Social Emotional Needs

Learning Disabilities are complex disorders that can affect an individual in many ways. One of the most common impacts is on a person’s social-emotional well-being. Even if there is not a formal mental health diagnosis, individuals with Learning Disabilities experience a range of social-emotional needs. Lifelong struggles with learning and failure in learning situations contribute to social-emotional needs that can interfere with learning. To be successful in addressing learning needs, students may need social-emotional support.

The following are common social-emotional needs of individuals with LD:

Low self esteem & fear of failure

It is very common for someone with LD to have negative thoughts about themselves and their abilities. These thoughts can limit the learner’s willingness to try in learning situations. Frequent experiences of failure lead to a “fear of failure” and an avoidance of new situations. We could call it ‘the little engine that can’t’ because learners are often saying to themselves “I know I can’t; I know I can’t”.

Learned helplessness

Individuals with Learning Disabilities are more likely to make external attributions for both success and failure than their peers. When they experience success, they attribute it to luck or the teacher marking easily –they do not attribute success to their own efforts or ability. Repeated failure and these attributions often result in “learned helplessness” where the individual stops trying because they think that their efforts are useless. In the school setting, LD students begin to doubt their own abilities, leading them to doubt that they can do anything to overcome their school difficulties.

Emotional sensitivity, anxious feelings

Individuals with LD experience many fears and ongoing emotional stress. They often fear failure and fear being exposed – that is, they fear others finding out that they struggle to learn. As adults, they may struggle financially, with employment and in relationships. This stress may lead to anxiety and depression and these emotions interfere with learning.
Another possible response is to ‘act out’ to avoid situations where they might feel embarrassed or to avoid admitting when they do not understand something because they do not want to feel ‘stupid’ or have others think they are stupid.