Research Article  |   March 2017
Navigating the Hidden Curriculum of Higher Education for Postsecondary Students With Intellectual Disabilities
Author Affiliations
  • Lucretia A. Berg, EdD, OTR/L, is Occupational Therapist, II, Children’s Therapy Unit, MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital, Puyallup, WA; lucretiaberg@me.com
  • Tracy Jirikowic, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, is Associate Professor, Department of Rehabilitative Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle
  • Katie Haerling, PhD, RN, is Associate Professor, Nursing and Healthcare Leadership, University of Washington, Tacoma
  • Ginger MacDonald, PhD, is Professor and Director of Educational Leadership, University of Washington, Tacoma
Article Information
Education of OTs and OTAs / Intellectual Disabilities / Rehabilitation, Participation, and Disability / School-Based Practice / Centennial Topics
Research Article   |   March 2017
Navigating the Hidden Curriculum of Higher Education for Postsecondary Students With Intellectual Disabilities
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, March 2017, Vol. 71, 7103100020p1-7103100020p9. doi:10.5014/ajot.2017.024703
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, March 2017, Vol. 71, 7103100020p1-7103100020p9. doi:10.5014/ajot.2017.024703
Abstract

Students with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (IDD) increasingly pursue postsecondary education (PSE). Navigating the hidden curriculum—including meeting prerequisites for PSE and employment, using support systems and community transportation, and carrying out adulthood expectations—is an area of challenge. This exploratory case study examined experiences of students with IDD attending a PSE program and stakeholder perspectives. Thirty-two participants (10 students with IDD, 5 parents or guardians, 4 college administrators, 8 college instructors, 4 occupational therapists, and a transition specialist) were interviewed. Conventional content analysis revealed navigating the hidden curriculum as a key theme and three subthemes: (1) adult-based system navigation, (2) persisting challenges with adaptive behaviors, and (3) disability awareness and disclosure. Limited awareness of disability and supports and services needed for a successful PSE outcome were contributing factors. Occupational therapists have the skills to support students with IDD in skill acquisition to successfully transition to and navigate PSE and the hidden curriculum.