A descriptive study of students with disabilities at Montana State University Billings
Dell, Thomas Francis
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The purpose of this study was to describe and analyze how the characteristics of age, major and type of disabilities for students who received services through Disability Support Services at Montana State University-Billings have changed from 1999 to 2011. Furthermore, this analysis contrasted local trends for types of disabilities with national trends. Additionally, there was an analysis of how local and national trends may have been impacted by five recent watershed events. The five events include the No Child Left Behind Act; the Higher Education Opportunity Act; the Americans with Disabilities Amendment Act; the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008 (Post-9/11 GI Bill) and Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The results of this study revealed that non-traditional age students are the majority of students with disabilities at MSU- Billings. Additionally, they are enrolled in proportionally larger numbers than their nondisabled peer age group, which is consistent with national data. Based on results there was also a total increase in numbers in almost all of the types of disability categories including a clear trend in the increase in students diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. These increases are consistent with national trends. Additionally, a comparison of watershed events with local and national enrollment trends of certain types of disabilities reveal that legislation in 2008 broadened the definition of intellectual and cognitive disabilities for students in higher education. Also, funding for veterans was increased with the New GI Bill. This has resulted in increases in enrollments of diverse groups of students including those with intellectual and/or cognitive impairments, TBI, and psychological impairments. Locally, the shift of students with disabilities at MSU Billings from orthopedic and mobility impairments to mental, emotional or psychological conditions has also been demonstrated by a large increase in number of students with ADHD, TBI, Asperger's Disorder and psychological impairment since 2008. The results support an annual review of these groups by policymakers in high education to provide accommodation and mental health support services to those with specific types of disabilities such as veterans with TBI or students with psychological disabilities.