Applying Salutogenesis to the Experiences of Students with Disabilities in the Netherlands

M. Dell'Olio, L. Vaandrager, M.A. Koelen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Students with disabilities face several barriers during their academic lives. However, as many of them manage to access a variety of resources, their experiences can be examined through the lens of salutogenesis, which is employed to analyze the mechanisms whereby people succeed in preserving their wellbeing while dealing with stress and difficulties. This study seeks to explain how students with disabilities identify and use resources to reach their academic goals, and to understand how their sense of coherence (namely, a global orientation that expresses the extent to which a person feels that the world is comprehensible, manageable, and meaningful) developed over time. This exploratory study has a dual focus: to test the applicability of salutogenesis to students with disabilities and to investigate their life experiences. A life course perspective has been adopted to allow for an in-depth exploration of the life histories of 11 students with disabilities at Wageningen University. After the participants designed a timeline of their life, semi-structured interviews were conducted. The identified general resistance resources included social support and supportive environments, as well as flexibility, persistence, and awareness of their own skills and limits. Specific resistance resources ranged from aids and treatments to institutional services and disease information. Such resources were identified through reflexive processes that led the students to understand first the stressors that they were facing and then the resources that they needed to deal with these stressors. Finally, some recommendations for disability services providers are reported.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-89
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Postsecondary Education and Disability
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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