The health self-efficacy of students with learning disabilities

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The US student population is growing rapidly in higher education. More and more people choose to go to college and get a degree before they enter the workforce. In October 2006, 65.8 percent of high school graduates were enrolled in colleges or universities, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since 2001, the college enrollment rate for recent high school graduates has been trending upward. Among these graduates entering college, a unique group of students may also need some extra help in order to succeed academically in their college careers. These are learning disabled students with health situations in addition to academics. When they cannot keep a good balance of health needs and academic demands, students with LDs are easily susceptible to health problems due to stress and/or even academic failure. However, most learning disabled students grow up with parents communicating with health care providers directly for them, according to Mr. Phillipe, director of Students Disability Services at Texas Tech University. Therefore, college is very likely their first time to have to face health problems alone. They may not be confident enough to communicate their symptoms, needs and feelings to their healthcare providers.

Therefore, they may not make full use of healthcare due to poor communication as well as the fear of communicating with healthcare providers. This problem may be mainly caused by a low sense of self-efficacy, which is defined as people’s beliefs about their capabilities to have influence over events that affect their lives (Bandura, 1994). Self-efficacy may have a big impact on how students seek help and handle challenges and problems when having health issues. So the purpose of this study was to explore students’, especially students with LDs, health self-efficacy, raising awareness and uncovering themes to be further explored in subsequent research. This study included two parts: first, I administered 289 surveys to test the reliability and utility of the adapted health self-efficacy scale, which was later used to measure the general health self-efficacy level of students with learning disabilities; second, I conducted nine individual interviews with students with learning disabilities. These individual interviews allowed me to capture the “essence” of health self-efficacy in students with LDs which would not have been obtained by distributing surveys alone. Overall, I explored the experiences that students had with their doctors with regard to their health treatments and health beliefs. More specifically, it was interesting to see how health self-efficacy was formed and developed over time and how it manifested itself in the patient-provider relationship. I used the constant comparative method to do line-by-line analysis of the transcripts produced from the individual interviews. The themes were emerged from the data. In the end, the study provides valuable insights and contributions to the current literature regarding health self-efficacy.

Health self-efficacy, Students with learning disabilities