Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Education


Leadership PhD

First Advisor

Shirley A. Freed

Second Advisor

Bruce A. Closser

Third Advisor

Elvin Gabriel


Problem. Learning disabled (LD) college students are attempting college in unprecedented numbers. This study explores the experiences of four graduating college students to determine how they managed their disability in the educational environment that has provided them with much difficulty for many years.

Method. A qualitative case study design with purposive sampling was used for this study. Over 9 months, four female college students, identified as learning disabled, were interviewed. In addition, conversations were held with their parents and teachers whom the four students identified as being “helpful.” Each student’s experience in college is described and analyzed. Important themes, along with similarities and differences in the students’ experiences, are examined.

Results. At least one benefactor or mentor seemed to be the key to each student’s college success. This benefactor is more likely to be a family member, but could also include a friend or counselor. Other results indicate it,at the better the student’s understanding regarding her learning disability, the more willing she was to aggressively and successfully problem solve. All four students found college stressful and depended on friends and friendships to provide relief. Teachers had enormous power to adapt requirements to fit the students’ abilities, thus relieving stress and making college doable. The teacher’s perceived attitude toward the student appeared to be significant in the student’s success. In addition, intentional university support early in the student’s college experience appears to be critical.

Conclusions. While graduating from college is important to all four students, it is the development of self-understanding and problem-solving skills, while learning to take control of their lives, that is critical for lifetime success. To encourage LD student success, universities must provide both support for the students they accept and education for the faculty who teach them.

Subject Area

Learning disabled--Education (Higher), Learning disabled youth.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."