Social problem strategies of junior high school students with and without learning disabilities

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Noseworthy, Bonnie
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This study provides an examination of self-esteem and social problem solving among adolescents with and without learning disabilities. Research (Zeleke, 2004; Bear, Minke, & Manning, 2002; Grolnick & Ryan, 1990; Renick & Harter, 1989) has indicated that individuals with learning disabilities have a lower self-esteem with regards to academics when compared to individuals without learning disabilities. It has also been shown that there are difficulties identifying social problems, generating solutions, and reaching goals among individuals with learning disabilities. Hence, the purpose of this study was to examine whether junior high students with and without learning disabilities have differing levels of self-esteem and social problem solving strategies. Fifty-nine junior high school students in grades seven to nine from the Tri-County Regional School Board participated in this study. Twenty-two of the students had learning disabilities and thirty-seven were classified as having no identified learning disability. Each student was presented with the Culture Free Self-Esteem Inventory- Third Edition (CFSEI-3) and three social problem solving scenarios that were school related. Results revealed that all participants were in the average range in all areas on the CFSEI-3. There were no significance differences of self-esteem between individuals with and without learning disabilities. For academic, personal, and global self-esteem, grade seven students indicated significantly higher self-esteem scores than grade nine students. Males were found to have a higher self-esteem on the Personal domain of the CFSEI-3 than females. When identifying the problem to the presented social situation, students with learning disabilities were more likely to look for answers on the content of the situation and had more appropriate responses. Students with learning disabilities also tended to note simplistic emotions for the characters in the scenarios, whereas female students without a learning disability indicated more complex emotions. When participants were asked to provide a solution to the social problem situation, participants without learning disabilities were more likely to state that they would seek help form an authority figure. Individuals with learning disabilities tended to provide solutions that were egocentric or avoided the problem situation such as asking for special conditions like extra time for the quiz. Females were more likely to choose a direct role of seeking others to help with the problem when developing solutions whereas males were more likely to choose an indirect solution of having themselves deal with the situation such as walking away from the situation. When asked to note what steps would be involved to obtain the solution they generated, students with learning disabilities had difficulty developing the steps involved in the process. The results of this study imply that students with learning disabilities have difficulties understanding social problem solving situations when compared to their nondisabled peers. They had difficulty identifying social problems, understanding the emotions of the characters in the scenarios, generating effective solutions to the social situation. School staff need to be encouraged to take a direct role in helping students with learning disabilities employ more effective strategies to better deal with social problem solving situations and interventions are needed for these students to lead more productive lives in the classroom.
Social skills in children , Learning disabilities , Self-esteem in children , Learning disabled children