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How University Students Describe Their Experience of Having a Learning Disability in High School and University

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Title: How University Students Describe Their Experience of Having a Learning Disability in High School and University
Author: Noble, Kevin
Department: Department of Psychology
Program: Psychology
Advisor: Evans, Mary Ann
Abstract: Research has typically addressed a specific emotional component of having a Learning Disability (LD), and thus has failed to capture the complete picture of what it is like to experience a LD. The current study asked university students to describe without any prompts or cues how it feels to have a LD, both retrospectively in high school and currently in university. We were interested in seeing how individuals with LDs describe their LD experience in their own words through free association. Information was collected from eight different cohorts throughout the past 11 years who were enrolled in a course on LDs for students diagnosed with LDs. All descriptors were coded into 17 different theme categories and further sorted by valence into positive, neutral, and negative categories. Participants reported more negative descriptors than positive ones, which interacted with the context in which they were reported. More negative descriptors were reported in high school compared to university and more positive descriptors were reported in university than high school. We failed to find any differences in emotional valence across the different cohorts. Latent class analyses revealed that reports of high school experiences consisted of two different LD profiles: extremely negative and negative. University experiences consisted of three different LD profiles: predominately positive, mixed emotional valence, and predominately negative. These results suggest that the experience of a LD can improve in university but that approximately 23% continue to find having LD a highly negative experience even though they are receiving support.
Date: 2012-09

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