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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Understanding and Self-Advocacy: Students with Learning Disabilities, Unrecognized Talent

  • Author(s): Mancini, Tabitha A;
  • et al.

This is the first phase of a two-phase project that looks at the relationship between diagnostic testing and self-advocacy for students with learning disabilities (LD) within post-secondary education. In this first phase, data was obtained using in-depth, semi-structured interviews with professionals within the field of LD: three learning specialists, two administration staff, and five LD testing administrators. All data was thematically coded. Two four-year public universities in Northern California (one, a prominent research institution) participated. Findings show that university administrators often see students with disabilities as having less “economic value” than students without disabilities. In an effort to reduce costs, bureaucratic barriers are created through policies and burdensome documentation processes, which make it more difficult for students to gain or utilize support services. The data shows that few students understand their LDs, the diagnostic tests used, and their rights as a person legally defined as having a disability. The findings indicate that students’ primary focus is not on fully understanding their diagnosis and its implications. Rather, the initial data suggests that current policies require students to concentrate their energies on the documentation requirements to gain needed resources, and consequently, lower the possibility for self-advocacy.

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