Carolyn McAllister, PhD, MSW

Variables affecting postsecondary outcomes for students with learning disabilities

According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 8% of children ages 3-17 are diagnosed with a learning disability (LD). Individuals with LD, on average, will experience less favorable educational and vocational outcomes than individuals without an identified LD. For example, many studies have shown that only 14-16% of students with a LD will complete a college degree, compared to 28% of individuals not identified with a LD.

In this research, I examined some of the factors that might predict the level of education of a student with a learning disability. What I found is that the highest degree achieved by the biological father of the child is the strongest predictor of entry into higher education, but that other factors that I hypothesized to be significant (Grade Point Average, student’s perception of the high school environment, and mental health indices) were not significant.

I hope that this work reminds social workers working with students with learning disabilities that many of the factors that may predict future academic success in other student groups may affect this student population in a different way. Social workers in a wide variety of settings should also be ready to support and empower individuals with LD, as they may not receive supports available for individuals with other identified disabilities as they leave high school.