Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Arts




Johnson, A.M.

2nd Supervisor

Rodger, S.R.



Purpose. The present study aimed to gain insight into the lived experiences of post-secondary students with concussion(s) who are receiving academic accommodations. This was explored in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, where the shift to online learning became ubiquitous. The purpose was to determine whether university students with concussion face similar challenges compared to (1) younger populations of students with concussion (i.e., elementary and high school aged students) and (2) individuals with more severe Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs). Method. Nine university students who were registered with academic accommodations at a Canadian university engaged in semi-structured interviews. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis was used to inductively analyze the interview data. Results. Student experiences with their academic accommodations were mixed; the transition to online learning resulted in both new barriers (i.e., test-taking difficulties with Proctortrack) and the amplification of pre-existing barriers (e.g., an exacerbation of concussion symptoms due to increased screen time). Factors that were often beyond students’ control (e.g., faculty and familial support, financial resources) affected whether students felt well-accommodated in their classes, and created discrepancies across students in the provision of accommodations. Faculty members, peers, and friends of students who had more concussion-related knowledge were more readily supportive and accommodating. Students who exhibited personal resourcefulness fared better overall and engaged in less catastrophizing. Conclusions. Barriers to accessible education in students with concussion in the post-secondary setting exist and have been amplified by the shift to online learning. Potential areas for intervention at the individual and systems levels are discussed.

Summary for Lay Audience

The lived experience of university students registered with academic accommodations for concussion is an area of research that has been under-explored within the literature. In addition, the shift to online learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic has posed further questions about whether students with concussion feel like they are well-supported. The aim of this study is to address this gap in the literature by examining the lived experiences of university students with concussion registered with accommodations. Participants consisted of nine students with concussion attending a Canadian university who were registered with academic accommodations who took part in a one-on-one interview. Interviews were coded for emergent themes that were consistently found across cases. Student experiences with academic accommodations were mixed. The transition to online learning resulted in new barriers (i.e., test-taking difficulties online) and the worsening of existing barriers (e.g., concussion symptoms due to screen time). Factors that were beyond students’ control – such as level of professor and family support, financial resources – affected whether students felt well-accommodated. Students with high levels of resourcefulness, who were able to effectively problem-solve and find coping strategies to lessen their symptoms, viewed their accommodations more favourably; they also experienced less stigma, and less anxiety. Students with lower personal resourcefulness viewed their accommodations less favourably, especially following the shift to online learning. Discussion centers around how these findings contribute to research and can be used to influence policy on accessible education for students with disability.