Ten undergraduate college students participated in this study by answering researcher’s questions during one-on-one semi-structured interviews. The questions explored their experiences/challenges faced on their studies, how these challenges affect their studies, how do they handle it, which motivates them to continue studying despite of their condition and what kind of help or support does the student with special needs expect from SSU. Their answers to these questions provided the data for this study which sought to gain an understanding of their lived experiences as college students who had special needs.
Subjective experiences of challenges were one of the broad themes that emerged after analysing the data. Participants expressed this subjective experience of difficulty in different forms and under different contexts. Bullying, discrimination, financial and difficulties in physical activity were one of the most challengeable experiences that the participants expressed bitterly. According to a study of Branes, C. (1991) in Britain, he exposed that physical disabled students manage to enter higher education often face various discriminatory social and environmental practices during their study period. Moreover, the result of this study shows that the students with special needs continue to face negative attitudes and stereotypes in the education system and it might because of the lack of knowledge about and sensitivity to disability issues on the part of some educators, staff and students that make it difficult for students with special needs to access educational services equally and sometime became a reason for them to stop attending classes. Those experiences (Bullying, Discrimination, Financial Problem & Difficulties in Physical Activities) that are faced by the participants, serves as their major challenges in school. However, when the researcher asked the participants if how their condition affect their studies, most of them answered that their conditions did not affect them as individual and they are able to handle their condition. However, negative comments and how people see them somewhat gave a negative notion to what they really are. Therefore, after reading and analysing the entire transcript of interview and through observing the participants answers during the interview, the researcher think that some of the participants are in denial. Maybe because some of them do not accept that they have impairment or they are just ashamed to admit it. According to the theory of defence mechanism that is proposed by Anna Freud, Denial is a defence mechanism which involves a refusal to accept reality, thus blocking external events from awareness. If a situation is just too much to handle, the person may respond by refusing to perceive it or by denying that it exist. The researcher think as it is because of the conflicting answer that had given by the participants.
Achieving success in higher education institutions for students with special needs, not only require an ability to manage academic challenges but also challenges, faced due to their impairments. To manage the academic and social demands of higher education at the university level, students need to understand their disabilities and develop effective coping strategies to manage their condition. Lazarus and Folkman (1984), one of the pioneers of the coping theory, defined coping as: constantly changing cognitive and behavioural efforts to manage specific external and internal demands that are appraised as taxing or exceeding the resources of the person. In connection to the above statement, the second broad theme that emerged in the result was focused in coping strategies. Though the participants experienced different challenges and difficulties in school, they shared that they still able to manage it by putting in mind that even if they are like that, they can still do thing that non-disabled person can. In addition, some of them shared that they choose to ignore the negative comment of some people about them as their way of managing their situation.
Moreover, the third theme discusses on the motivation of the students with special needs to pursue higher education. During the interview, students were asked questions regarding their motivation and interest to pursue higher education at the university level despite of being students with special needs. The researchers found that out of the many reasons reported by the respondents, there were significant commonalities that emerged. Many of the students in the current study had aspirations to finish their degree because they saw it as economic necessity to have better living conditions or a place to prove their self-worth. Somehow, the result of this study shows that participants of the study was being motivated by their parents hard work that made them determined to pursue higher education despite of their condition. According to Lei (2010), motivation varies from different degrees of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation. Extrinsic motivational factors include compliance (to meet other people expectation, to do what one is told); recognition (to be publicly acknowledged because the want to prove to others that they can); Present study reveals that SWSN student external motivation is to finish their studies and have a job for brighter future for them and for their families.
Finally the last theme that emerged in the result discusses on the services and support that the students with special need expect to have in the university, not only for the benefit of them but also for the benefit of other person with special needs that soon to enter the university. Participants of the study expressed their discontentment and disappointment in the services, supports available to them. The result of the analysis shows that students with special needs had more problems on physical activities (exhaustion) like having to fall in line. They suggested that priority lanes must be strictly implemented not only in the chosen places/circumstances/activities in the school.
This study investigated the lived experiences of college students with special needs. The researchers used phenomenological research method to uncover the lived experience of the ten students with special needs in Samar State University. The analysis of the data obtained yielded four major themes with their own sub-themes that shed light to experiences of students with special needs.
The data revealed that students’ participants experienced four major challenges including bullying, discrimination, financial problem and difficulties in physical activities. Those barriers impede students’ participation in their classes and overall engagement with their education. It’s been suggested that the educational difficulties experienced by the students with special needs are due lack of knowledge about and sensitivity to disability issues on the part of some educators, staff and students that make it difficult for students with special needs to access educational services equally and sometime became a reason for them to stop attending classes. But because of their desire to achieve their goal and dreams to finish their studies, they try to break their difficulties in education and be tried to be motivated for the sake of their family members and of course for their self. The lived experiences of college students with special needs can provide encourage and inspired other person with special needs to pursue their education. It will also provide a stronger foundation for the university to build inclusive communities upon.
- The University must design a program that can cater to the needs of student with special needs like making sure that all facilities are accessible to student with physical disability.
- Consideration for lateness or absenteeism due to difficulties in the location of classroom schedule.
- Improving institutional service and social supports to these students.
- Raising staff’s awareness about the unique educational and psychosocial needs of this group.
- Professional counsellors, educational psychologist and trained special education teachers should be employed because a trained School counsellor can understand student’s concerns and provide necessary assistance
- Promote disability awareness throughout the campus. Awareness involves people at the university acquiring knowledge about the characteristics, challenges, strategies, and motivators that each type of disability involves.
- Further studies and in-depth exploration of the understanding the lived experiences of the students with special needs is recommended.