Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Special Education and Rehabilitation

Committee Chair(s)

Jared Schultz


Jared Schultz


Robert Morgan


Charles Salzberg


Timothy Riesen


Steven Camicia


Students with psychiatric disabilities are the largest subgroup of students with disabilities enrolled in postsecondary education. However, their high enrollment rate does not equate to a high retention rate. Approximately 86 percent of students with psychiatric disabilities withdraw prior to degree completion. As a result, calls for improved disability services in postsecondary education have been plentiful. In an effort to take a step toward answering these calls, the current study began the exploratory process of identifying knowledge, skills, and attitudes that are important for disability service professionals to possess in order to provide beneficial services to students with psychiatric disabilities in postsecondary education.

The current study began with the developing of a survey instrument using (a) a three-round Delphi survey with expert panels consisting of disability service professionals and students with psychiatric disabilities and (b) a pilot group of disability service professionals. The final instrument with 54 knowledge, skills, and attitudes was rated by a sample of 402 disability service professionals who were members of the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD). A principal components analysis was used to analyze the data. Five factors emerged: (a) Ethical and Legal Considerations, (b) Accommodations and Supports, (c) Disability Aspects, (d) Community Resources, and (e) Campus Considerations. A post-hoc analysis with a MANOVA and descriptive statistics was also conducted. Each factor was explored within the context of the literature. Further, differences between professional and student perceptions were highlighted. Lastly, implications, assumptions, limitations, and recommendations for future research were discussed.