UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Self-concept in middle year students with learning disabilities Walsh, Kathleen E.


Learning disabilities (LD) constitute the most diagnosed disability in Canada with estimated rates greater than 3% of all students. LDs vary in severity and impact individuals differently across areas depending on the person’s experiences, personality and given supports inside and outside of the classroom. Self-concept is a multidimensional construct defined as a combination of one’s social and academic selves. Self-concept develops and changes across the lifespan and is influenced by positive and negative experiences in one’s life. In individuals with LD, self-concept development is at risk due to the increased difficulties associated with having LD. The middle years are a critical developmental period between the ages of 11-14 years. This time coinciding with adolescence brings about a series of affective, cognitive and behavioural changes. Individuals in the middle years experience extreme physical and hormonal changes, as well as changes in their social support systems. This instability is linked to increased vulnerabilities in LD populations including the development of mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Self-concept development during the middle years in individuals with LD is highly variable and is associated with a multitude of increased risks compared to non-LD populations. Due to the individuality of self-concept development, and the highly personal and varying experiences of individuals with LD during the middle years, this study aims to increase the available knowledge of self-concept development in this population. The use of an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis framework allowed this study to explore themes relating to self-concept development in middle years students with LDs. Findings suggest that middle year students perceive self-concept and identity development to be directly influenced by their mental health and well-being; community and support services; and experiences surrounding their LD diagnosis. Research findings and their relevance are discussed from both a social and educational perspective.

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