Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

Analytical Decision-Making Model for Addressing the Needs of Allied Health Students with Disabilities

Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

Analytical Decision-Making Model for Addressing the Needs of Allied Health Students with Disabilities

Article excerpt

The purposes of this article are to (1) review the literature on students with disabilities (SWD) in higher education with a particular focus on allied health and related professions, and (2) propose an analytical decision-making model for assessing students' needs and providing reasonable accommodations in allied health education. Increasing numbers of SWD are entering higher education, but the rate of success for these students is lower than the rate for their nondisabled peers. A multitude of factors impact SWD, including the direct effects of the disabilities on learning and performing essential functions, academic and clinical faculty knowledge of the impact of disability in educational settings and their experience implementing accommodations, and the impact of legislation and institutional policies on service delivery. While all of these are important, the most critical issues appear to be academic and clinical faculty knowledge about how to address disability-related challenges in the educational environment and the support of SWD by those faculty. The proposed analytical decision-making model will assist allied health faculty in assessing students' needs and providing reasonable accommodations. This, in turn, will enable allied health faculty to support SWD to meet essential components while upholding academic integrity and meeting the requirements of the law. J Allied Health 2009; 38:54-62.

AN INCREASING NUMBER of students with disabilities (SWD) are participating in postsecondary education. In 1978, only 3% of college students reported a disability, with that number rising to 10% in 1998.1,2 More recent data from 2003-2004 by the National Center for Educational Statistics show that 11.3% of all students who pursue postsecondary education have a disability.3 That number is expected to rise by 14% in the coming years.3 There is also evidence of increasing numbers of SWD in allied health education, at least in physical therapy. The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy saw an increase from 1% to 4% of new graduates requesting disability-related accommodations on the licensure examination from 2000 to 2005.4

Unfortunately, college SWD fail or drop out at rates greater than that of their nondisabled peers.1,5,6 There is variation in these data, however, because attendance and graduation rates vary by programmatic level (i.e., graduate school, 4-yr undergraduate programs, 2-yr programs, and vocational programs), and graduation rates are higher at state as opposed to private institutions.' There is evidence, however, that those who successfully graduate have similar employment profiles as nondisabled graduates.7 At the postsecondary level, across all areas of study, SWD face additional obstacles and barriers compared with their nondisabled peers. One of the most significant factors associated with success for SWD is the pedagogical knowledge and skill that enable faculty to support these students.1,2,8-11

Compared with the significant body of literature on all postsecondary students with disabilities, the literature focusing on education for SWD in the health professions is unfortunately extremely limited. A growing number of articles from nursing and medical literature, however, provide a rich background to inform developing allied health education. SWD can be presumed to exist in allied health fields12; however, published research could only be found for SWD in physical therapy,13-16 occupational therapy,8 and social work.17-19 For example, in 2001, the majority of physical therapy schools surveyed had one or more students with physical, sensory, or learning impairments." GlenMaye and Bolin17 reported that 91.5% of social work programs surveyed in 2005 had students with psychiatric disorders and 88% of the schools reported providing accommodations for them. Data suggest that the most common disabilities seen across all college students are psychiatric disorders, learning disabilities (LDs), and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). …

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