Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



College of Education and Human Services


Counseling, Rehabilitation Counseling & Counseling Psychology

Committee Chair

Neal Shambaugh


This inquiry investigated supports and barriers experienced by students with learning disabilities as they transitioned to, and persisted in, a four-year liberal arts college setting. The goal of the inquiry was twofold: first, to understand from the perspective of the students themselves, the experience of being in and working through the postsecondary environment, especially what facilitates and what obstructs continued participation; and second, to extrapolate from these data, recommendations to inform postsecondary programming for students with learning disabilities.;Over a 3 year period, two cohorts of students with learning disabilities, transition and persistence phase students, volunteered to participate in semi-structured face-to-face individual interviews for this collective case study. Strategies from the qualitative methodologies of phenomenology and grounded theory were used to analyze, interpret, and synthesize the data from 33 verbatim transcripts.;Two groupings emerged as a result of the analysis of the transition cohort. Divergent patterns of performance outcomes, behavior, and outlook were revealed even though the average of the number of disabling conditions and the average of the full-scale intelligence quotients were similar for both the ineffective and the effective transition groupings. The students in the ineffective performance grouping revealed the following nonadaptive patterns during the transition to college: inadequate self-understanding and self-management, complicated relationships with authority structures, a reluctance to accept their disabling condition, unconstructive patterns of social functioning, problems adapting to the academic environment, and an inability to manage developing life circumstances. The students in the effective performance grouping revealed the following adaptive patterns during the transition to college: they recognized, appreciated, and followed through on preparative experiences, they integrated socially into the campus community, they were proactive in managing their learning disability, they sought constructive help, they recognized and managed problematic issues, they took a strategy based approach to the transition, and they acknowledged the primacy of learning and graduating. In addition, the students from the persistence cohort described internal and external factors they perceived to facilitate and/or bar postsecondary functioning and uncovered a prototype of internal facilitation for successful postsecondary performance. The knowledge of personal goals and strivings, limitations, strengths, and a mindset supported by self-awareness formed the stage for individual and interactive practice to promote academic, social, and emotional well-being.;These findings are significant because the results imply that identifiable patterns of outlook and behavior make a marked difference in the postsecondary persistence of students with learning disabilities. Instructing students on how they can develop internal frameworks to promote their success is recommended. The findings of this study may be utilized to respond to the problem of lower than normal postsecondary persistence outcomes for this emergent postsecondary population.