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Understanding university students' construction of their hidden disability identity Public Deposited

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https://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/gb19f804h

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  • This study co-investigated with students with hidden disabilities the phenomenon of disability identity. This qualitative study utilized phenomenology and strategies proposed by Paulo Freire in an effort to understand identity development specific to individuals with hidden disabilities. There were seven students from a medium-sized, public university who participated in the study. The participants shared their experiences with having a hidden disability in three one-hour individual conversations and three two-hour group conversations. The conversations were tape recorded and transcribed. The concepts and themes that appeared to emerge from the initial conversation guided subsequent conversations. Findings revealed that the use of traditional identity development literature was not useful to understanding students with hidden disabilities. Relying on social constructivist concepts findings revealed the following themes: 1) Identity Confusion they tended to be neither able-bodied nor disabled; 2) Identity Refinement they depended on perceptions of the other to varying degrees; and 3) Identity Reconciliation they were using accommodations to varying degrees. A potential area for action and further study revolves around students with hidden disabilities, disability services practitioners, faculty and college student services administrators understanding the issues of normalcy and American individualism and their influence on both individuals with and without disabilities. Furthermore, fostering the development of a support system where students with hidden disabilities can interact with each other and discuss disability-related issues may help them cope with a fundamentally hostile collegiate environment. The institution may need to educate students, staff and faculty about the social construction of disability and the need to create a learning environment inclusive of diverse learners.
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