The purpose of this study was to use qualitative measures to investigate the childhood family factors that influenced the enrollment of college students with learning disabilities. Six participants were interviewed, all of whom were registered through the University Accessibility Center at a four-year university and were served at some point during their school years for a learning disability. Interviews were held in a confidential location and lasted approximately thirty minutes. The interview protocol was constructed in a way that allowed participants to reflect on their experiences and tell their story in their own manner. Planned prompts were included to solicit more information as needed. The interviews were digitally recorded using an Ipod recorder and transcribed using NVivo 8 software. Investigators used thematic analysis to identify themes or patterns in the data, analyzed the themes, and reported the results based on their interpretation of the themes. In this approach, the data drove the interpretation rather than attempting to fit the data into the investigators' existing beliefs or interests. Four major themes emerged from the data analysis. Two themes centered on family factors that influenced college enrollment. These themes included parent support during school years and family involvement with college enrollment. Participants described the supportive relationship they had with their parents and the underlying feelings of support that always existed in their homes. They also reported their family's tradition of college attendance and parent expectations to attend college as significant factors in their own college enrollment. The other two themes relate to participants' feelings and beliefs about their disabilities. These themes include the impact of the disability on the individuals' sense of self-worth and personal strengths that contributed to success. Participants reported experiencing a lack of understanding about their disability. They recalled comparing themselves to their peers and not knowing how to explain their learning challenges to others. Despite their frustrations, participants made personal contributions to their own success. These contributions included the use of coping strategies and a determination to succeed. The individuals' use of coping strategies created an opportunity to experience success in the school setting, thereby increasing their motivation to continue their education after high school.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Counseling Psychology and Special Education



Date Submitted


Document Type





learning disability, parent, support