Page 3 of 5
By Marshall Raskind, Ph.D.
As reported in the previous research, the children's messages in this study also indicate social difficulties. Many viewed their social exclusion as part of their LD identity. They reported rejection with such comments as:
Some wrote that they avoid disclosing their LD to their peers, fearful of sharing their LD identity, writing:
Their need to refrain from disclosing their LD to their peers reflects their identity struggle, which demands great personal energy. The contrast between the children's attempt to hold back knowledge about their LD to peers and the self-disclosure in their online messages reveals the importance of the Internet as an outlet for anxiety-provoking situations. It appeared that these children shared their negative experiences on the Internet in an open and detailed manner, something that many of them were not able to do in face-to-face interactions.
The vast majority of children wrote messages asking for help. They often complained that they were distressed and not getting the help they needed from friends, family members, and teachers. However, many children appeared to trust the virtual characters (teen mentors, "LD Expert") as well as other children on the website and were more than willing to share their difficulties and seek the advice of those with whom they identified (e.g., "some people don't understand me and I hope you do").
They asked for advice in areas such as:
Children showed appreciation to those offering advice and described how it helped them; for example, "I really like all of your advice and your advice is better than anyone else."
The children's requests for help over the Internet were particularly intriguing in light of previous research indicating the importance of seeking and accepting help from others in achieving positive life outcomes for people with LD12.
Research suggests the importance of people with LD recognizing their special talents, and "reframing" the LD experience into something positive if they are to achieve successful life outcomes13. However, only a few children in our study made positive statements regarding their LD, or challenged negative attitudes toward their LD ("What is bad about having an LD?") or about educational alternatives such as homeschooling: ("It's nice to be home schooled because I have an LD.") In addition to these positive expressions being rare, they also appeared somewhat subdued. In sum, none of the messages could be considered strong or passionate positive emotional reactions to living with an LD. The lack of positive expressions of LD was a disappointment to us considering their relationship to positive life outcomes.
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