A case study on professional identity: The formation of the competencies and skills of college student disability services providers



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Student disability professionals enter the field with a variety of backgrounds and experiences. While graduate preparation programs train new professionals with a baseline of general skills and competencies, a foundation of competencies and skills specific to disability services remains elusive. Therefore, immersion in the field and connections with other professionals are integral to the development of professional identity, and thus integration into the field. The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of current student disability professionals in order to identify the competencies and skills needed by individuals interested in entering the field of higher education disability services, and in what ways individual’s professional identity was influenced or grew from these competencies and skills. Qualitative research methods were used to explore the phenomenological experiences of seasoned professionals in student disability services in higher education; with the goal of identifying the skills and competencies necessary for future professionals in the field.

Findings demonstrate that professionals within student disability services enter the field with a diverse array of educational backgrounds and professional experiences. These professionals often land in the field through a series of encounters, professional experiences and personal connections, and are drawn to the field by a personal connection with someone who has a disability. While there is no profession-wide standard followed for training and development of professionals in the field, most are gaining knowledge and growth in the field through mentoring relationships, immersion in the field and the application of knowledge learned through reflection on their daily work experiences.



Professional identity, Competencies, Skills, Student disability services