By Linda Broatch, M.A.
Children with learning disabilities (LD) often have problems that go far beyond those experienced in reading, writing, math, memory, or organization. For many, strong feelings of frustration, anger, sadness, or shame can lead to psychological difficulties such as anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem, as well as behavioral problems such as substance abuse or juvenile delinquency. "Unfortunately," says Dr. Marshall Raskind, an expert in the field of learning disabilities, "these problems can be far more devastating than the academic challenges themselves. Although the severity and duration of a child's psychological difficulties may vary as she grows up, such issues can find their way into and through adulthood."
Several leading experts in the field of LD have researched the psychological difficulties often experienced by children with LD and have offered suggestions to parents on ways to help protect their children from developing these problems. In this overview article, we will describe in general terms what kinds of psychological problems may affect kids with LD and their possible causes. We will also provide some warning signs parents should look for and direct you to some approaches that can support your child's psychological well-being.
Forthcoming articles in this series, which are being developed over the next few months, will explore specific psychological issues that many children with LD face, such as anxiety, depression, and loneliness.
To be most effective in supporting your child, it can help to understand some presumed underlying reasons for the psychological and emotional challenges she may face. Although there are a number of theories on why kids with LD may develop these problems, there are two often cited explanations. First, it is not difficult to see why children with LD are at greater risk for developing psychological difficulties if one considers the repeated failure they experience as they fight their way through the educational system, which may misunderstand or ignore their needs.
Despite the child's efforts and adult promptings to "try harder," children with LD may receive little positive feedback. Their academic struggles and failures are often met with disapproval by teachers, peers, and parents. Such disapproval can take the form of negative labeling of a child as "slow," "lazy," or "dumb." Rather than developing a sense of pride in their accomplishments, children with LD may end up in a quagmire of frustration and shame.
Such feelings only serve to erode the development of a positive self-concept. In fact, as a result of constant struggle and failure, a negative self-image may develop even when others offer support and encouragement. Low self-esteem and a lack of confidence only serve to further interfere with learning and academic success and reinforce a cycle of failure and negativity. Research conducted by Dr. Kenneth Kavale of the University of Iowa and Dr. Steven R. Forness of the University of California at Los Angeles indicates that as many as 70% of children with LD suffer from poor self-esteem. "Over time, children with LD may just stop trying," Dr. Raskind says, "entering a state of ' learned helplessness'where they see little connection between their efforts and ultimate outcomes. ' Why bother?'they may ask, ' No matter how hard I try, I always end up failing.'"
The second frequently offered reason as to why kids with LD may develop psychological problems is the social difficulties they often experience. Research by Drs. Kavale and Forness indicates that as many as 75% of kids with LD have social difficulties such as making and keeping friends. "In fact, social and psychological problems are so interconnected," Dr. Raskind comments, "that it may be quite impossible at times to determine which one may have caused the other. Certainly, psychological problems can have a negative effect on social interaction. Research has shown that children with learning disabilities are less accepted, and often rejected by their peers. Teachers and other adults also may tend to have negative views of children with learning disabilities." Such social rejection can result in loss of self-esteem and negative views of oneself. In addition, social rejection can result in feelings of loneliness, which, in turn, may lead to psychological difficulties such as anxiety and depression.
Sign up for our newsletter and we'll send you more
insights to help you help your child succeed.
Thank you! You will begin to receive newsletters from us shortly.
Great work! Only one more step. Now we just need you to verify your email address. Please click on the link in the email we just sent you to complete your registration.
Great work! Only one more step. Now we just need you to verify your email address. Please click on the link in the email we just sent you to submit your review.
Please click on the link in the verification email we just sent you to complete your change of email address.
Whoops! It looks like we still need to verify your email. To do so, please click on the link in the email we sent you. Can't find the e-mail? Click the button below and we'll send you a new one.
Thanks for registering. Welcome to GreatSchools, the largest online community committed to improving educational outcomes through parental involvement.
Thanks for verifying your updated email address.
Oops! You haven't verified your email address yet. To do so, please click on the link in the email we sent you. Can't find the email? Click the button below to receive a new one.
Oops! That email verification link has expired. Please click the button below to receive a new one.
Create an account to submit your answers.
Sign in with an existing GreatSchools account or using Facebook:
Your review has been posted to GreatSchools.
Share with friends! Post your opinion of on Facebook.
Welcome to GreatSchools!
For principals and school officials, we offer a special Enhanced School Profile (ESP) which allows you to update and add information about your school, as well as respond to reviews. If you are a school official, click Continue to start.
Please note that it can take up to 48 hours for your comment to be posted to our site. While you're here, we'd like to invite you to fill out a survey on your school's programs, activities, and extracurriculars. It only takes a few minutes and will help parents get a full picture of your school.
Get started now! You have successfully registered and can now start updating your Official School Profile. The information you provide is extremely valuable in helping parents and students learn more about your school, so thanks for taking the time!
Thank you for registering as a school leader. We just need to verify your email address. We've sent you an email - please click on the link in that message to get started editing your school's information!
Thanks! We just sent you an email – please click on the link in the email to post your answers.
Get timely updates for , including performance data and recently posted user reviews.