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Disabil Rehabil. 2002 Nov 20;24(17):914-24.

University students with learning disabilities advocating for change.

Author information

1
School of Social Work, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, 91905 Israel. msdiri@mscc.huji.ac.il

Abstract

PURPOSE:

In recent decades Western psychology has conceptualized learning disabilities (LD) in terms of deficits and such related 'social emotional issues' as insecurity, low self-esteem and social isolation that can be rehabilitated through combined remedial teaching and psychological intervention. With increasing advocacy and legislation on behalf of people with disabilities in the US, UK and Australia, more resources are being made available to students with LD in institutions of higher education. Due to this increase in the quantity of services, written programmes and accommodations made to their needs, increased numbers of students with LD have been graduating successfully from institutions of higher education. This paper describes an option for treating students with LD that is based on a theoretical perspective that understands these students as an excluded population and emphasizes the importance of their empowerment.

METHOD:

A project involving social work students with LD at Hebrew University in Jerusalem is presented as a case study. Case-study investigation, one of the common methods of qualitative research, explores social and human problems in their natural context. A 6-year evaluation of this project was conducted based on questionnaires, focus groups, documentation of all activities related to the project, in-depth interviews and outcome measures.

RESULTS:

The results suggest that the project developed in three stages: raising awareness, building partnerships, and lobbying for rights and services. Outcome measures indicate that the project was successful in lowering dropout rates and improving students' academic achievement. Analysis of interviews with students suggests that the project positively affected the students' perceptions by helping them reframe the social and emotional connotations of their learning disability. Students reported marked social and emotional change, including reduced stress and anxiety levels and increased self-esteem.

CONCLUSIONS:

Empowerment practices that are based on partnership, participation, advocacy and social change provide an alternative to rehabilitation via individual therapy.

PMID:
12519487
DOI:
10.1080/09638280210148611
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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