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The Social and Emotional Experience of Having a Learning Disability in High School

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Title: The Social and Emotional Experience of Having a Learning Disability in High School
Author: Noble, Kevin
Department: Department of Psychology
Program: Psychology
Advisor: Evans, Mary Ann
Abstract: Research investigating the social and emotional difficulties of individuals with LDs has found many of them continue to describe their life negatively, despite improvements in our understanding of LDs and in accommodations. In our previous research, university students with LDs often retrospectively reported their experience in high school, using various descriptors, as one of feeling alone and alienated, frustrated, hopeless, scared and anxious, embarrassed, and inferior to others. By using the descriptors they themselves provided, we created a self-report survey that we hoped addressed a breadth of feelings concerning the LD experience in high school. In the current study, university students reflected upon their high school experience on this newly developed social emotional survey. Additionally, each participant was given a demographic questionnaire and asked to self-rate their academic competence in a variety of skill areas. The results revealed that our questionnaire contained four factors reflecting feelings of alienation and isolation, anxiety and depression, anger and hatred, and embarrassment and shame. Overall, participants with LDs reported a significantly more negative social emotional experience of high school than participants without LDs, especially for feelings of alienation, anxiety, and embarrassment. In addition, participants reported greater feelings of frustration and inadequacy. Unsurprisingly, participants with LDs reported significantly lower perceived academic abilities. We found that self-reported math and science skill correlated with each social emotional factor, with lower self-reported math and science skill associated with increasingly negative social emotional experiences of high school. The results also showed that nearly double the proportion of individuals with LDs (29%) obtained more negative social emotional scores averaged across all four factors compared to those without LDs (16%). This highlights a serious need for increased efforts to help individuals with LDs feel more supported and accepted, and less ashamed, anxious, isolated, inadequate, and frustrated, as well as increased education for individuals who interact with adolescents with LDs, to increase empathy and understanding about what it is like to experience an LD.
Date: 2017-06
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