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Research Trends: Risk and Resilience in People With Learning Disabilities

Page 3 of 4

GreatSchools Blog

By Marshall Raskind, Ph.D.

It is interesting to note that despite different research participants and methodologies these three studies found a number of similar protective factors for individuals with LD. For example, Werner identified "supportive adults who fostered trust and acted as gatekeepers for the future" as an essential component in promoting positive life outcomes for persons with LD. 9 These supportive adults described by Werner parallel the social support system success attribute found in my research. Similarly, Gerber and colleagues revealed that supportive and helpful people (an aspect of "social ecologies") play a critical role in achieving success. 5, 6

There are other similarities among these studies. Gerber stresses the importance of "goal orientation," and Werner the "establishment of realistic educational and vocational plans," in achieving positive life outcomes. My research also indicated that successful adults with LD showed evidence of specific, yet flexible goal setting in multiple areas, including education, employment, and family. There is also a striking similarity between the factor of "perseverance" found in my study and Gerber's description of "persistence." Additionally, the importance of "compartmentalizing and accepting one's LD" is compatible with Gerber's theme of "reframing the LD experience" from something negative to something positive.

Similarities across Studies of Protective Factors Found among People with LD

  Emmy Werner Paul Gerber Marshall Raskind
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"establishment of realistic educational and vocational plans" "goal orientation" "specific, yet flexible goal setting in multiple areas"
"supportive adults" who acted as gatekeepers to the future seeking and using the "support of helpful people" "social support system"
  "persistence" "perseverance"
  "reframing" the LD experience from negative to positive "self-awareness" and the ability to "compartmentalize" one's LD

Although they did not use long-term longitudinal research designs to study adult outcomes, other learning disability researchers have used a "risk and resilience" framework to suggest a number of protective factors for individuals with LD. Not surprisingly some are quite similar to those identified by Werner, Gerber, and myself. Merith Cosden and her associates identify as protective factors: positive temperament, self-esteem, self-perception of physical attractiveness, and self-perception of athletic skills, as well as supportive and effective teachers, and self-understanding (including understanding of one's LD).10, 11 Judith Weiner has suggested that that a close, out-of-school friend may serve to protect children with LD who are rejected or victimized.12 A particularly intriguing and timely protective factor has been stressed by Malka Margalit, who found that computer involvement and Internet communication may help to mediate the loneliness experienced by many children with LD.13

Summing It Up

Although risk and resilience research on people with LD is limited, it has already provided us critical information that may be used to enhance the lives of individuals with LD. Further research will need to be conducted to validate the protective factors that have been discovered to date, as well as identify other protective factors that serve to promote positive life outcomes for persons with LD. Of course, our next step will be to get a clearer picture of which protective factors can be altered, so that we can develop effective interventions to foster these factors in people with LD, to help ensure that their lives are satisfying and rewarding.

Marshall H. Raskind, Ph.D., is a learning disability researcher. He is a frequent presenter at international LD conferences and is the author of numerous professional publications on learning disabilities. He is well-known for his research on assistive technology and longitudinal studies tracing LD across the life span.

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