified in a study by Gerber, Ginsberg, and Reiff (1992) had completed some postsecondary schooling, with 89% obtaining a bachelor's degree or higher.

Although people with LD are currently much less likely to attend a college or university than their normally achieving peers (Wagner, 1989), they have become much more prevalent on college campuses during the past 10-15 years (cf. Houck, Asselin, Troutman, & Arrington, 1992). The U.S. Department of Education (1989) estimated that 3% of the students in American colleges and universities have a learning disability, and this figure may be as high as 11% in some institutions (Cohen, 1984).

The available literature on college students with LD has primarily concentrated on the following topics:

* Program requirements and guidelines for selecting a college or university (cf. Mangrum & Strichart, 1984).

* The efforts of individual colleges or universities to provide suitable services (cf. Gajar, Murphy, & Hunt, 1982; Rose, 1991).

* The effectiveness of specific interventions, such as notetaking (Suritsky & Hughes, 1991).

* Student characteristics (cf. Gajar, 1989; Hughes & Smith, 1990; Saracoglu, Minden, & Wilchesky, 1989; Vogel, 1986). Predictors of college success (cf. Vogel & Adelman, 1990,1992).

* Students' perceptions of specific college requirements (Javorsky, Sparks, & Ganschow, 1992).

* Attitudes of faculty and students regarding accommodations (cf. Houck et al., 1992; Matthews, Anderson, & Skolnick, 1987).

A small set of studies has focused on the outcomes and experiences of students with LD during college. In a study by Bursuck, Rose, Cowen, and Yahaya (1989), the average graduation rate for people with LD was only 30%; the national average is 50% ("Years in College," 1990). This figure must be interpreted cautiously, however, because it was based on only 6% of the colleges or universities that were members of the Learning Disabilities Special Interest Group of the Association on Handicapped Student Service Programs in Postsecondary Education. Vogel and Adelman (1990) reported a slightly higher graduation rate (37%) for 110 students with LD attending a small Midwestern college (Barat College) that provided highly coordinated support services and special academic advisors. Although the course grades of students with LD were significantly lower than those of a randomly selected group of students attending the same college, the two groups graduated at the same rate and in approximately the same amount of time. In addition, the academic failure rates of the two groups of students were comparable.

In a follow-up study (Vogel & Adelman, 1992), 62 college students with LD attending Barat College were compared to students at the same college matched on gender and ACT scores. Though students with LD had higher grades, a lower academic failure rate, and took fewer courses each semester, the two groups had a similar graduation rate. …

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