By Linda Broatch, M.A. , Malka Margalit, Ph.D.
Few things are harder for a parent to witness than a child who tries repeatedly and unsuccessfully to make and keep friends. Research reveals that children with learning disabilities (LD) are more prone to loneliness. Dr. Malka Margalit, Head of the Constantiner School of Education at Tel-Aviv University in Israel, is a leading researcher on the issue of loneliness among children with LD. She, her colleagues, and other researchers have learned a great deal over the past 25 years about how the child herself experiences loneliness; how other kids respond to the lonely child with LD; and how specific personal strengths and adult support may help a child with LD avoid or overcome loneliness.
In this first of two articles on the topic, we present the research findings of Dr. Margalit and others on several aspects of loneliness among kids with LD, including:
The second article will look at what the research tell us about:
According to Dr. Margalit, children with LD have personal characteristics that not only increase the likelihood that they will be lonely, but may also make it more difficult for them to cope with the feelings that accompany loneliness.1 Kids with LD who experience loneliness, she points out, often have real social difficulties, which can result in a poor social network, low social status, and rejection by other kids. Dr. Margalit describes three factors often identified as predicting social difficulties and loneliness among kids with LD:
In addition, children with learning difficulties may find it more challenging to spend time alone. "Younger children need constant help from adults to keep busy and find satisfaction in their activities," Dr. Margalit comments. "As they grow older, they develop the ability to more independently engage in and enjoy solitary activities. However, children with learning disabilities may have a developmental delay in their ability to find enjoyable solitary activities, perhaps due to restlessness, reading struggles, or a short attention span. As a result, their experience of loneliness may be more pronounced, and their need for friends may feel more urgent" 5.
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