Adolescents in special schools' perceptions of their learning disabilities

Kuffner, Bianca (Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University, 2012-03)

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Completing formal education with a specific learning disability presents many challenges to the individuals concerned. For learners in special education, negative perceptions of learning disabilities and/or inaccurate and unrealistic perceptions, could result in poor outcomes in adult life, as well as feelings of frustration, helplessness and hopelessness during their transition from school to post-school environments. Such individuals need to form accurate perceptions of their own learning disabilities to ensure that they can and will advocate for themselves and will be willing and able to seek out the appropriate support needed to experience success in all spheres of life. The aim of this study was to conduct an in-depth exploration of the subjective perceptions of adolescents in special education regarding their own learning disabilities since accessing this knowledge is an important first step toward developing and providing positive and empowering interventions and support for learners in special education. The researcher aligned herself with the constructivist/interpretive paradigm and the research methodology used can be described as a basic qualitative research design. Seven participants from one special school were selected through purposive sampling. The researcher used individual semi-structured interviews and focus group interviews as well as personal documents in the form of learners' personal files to obtain data. The process of analysis employed can be described as thematic content analysis. The findings of this study suggest that adolescents are aware of the individual challenges posed by completing school with a learning disability, although this was experienced in a less debilitating sense as a result of the supportive special school context. They were aware of some of the coping strategies that needed to be implemented in order to cope with their current academic workload, but were not always aware that these would need to be extended to life after school. Generally, they were also not aware that they would need to advocate for themselves and seek out support in post-school settings. The perceptions formed of their learning disabilities were influenced by early experiences of their first awareness of their struggles with learning, their experiences of assessment and placement in a special school, the perceptions others had of their learning disabilities, as well as their experiences as learners in a special school. The most important recommendation based on the findings of this study is that learners in the special school environment need to be provided with more explicit counselling regarding the specific nature of their learning disabilities. They need to be made aware of support strategies and resources that they would be able to use in post-school environments, as well as the process of obtaining access to such resources.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Voltooiing van formele onderwys met 'n spesifieke leergestremdheid bied baie uitdagings aan die betrokke individue. Negatiewe persepsies van leergestremdhede en/of onakkurate en onrealisties persepsies kan vir leerders met spesiale onderwysbehoeftes swak uitkomste in die volwasse lewe tot gevolg hê, asook gevoelens van frustrasie, hulpeloosheid en hopeloosheid tydens hul oorgang van skool na naskoolse kontekste. Sulke individue moet 'n akkurate persepsie van hul eie leergestremdhede vorm om te verseker dat hulle gewillig self voorspraak sal maak (self-advocate) en in staat sal wees om toepaslike ondersteuning wat nodig is om sukses in alle sfere van die lewe te ervaar, uit te soek. Die doel van hierdie studie was om 'n in-diepte ondersoek van die subjektiewe persepsies van adolessente in spesiale onderwys met betrekking tot hul eie leergestremdhede te voer, aangesien toegang tot hierdie kennis 'n belangrike eerste stap in die rigting van die ontwikkeling en voorsiening van positiewe en bemagtigende ingrypings en ondersteuning vir leerders in spesiale onderwys is. Die navorser het haarself belyn met die konstruktivistiese/interpretatiewe paradigma en die navorsingsmetodologie wat gebruik is kan beskryf word as 'n basiese kwalitatiewe navorsingsontwerp. Sewe deelnemers van 'n spesiale skool is gekies deur middel van doelgerigte steekproeftrekking. Die navorser het individuele semi-gestruktureerde onderhoude en fokusgroep onderhoude gebruik, sowel as persoonlike dokumente (in die vorm van die leerders se persoonlike lêers) om data te verkry. Die proses van analise wat toegepas word kan beskryf word as tematiese inhoud-analise. Die bevindinge van hierdie studie dui daarop dat adolessente bewus is van die individuele uitdagings wat aan hul gestel word deur die voltooiing van skool met 'n leergestremdheid. Tog was dit in 'n minder aftakelende sin ervaar as gevolg van die ondersteunende spesiale skool konteks waarin hul hulself bevind. Oor die algemeen was hulle nie bewus daarvan dat hulle self voorspraak (self-advocacy) sal moet maak vir ondersteuning in naskoolse kontekste nie. Die persepsies wat van hul leergestremdhede gevorm word is beïnvloed deur vroeë ervarings van hul eerste bewustheid van hul stryd om te leer, hul ervarings van die asseseringsproses en plasing in 'n spesiale skool, die persepsies wat ander van hul leergestremdhede het, sowel as hul ervarings as leerders in 'n spesiale skool. Die belangrikste aanbeveling gebaseer op die bevindinge van hierdie studie is dat die leerders in die omgewing van die spesiale skool voorsien moet word van meer eksplisiete voorligting ten opsigte van die spesifieke aard van hul leergestremdhede. Hulle moet bewus gemaak word van strategieë en hulpbronne wat hul moontlik kan gebruik in die naskoolse omgewings, asook die proses van die verkryging van toegang tot sodanige hulpbronne.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/20054
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