The Voices of Young Adults With Learning Disabilities: Their Perceptions of Elementary and Secondary Schooling
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The classroom is a space in which students can participate in both academic and social experiences. Perceptions of school held by students with learning disabilities (LD) may be different than those held by their peers. Researchers suggest that students with LD may experience a sense of being different and isolated from their peers because of their learning differences (Alexander-Passe, 2008; Lackaye & Margalit, 2006). Defining LD is a complex and contested process. However, the lack of a universal definition can contribute to misconceptions about LD. Moreover, this lack of a universal definition makes it challenging for teachers, both new and experienced, to fully understand how to work with students who have LD. Students who have been identified as having a learning disability are sometimes removed from their regular classroom for designated periods of time every day and are placed in a special education setting such as a resource room where they receive explicit instruction to help develop their reading and decoding abilities (Nugent, 2008). Thus, this location difference adds to the differences in educational experiences students with LD can encounter. This qualitative research describes the perceptions of three young adults (aged 18–21) with learning disabilities (YALD) about their educational experiences in elementary and secondary school. Data were collected through two face-to-face in-depth semi-structured interviews and thematic analysis of the data was conducted. The findings are reported both individually to allow unique stories to emerge and collectively to highlight similar themes discussed by all three participants. Furthermore, the analysis identified academic, social, and interconnection of academic and social experiences from the participants’ discussions. The participants did not think that they were disabled in learning; rather they understood it as they simply learned differently than their non-LD peers. The lack of understanding about LD from teachers and peers, especially in elementary school, was a predominant theme that emerged. The participants suggested that teachers should get to know the individual rather than identifying characteristics of exceptionalities in order to help teachers better understand and work with students with LD.