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Experiences of students with disabilities: factors that influence their withdrawal as baccalaureate degree seeking students




Thompson-Ebanks, Valerie, author
Jennings, Louise, advisor
Valentine, Deborah, advisor
Bundy-Fazioli, Kim, committee member
Kuk, Linda, committee member

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This study explored factors those students with invisible disabilities (SWIDs) associate with their voluntary withdrawal from a mid-western state land grant university (LGU) after completing 60 or more college credits. Social constuctivism, which assumes the existence of multiple realities shaped by individual experiences, is the philosophical framework that undergirds the methodology of the study, which is further framed from an ecological perspective. The ecological perspective provides a lens from which to understand the transactional context of the disability experience for SWIDs. In-depth, semi-structured interviews were used to gather data from the five participants, all former students with invisible disabilities. The data were coded and contrastive thematic analysis was conducted from an ecological perspective. The findings resulted in a dynamic model that captures the layered contexts of the ecological model and the dynamic interaction among the factors. For example, individual factors included: personal characteristics related to disability, feelings of adequacy, sense of belonging, and students' expectations and perceptions of the university and other environmental systems. Environmental factors included: family system expectations, university system expectations and requirements, and community systems expectations. The complex interconnectedness of a number of the factors is a central idea in many of the participant's experiences. The inter-related, dynamic nature of the factors is illustrated through descriptive case analyses of each participant's experiences. Implications of the research findings and recommendations for future studies are included.


2012 Summer.
Includes bibliographical references.

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ecological perspective
social constructivism
higher education
thematic analysis


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