Academic journal article College Student Journal

Using Wraparound to Support Students with Developmental Disabilities in Higher Education

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Using Wraparound to Support Students with Developmental Disabilities in Higher Education

Article excerpt

The wraparound planning process developed for a young adult with significant physical and developmental disabilities described in this article validates the importance of collaboration between service providers, academic advisors, faculty, and staff in institutions of higher education to support students with disabilities to successfully complete their postsecondary education goals. This case study provides guidance for staff, faculty, and adult disability service providers as they plan for how to best support students with disabilities who have multiple needs that must be addressed in a meaningful way for them to be successful in higher education.

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Assisting Students with Disabilities in Higher Education: Utilizing the Wraparound Planning Process

Students with disabilities represent an emerging population in institutions of higher education with some estimates reported to have tripled or quadrupled over the past two decades despite being traditionally underrepresented in postsecondary educational settings (Beilke & Yssel, 1999; Olney, Kennedy, Brockelman, & Newsom, 2004; & Palombi, 2000). This increase is in part due to the support of the Americans with Disability Act (1990) and the Rehabilitation Act (1973) leading to more adults with disabilities are seeking enrollment in two and four year universities. In the latest report from the National Center for Special Education Research, 45% of postsecondary students identified with a disability in their high school, reported continuing their education in a postsecondary setting (Newman, Wagner, Cameto, & Knokey, 2009). Ultimately, those who enter institutions of higher education are shaped by their interaction with faculty, staff, and other students, along with other collegiate experiences (i.e., living in campus dormitories, social events). Despite the increase in enrollment for students with disabilities, many of these students fail to successfully complete their education by earning a degree, and instead choose to leave college early (Quick, Lehmann, & Deniston, 2003).

Several explanations have been suggested as to why this particular nontraditional student population fails to succeed in higher education. One reason cited has been a lack of understanding by institutions of higher education of this special student population. Greenbaum, Graham, and Scales (1995) have noted, "the most common institutional barrier cited by students with disabilities was lack of understanding and cooperation from faculty and administrators ..." (p. 468). Students with disabilities have reiterated this sentiment and have reported being generally dissatisfied with the level of knowledge and understanding on the part of faculty and administrators regarding the issues and concerns of students with disabilities (Hill, 1996; Wilson, Getzel, & Brown, 2000; Rocco, 2002). Lehmann, Davies, & Laufin (2000) concurred, finding that students with disabilities felt that faculty and staff demonstrated a lack of understanding and acceptance of individuals with disabilities. This lack of acceptance and understanding felt by students has hindered the integration of these students into collegiate environments and has often reinforced stereotypical beliefs and discriminatory practices on the part of both professors and fellow students (Gmelch, 1998; Barnard, Lechtenberger, & Lan, 2008). In regard to faculty attitudes towards students with disabilities, Rao (2004) concluded that faculty and staff have demonstrated a, "need to be better informed about disabilities and students with disabilities," (p. 197). Unlike public schools, universities and colleges do not have a mandatory planning process or meeting such as the Individual Educational Plan (IEP) for students with disabilities in grades PreK-12, so university faculty rarely become familiar with the issues facing young adult students with disabilities.

Research tells us that despite legislative mandates requiring institutions of higher education to accommodate students with disabilities along with providing information about disability accommodations, college students with disabilities are not maximizing the services to which they are entitled, by: (1) not seeking services out; or (2) seeking these services out too late (Barnard-Brak, Sulak, Tate, & Lechtenberger, 2010). …

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