College and combat trauma: an insider's perspective of the post-secondary education experience shared by service members managing neurobehavioral symptoms
Ness, B.M.; Rocke, M.R.; Harrist, C.J.; Vroman, K.G.
NeuroRehabilitation 35(1): 147-158
Enrolling in post-secondary education is common among military service members returning from combat deployments, but recent research shows service members who present with neurobehavioral symptoms consistent with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and/or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are at risk for psychosocial and academic difficulty. This exploratory study was conducted to examine the academic experiences of service members through in-depth qualitative analysis. An initial survey was conducted at a public university to measure self-reported academic achievement and neurobehavioral symptoms experienced by service members (n = 48). Then, follow-up interviews were solicited from a sub-sample (n = 5) of participants to gain an in-depth understanding of their transition, social, and academic experiences. The results revealed both the day-to-day challenges participants faced while adjusting to post-secondary life and how neurobehavioral symptoms associated with combat trauma interacted with their learning experiences. The findings indicated participants did not perceive neurobehavioral symptoms as particularly deleterious to their learning thereby highlighting the potentially integral role of coping strategies and motivation in post-secondary success. This study underscores the importance of understanding not only the adverse impact of neurobehavioral symptoms but the factors that promote resilience among military service members in post-secondary education.