Self-Advocacy Among College Students with Learning Disabilities and/or Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Institution Granting Degree

University of Kentucky

Cedarville University School or Department


First Advisor

Dr. Deborah Slaton


The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of a seven-week self-advocacy intervention on students’ with LD and/or ADHD abilities to self-advocate with college professors and understand their disability.

Prior research has indicated that students with LD and/or ADHD must, in order to accomplish their postsecondary educational goals, be skilled at and responsible for accessing and utilizing any accommodations they need to complete their course of study. Despite the amendments to 2004 IDEA specific to transition planning, compared with same age peers, many students with LD and ADHD demonstrate less self-awareness entering college in addition to limited skills in the areas of self-determination and self-advocacy.

This research study utilized an exploratory multiple case studies approach to investigate the effect of a self-advocacy instructional intervention on six college-aged students’ with LD and/or ADHD abilities to advocate with their college professors and understand their disability. This study’s sample was drawn from both the LD and ADHD student populations who were enrolled in an Academic Support Program (ASP) at the university level.

This study extends Merchant’s (1998) work in the following ways: first, by qualitatively exploring student perceptions of self-advocacy and accommodation seeking through pre/post-intervention interviews, secondly by the inclusion of participants with ADHD, and thirdly through the addition of another quantitative measure (Self-Advocacy Questionnaire (SAQ). Students took part in a seven-week instructional self-advocacy intervention. The director of the ASP conducted classes that met weekly for seven consecutive weeks. Students were presented the following topics: goal setting, differences between high school and college, part I and II, learning styles and preferences, knowledge of disability: strengths and challenges, accommodations, self-advocacy and self-determination and putting it all together. Semi-structured pre/post interviews, pretest/posttest questionnaires on the components of self-advocacy, written knowledge pretest/posttests, and pretest/posttest role-play sessions requesting accommodations from a professor were utilized as measures for the study.

Findings revealed that the early disability experiences in K-12 shaped the participants’ capacities to learn and demonstrate self-advocacy skills. Four main themes emerged from the stories and lived experiences of six college students with LD and/or ADHD: (a) interactions between family support and educational experiences; (b) self-advocacy knowledge; (c) self-advocacy experiences; and (d) perceived benefits of the intervention. Students found the intervention curriculum helpful in supporting future self-advocacy behavior. Small improvements were seen in the quantitative measures utilized (role-play scores, knowledge test results, SAQ). Limitations and implications for future research are discussed.