Primary Characteristics of Students with Learning Disabilities (page 3)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

Social and Motivational Problems

While not all students with learning disabilities have social-skills deficits, research has revealed that some do manifest difficulties getting along with peers and teachers as a result of deficits in this area. For example, some students with learning disabilities lag behind others in social skills: They have difficulty helping others, accepting authority, and expressing feelings (Bender, 1999; Vaughn, LaGreca, & Kuttler, 1999).

Some research suggests that social-skills deficits among students with learning disabilities may result, at least in part, from the inability to read social cues and interact successfully in conversations (Bender, 1999). Furthermore, Vaughn and colleagues (1999) point out that a critical problem for many students with learning disabilities is social alienation, resulting in a lack of affiliation or involvement in school. These authors note that many students with learning disabilities report that they feel unimportant to peers and teachers and do not feel engaged or interested in school.

Another noteworthy aspect of social skills for students with learning disabilities relates to the low social status of some of these students in school. This low status may relate to social-skills deficits but also may be influenced by factors related to the students' low achievement level (e.g., student placement in classes with other low-achieving students, low status in a school of low-achieving students). Regardless of the cause, this low status often leads to a negative self-concept and emotional maladjustment and increases the potential for dropping out of school (Vaughn et al., 1999).

It is important to note that there is much variability among students with learning disabilities as they adjust socially in school. Some of these students are among the most popular in school and adjust very well, while others are rejected or neglected in school because of social-skills deficits and their low achievement. Although social skills are not a defining criterion of learning disabilities, teachers should recognize and address these issues to ensure that they do not exacerbate adjustment and motivational problems and contribute to lowered academic achievement.

In reflecting on the academic, cognitive, and social issues faced by students with learning disabilities, we can see that there is much potential for these students to become frustrated with school. Indeed, as many students with learning disabilities progress through school, they are faced with increasing difficulty in successfully completing school tasks and making passing grades; and this may result in avoidance of academic activities, frustration, behavior problems, and, ultimately, disengagement from school. Thus, maintaining student motivation becomes a key issue in ensuring that students with learning disabilities continue to adjust to school and make adequate academic progress.

The most important factors in maintaining a high motivation level for students with learning disabilities involve recognizing when these issues arise and addressing them by providing effective instruction that is appropriate to the students' needs.  Another important consideration is whether a student with learning disabilities needs to be directly taught social skills. 

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