Supporting the Academic Needs of Students in Higher Education: A Collaboration between Occupational Therapy and Disability Services


  • Danila Cepa Elmhurst College
  • Allison Brown Elmhurst College
  • Marissa Gains Elmhurst College
  • Timothy McMullen Elmhurst College
  • Danielle O'Donnell Elmhurst College
  • Jessica Simkins Elmhurst College
  • Melinda Topel Student
  • Bhumi Bhatt Elmhurst College



academic needs, higher education, occupational therapy, disability services


Time is often reported by students in postsecondary education as a barrier to academic success. For individuals with challenges to learning, time can place an even greater demand on students’ performance. The contribution of the occupational therapist as are source to a postsecondary academic support team can facilitate the development of productive habits and daily routines necessary for a successful college experience for students seeking accommodations through Access and Disability Services.


Contribute information supporting factors that influence the academic success of students seeking accommodations in postsecondary education to the body of knowledge in occupational therapy and higher education. Seek a better understanding based on student experience how an individual’s habits and daily routines, associated with time spent in activities related to their role as a college student within a typical day, supports a balance of activities necessary to foster the success of students with disabilities in postsecondary education

Aim of the Study:

The purpose of this study is to explore how temporal factors influence student performance from the perspective of undergraduate students experiencing challenges to learning.


Research Design: Interpretive phenomenological qualitative study

Convenient Sample of Participants: Students ages 18-28 enrolled in postsecondary education at Elmhurst College who receive services through Access and Disability Services. Students must have a high school diploma or GED and qualify under Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, ADA Amendments Act of 2008, or the Bridge program.


Results will be determined through semi-structured interviews with students receiving Access & Disability services at Elmhurst College, which will then be transcribed by the researchers. The information gathered in the interviews will be transcribed and then analyzed to form the results for this study.


Through an extensive literature review it was found that student’s needs in a post secondary setting are not always met even when services are available and utilized. This interpretive phenomenological qualitative study was carried out to obtain a better understanding of student needs in relation to overall academic performance. After collecting and analyzing results from this study the researchers hope to demonstrate evidence to support the use of occupational therapy in community-based academic settings while adding to the body of knowledge for the profession.

Implications for Practice

A main focus of the AOTA Vision 2025 is to expand occupational therapy services on an individual, population, and community level in order to make a bigger impact with our unique expertise. The researchers hope the results of this study can provide support for occupational therapy services in a postsecondary community setting where it is not currently being utilized. Furthermore, that this data will show the benefit of occupational therapy services for the individual students, the coordinators, and the organization as a whole. This research was client-centered by getting a better understanding of the individual student’s lives and areas of need to enable better academic engagement.


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Author Biographies

Danila Cepa, Elmhurst College


Allison Brown, Elmhurst College


Marissa Gains, Elmhurst College


Timothy McMullen, Elmhurst College


Danielle O'Donnell, Elmhurst College


Jessica Simkins, Elmhurst College


Melinda Topel, Student


Bhumi Bhatt, Elmhurst College




How to Cite

Cepa, D., Brown, A., Gains, M., McMullen, T., O’Donnell, D., Simkins, J., Topel, M., & Bhatt, B. (2018). Supporting the Academic Needs of Students in Higher Education: A Collaboration between Occupational Therapy and Disability Services. Journal of Student Research.