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Research Trends: LD From the Inside - Children's Voices on the Internet

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By Marshall Raskind, Ph.D.

Disclosure of Social/Interpersonal Issues

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:

  • "People don›t want to be around me or hang out with me!"
  • "I'm a outcast and don't have a lot of friends and always called retarded and dumb."
  • "I have a LD and people make fun of me because … I can't spell help me Please"
  • "This girl at my school keeps teasing me because I have a LD."

Some wrote that they avoid disclosing their LD to their peers, fearful of sharing their LD identity, writing:

  • "If I tell my friend I have a LD he just laughs."
  • "How do not show that have a ld so people won't make fun of me?"

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.

Asking for Help

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:

  • School/academics ("I am having trouble with writing can you help me?")
  • Emotional issues ("Kyle, when u find u had L.D, did u feel u were stupid?")
  • Social challenges ("How can I get … people to stop picking on me?")

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.

Positive Aspects of LD

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.

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.