.. nts is considered to have some type of learning disabilities. Due to the passage of the Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 schools are now becoming involved in assisting disadvantaged students. Congress passed the 1973 Vocational Rehabilitation Act, which focused on providing equal education for any and all students with learning disabilities.
This law mandates that students with learning disabilities receive supplemental services while attending educational settings (Barga, 1996). Today, the number of students in higher educational settings who have experienced some type of learning disability has increased from .3 percent in 1983 to 1.2 percent in 1987 (Heath, 1992). This same survey found that students with learning disabilities in postsecondary institutions have grown to over 20,000. From this we can clearly see that students with learning disabilities are the largest group of students who receive services that assist them with the learning process, especially at the college level (Jarrow, 1987 as cited by Barga, 1996). Clearly, there has been a great increase of students who are showing learning disabilities in the higher educational arenas.
Students with learning disabilities have difficulty in reading, writing, and spelling and with mathematical concepts. Often time`s students are easily distracted, unfocused, and have a hard time developing good time management skills. In addition, many students who struggle with learning disabilities have great difficulty in understanding and following directions and struggle with different aspects of their social situations that they encounter. One of the most significant facts about these students is their alarming rate of high school dropout. According to Lichtenstein, 40 percent of students with learning disabilities drop out of high school, as opposed to the 25 percent without learning disabilities (Lichtenstein, 1992).
The purpose of this study was to find out the factors that has enhanced the success of students with learning disabilities in school settings and to explore how these students managed their disabilities from kindergarten through college. This study was designed due to the alarming number of students with learning disabilities who dropped out of school. There were two objectives for this study. The first objective was to find out how students with learning disabilities managed their disabilities while in school; and the second objective was to find the methods of success. This study was conducted at an average sized, 4-year state university with an enrollment of 9,000 students.
The students for the study were identified with the help of the director of learning disabilities clinic. The students were first contacted through a letter that was written and generated by the director of the clinic and the researcher. From the letter, four traditional and five nontraditional students with learning disabilities were selected for this study. Selection was based on verbal response, willingness to participate in this study, and availability of time. The age of the students ranged from 18-45 years, with the median age being 27.5.
The range of disabilities varied widely from each person. Data for this study was collected over a six month period of time and the collection of the data consisted of conducting semistructured, open-ended, taped interviews; completing classroom observations; reviewing academic files; and collecting other documents related to the study`s participants. The focus of the interviewers was on exploring the student`s history and educational experiences from kindergarten through their current schooling status. The results indicated that the students experienced various forms of labeling, stigmatization, and gatekeeping that created many of the barriers that they have faced in their education. To gain a better understanding of these results I will define labeling, stigmatization and gatekeeping.
Labeling is defined as anything functioning as a means of identification or as a descriptive term, formal or informal (Barga, 1996). Basically, this means that when someone comes into another person`s presence, we label and categorize the individual based on his or her appearance. From this study, students described labeling as a very positive experience when it made sense out of their academic struggles and involved getting help. On the other hand, labeling was negative for students when it created conditions of being set apart from their peers and receiving differential treatment from other people. Stigmatization is defined as receiving differential treatment based on others` perceptions (Barga, 1996).
In this study, stigmatization took on several different forms, depending on the context. At times stigmatization was evident through name calling, accusations, and low academic expectations by peers and teachers. During the college level, stigmatization was self-imposed or forced on the students. Gatekeeping is defined as the barrier process that serves to maintain the status quo of an organization (Barga, 1996). This was accomplished by either denying students with learning disabilities access to a college goal or permitting access but on conditional terms. The coping techniques that were found due to this study were of great importance. Coping techniques are behaviors or initiatives the student takes to assist in managing his or her disability (Barga, 1996).
The first coping technique was benefactors. The benefactors functions included providing emotional support and understanding, acting as a sounding board for personal problems, helping with homework, and being an advocate on behalf of the student. The second technique was self-improvement techniques, which included taking longer breaks, seeking and initiating help at the university level, using positive affirmations for motivation, and seeking situations that produced personal growth. The final coping technique was study skills and management strategies. Use of technology, relaxation techniques before tests, taping classes, maintaining a personal day timer, and the amount of time devoted to study. From this study we can clearly see that students experienced labeling, stigmatization and gatekeeping and the ways that they learned to cope with there disability was through relying on benefactors, implementing self-improvement techniques, and utilizing particular strategies and management skills to assist students with academics.
The results from this study have tremendous implications for schools and school administration. The purpose of this study was fulfilled and it is of great importance for the future of students with learning disabilities. In conclusion, the findings of research have shown similarities and differences in accommodating persons with learning disabilities. Barga (1996) finding supports students with learning disabilities has increased at an alarming rate and learning disabled students continue to face challenges in the school environment. Greenbaum et al.
(1996) found after post-secondary education persons with learning disabilities adjusted well to the complexities of adulthood even though those individuals rarely disclosed their learning disability to their employer fearing being discriminated against. How can we as a society empower persons with disadvantages to become more aware of their rights as defined by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990? We should make every effort to inform students about services offered in schools as well as their rights to those services. Employers need to become more knowledgeable of their responsibilities to employees faced with learning disabilities. Both schools and employers need to become more aware of discrimination, labeling, stigmatizations, and gatekeeping that persons are faced with during their life as disabled. Due to these negative outcomes, persons must avoid disclosing their disability to make it through a school or work situation.
However, disclosing is starting to become easier as the stigma lessons, but unfortunately, discrimination is not yet cleansed from our country. Some may wish not to disclose their learning disability, but by using positive terms to explain what one needs can be another option. Example: I need Mary to proof my work before you see it. That way we can both pay more attention to the content and not worry about the way it is typed. Have you seen the XYZ software? It gets the computer to talk so that you can hear what is on the screen.
Since my job requires so much detailed reading, it would be wonderful if I could hear it. Then there would be fewer errors. Regardless of the strategy, one may take. An accommodation request must be well thought out, and the easier it is for your employer, the more likely your success. As stated in the passage earlier, participants of the Greenbaum et al. study indicated difficulties in multiple areas one being organization. A strategy for helping organizational skills may include using a daily calendar, keeping your work area clean of clutter, color code items, keep items on shelves and bulletin boards.
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