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By Marshall Raskind, Ph.D.
Many of the children in this study identified themselves, in their email messages, as individuals who "belonged to a group" of children with LD. For example, they wrote questions and statements such as:
However, "LD identification" was only part of how they presented and defined themselves. They also presented their overall identity by providing information about their age, gender, physical appearance, families, and personal preferences regarding youth culture (e.g., teen idols, music, movies, TV, clothing). The children seem to share the same global youth culture documented in the United States4, 5 and in other countries, such as Israel6. Thus, side by side with descriptors of self-identity, they provided distinctive information about their LD.
It appears that the Internet served as a safe virtual environment, enabling children with LD to explore and express the totality of their identity. Furthermore, the feeling that they are not alone in experiencing difficulties - because they belong to a group of children who share similar difficulties - was regarded by several children as a source of relief from their struggles.
The information the children provided about their academic difficulties was varied.
The difficulties described by the children reflect the full range of academic problems described in the research literature (e.g., reading, writing, spelling, and math). However, from these self-initiated messages we are able to understand more about the personal nature of their academic struggles and concerns, in addition to what we may learn from a purely quantitative analysis of their academic deficits.
Although expressions varied, the majority of children who wrote messages disclosed emotional attitudes towards their LD, writing statements such as:
Some children noted that having LD affects their self-worth:
Several children also disclosed their loneliness, with such comments as, "Sometimes it feels like I am the only one with an LD."
Again, the children's messages are consistent with prior research in LD, in these instances, of the emotional and psychological difficulties encountered by many children with LD7, 8, 9, 10, 11. The messages are vivid expressions of emotional distress, including feelings of sadness, diminished self-worth, loneliness, and fear, apparently resulting from their academic struggles, social rejection, and even family stress.
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