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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The reading and writing experiences of children with learning disabilities Stanley, Leonard Dean


The purpose of this research was to explore the experiences of children with learning disabilities, with a focus on the day-to-day activities of reading and writing at school. Eight children, aged nine to thirteen were interviewed, from three to six sessions each. A phenomenological interviewing and interpretation process was undertaken, and common experiences among the children were extracted from the interview transcripts. Their common experiences included feeling more similar to than different from their peers, success in school subjects and other areas, progress in their literacy skills, enjoying literacy, teachers making a difference, not enough time, frustration, confusion, and computers making a difference. Nine common experiences were combined into two general themes: "OK Experience" and "Impact of Teaching Style and Programme". In several respects the results echoed previous research concerning children and adolescents with learning disabilities. Familiar themes such as frustration and the importance of the relationship with teachers and peers emerged in this study as they have in the literature. However, unlike previous literature, the current study found that some children with learning disabilities have positive experiences in school, even in areas with which they struggle. Previous literature tends to emphasise the difficulties and the experience of difference and stigma, while the participants in this study seemed to downplay the difficulties and differences between themselves and peers. The "learning disabilities" label did not seem to have as significant an impact as has been found in previous studies, and self-esteem did not appear to be a problem. Also unlike other studies, the current research found common themes in the experiences of enjoyment of reading and writing, not enough time, confusion, progress and the importance of computer technology. These findings were considered in light of possible implications for further research and practice. It was suggested that future research might replicate and/or extend this study to further explore the common experiences of children and adolescents with learning disabilities. To the extent that the results would be supported by future research, they might contribute to practice in education and counselling. Something is evidently "working" in the way the participants are being supported, because they appear to be experiencing school as positively as the school system would hope. Perhaps early identification and intervention are effective. Perhaps the implementation of a demystification process is helping the children to feel good about themselves. There appears to be some room for improvement in specific cases, to help reduce confusion, frustration, and concerns about time limits, as well as increased attention to math and computer technology. The role of the counsellor as a proactive partner in the support of children with learning disabilities was discussed. To maintain the positive outcomes observed in this study will involve continued advocacy, support for families, case management, and liaison with other agencies. Counsellors can also provide direct support in the form of demystification and strategies to reduce confusion and frustration.

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