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Disabilities in Higher Education

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Students who do well in their primary and secondary education are expected to perform equivalently better in their college education. However this is not the case with students with special needs. The two articles, provides an elaborate analysis of how students with special needs do better in college by accessing the academic support centers as much as possible.  The two studies try address how students with special needs struggle academically at the college level because they don’t have the same level of academic support as they did at the high school level. It is worth noting in many primary and secondary schools students with special needs are given tailor-made supports to ensure that they are able to perform well like their colleagues with no special needs.   However, at the college level, students with special needs perform poorly academically and socially they often don’t utilize academic support centers (Denhart, 2008).  Students with special needs often have a false sense of reality.  When students come from a high school environment where they are accustomed to comprehensive instruction in special education or who have received individualized accommodations usually struggle in less structured settings (Troiano, Liefeld, & Trachtenberg, 2010, p. 36).

The research in the two articles utilizes data to show how students who utilize the academic support centers on a regular basis show higher success academically at the college level.  According to Denhart (2008), the study focused on making a point to get more direct feedback from students with special education about what they need to be successful academically and socially at the college level. Troiano, Liefeld, & Trachtenberg (2010), explains further that the study focuses on preparing students for postsecondary education.  Students that enter into the college setting with strong skills in advocating for themselves, adequate testing accommodations, priority registration and counseling are better prepared for the college setting than those who enter a new learning environment without any orientation (Troiano, Liefeld, & Trachtenberg, 2010, p. 36).

The process of research

According to Troiano, Liefeld, & Trachtenberg, 2010, p. 262, students who participated during the study were a northeastern college.  The study group consisted of 174 males and 87 females. There was no specific ethnic group that was singled out and therefore the study was from an accurate sample and was valid for decision making. The graduation data were also taken from four years with a graduation rate of 50% and four year programs with a graduation rate of 70%.  In this study 30% of the students were labeled learning disabled.  All of the students in the study reported to participate in the college Learning Resource Center with all of the students’ academic accommodations due to their learning disabilities.  The study evaluated the students’ attendance over a five year time frame in a college learning center.  The aim of the study was to  compare determine whether students with learning disabilities attending Learning Resource Center had better academic outcome than students not accessing services at the Resource Center.  The data analyzed showed that students' success by grade point average and graduation rate.  Students that accessed the Learning Center often had a higher graduation rate along with a high grade point average (Troiano, Liefeld, & Trachtenberg, 2010).

However it is worth noting that there were several limitations during the study hindered the full realization of the study. The limitations in the study ranged from the use of established data from other study groups to reluctance from some of the participants to give responses during the study. There was no established data on student and staff relationships; definition of why attending Learning Center was beneficial and how other forms of support for the student would produce an overall “better understanding of the overall college experience” (Troiano, Liefeld, & Trachtenberg, 2010, p. 42). However, a pilot study was previously to ensure that the studies would be valid.

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According to Denhart (2008), the researcher picked participants from two colleges, one public community college (CC) and the other private college (PC) both located in the Pacific Northwest region. The researcher first of all attained a written approval from participants’ school authorities before beginning. The criteria for participants had to be English speakers with a learning disabled diagnosis.  The PC participants totaled 18 of which 9 were available. The CC participants included only 1 student.  The other two students interested in the study did not meet required criteria (Denhart, 2008).  In this study the participants were first given an in-depth interview to build a good rapport. According to the article, the researcher struggled with dyslexia growing up. 

The researcher also addressed his struggles throughout the public school system and how hard it was to obtain academic success records.  In this article the researcher’s goal was to give a voice to students with learning disabilities. He accomplished this by asking the participants a series of questions about their experiences and struggles with learning disabilities affected them academically and socially at the college level. The most alarming finding from the study was that student’s reluctances to seek out accommodations (Denhart, 2008).   The findings from this study were authentic and reflected the actual challenges facing students with special needs in colleges. 

From both articles, the studies show that indeed students with special needs suffer in both public and private colleges due to their failure to access the available resource centers. These students expect to be provided with all the necessary requirements to help them perform like the able students. However, they forget that it is the initiative of disabled students to access the resource centers within the college so that they can get special attention (Denhart, 2008).   It is also important to have more studies carried to determine other factors that affect the performance of disabled students in colleges such as the relation with the teaching and non teaching staff.

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