Hadley, W. (2017). The four-year college experience of one student with multiple learning disabilities . College Student Journal , 51 (1), 19–28. http://www.projectinnovation.com/college-student-journal.html

Journal Article

Hadley, W. (2017). The four-year college experience of one student with multiple learning disabilities. College Student Journal, 51(1), 19–28. http://www.projectinnovation.com/college-student-journal.html


no doi available


Attention problem; Learning disabilities; Postsecondary; U.S. context; Writing





Perceptions and experiences of a postsecondary student with learning disabilities and other health conditions were investigated as part of a larger project with several participants; accommodations supporting the participant's academic written products were examined, and details were reported in the Findings section.


A sample of data was drawn from a larger longitudinal project (Hadley, 2009; Hadley et al., 2003) that included 10 postsecondary students with learning disabilities who attended and completed their undergraduate studies at a private selective four-year college in a Midwest state (U.S.). The current study consisted of one student with the pseudonym Mitchell; data from this postsecondary student were selected for additional exploration from the larger set of data on 10 participants due to the complicated nature of his disabilities as well as the relatively high level of success that he had in his postsecondary education. This postsecondary student with learning disabilities had a complicated set of challenges related to his concurrent identification with dyslexia, dysgraphia, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Mitchell completed an undergraduate degree and graduated with honors in Engineering and Political Science and a minor in Philosophy. Additional individual details were reported in the Findings section when they were associated with the narrowed focus of this summary on accommodations use.

Dependent Variable

The participant's written assignments with faculty feedback and grades and faculty comment sheets served as indicators of his academic skill development. Other data sources were transcripts or other records from focus group and individual interviews conducted throughout the participant's undergraduate education. Additional artifacts such as course syllabi, course schedules, faculty were incorporated for data triangulation purposes. The student's transition to college and persistence throughout his postsecondary experience was inquired about, as well as his experience in his first year of employment post-graduation. Challenges, perceptions, relationships with classmates, identity, and purpose were all explored as factors in his experience during this time period.


The following themes emerged as primary challenges and focuses during this student's transition to college: developing competence, managing emotions, developing autonomy, establishing his identity as a student, interpersonal relationship, developing purpose, and establishing integrity. Accessing support for his academic writing—due to the common academic expectation of producing term papers in several courses—was an ongoing priority throughout his undergraduate experience. The participant indicated that he gained useful information for reflection and progress from his accessing writing tutoring for writing, as well as note-takers during course lectures. He discussed his challenges with dysgraphia and his needs for making substantial efforts during the planning part of the writing process. He described having several experiences of the academic support services not matching the nature of his needs, yet indicating that these times were not atypical from his frame of reference as a postsecondary student with writing-related disabilities. Additional findings pertaining to the participant's transition to employment settings were reported.