Whether we graduate from highschool or college we all hope to find a challengingcareer that will propel us forward in today`s society. For those suffering fromdyslexia this only adds to the frustration and fears associated with seekingemployment. Many adults with dyslexia or other forms of learning disabilitiesnever disclose their disability in interviews or once employed for fear of beingdiscriminated against. Several investigators have noted, however, that manypersons with learning disabilities adjust well to the demands and complexitiesof adulthood.
(Greenbaum et al. 1996). The basic cause of dyslexia is still notknown, however, much research is being done to determine the problems underlyingdyslexia. In many cases, dyslexia is highly inherited. Studies have shown anumber of genes that may set the stage for its development. Characteristics ofdyslexia are now more apparent to educators than ever before. Early educationalinterventions are helping individuals to manage their dyslexia.
There have beensome studies that attend to accommodating persons with learning disabilities inpost-secondary and occupational settings. Only a few articles will be reviewedhaving been found worthy of this subject. However, before reviewing thearticles, in order to gain a greater understanding of the types of learningdisabilities people face lets define one of the most significant learningproblems: dyslexia.
A Type of Learning Disability: What is Dyslexia? The worddyslexia is derived form the Greek dys (meaning poor or inadequate) and lexis(works or language). Dyslexia is a learning disability characterized by problemsin expressive or receptive, oral or written language. Problems may emerge inreading, spelling, writing, speaking, or listening.
Dyslexia is not a disease;it has no cure. Dyslexia describes a different kind of mind, often gifted andproductive, that learns differently. Dyslexia is not the result of lowintelligence nor is the problem solely intelligence. An unexpected gap existsbetween learning aptitude and achievement in school. Dyslexia is not truly avisual or auditory problem, but a language problem. Dyslexia results fromdifferences in the structure and function of the brain. People with dyslexia areunique; each having individual strengths and weaknesses. Many dyslexics arecreative and have unusual talents in areas such as art, athletics, architecture,graphics, electronics, mechanics, drama, music, engineering, and medicalprofessions.
Dyslexics often show special talent in areas that require visual,spatial, and motor integration. Their problems in language processingdistinguish them as a group. This means that the dyslexic has problemstranslating language to thought (as in listening or reading) or thought tolanguage (as in writing or speaking).
After looking at what dyslexia means andsome characteristics of this disability now lets look at a study of learningdisabilities in the workplace. Research by Greenbaum, Graham, and Scales (1996)adults with learning disabilities in the work place indicate that most adultsadjust well to the demands and complexities of adulthood. The purpose of thisstudy was to identify occupational and social status of adults with learningdisabilities once after college. This study was conducted at the University ofMaryland. Only eighty-one students with learning disabilities receivedassistance from the office of Disability Support Services during a twelve-yearspan from 1980 to 1992.
In the study conducted by Greenbaum, Graham, and Scales(1996), out of the 81 former students, 49 adults with learning disabilitiesagreed to be interviewed about their current employment and social status. Thestudy was based on increasing reports of adults with learning disabilities inrecent years and the questions about the efficacy of special education services.As Patton and Polloway (1992) cited by Greenbaum et al. (1996) noted, thescenario for many adults with learning disabilities is characterized byunemployment, low pay, part-time work, frequent job changes, non-interactionwith community, limitations in independent living, and limited social lives.Several investigators within this study noted persons with disabilities adjustwell in adulthood years. Greenbaum et al.
(1996) found that a number of adultswith learning disabilities were employed in white-collar jobs (e.g. lawyer,urban planner, and real estate investor). Thirty seven percent of adults withlearning disabilities studied by Gerber et al.
as cited by Greenbaum et al.,classed as highly successful in their job, eminence within their occupation,earned income, job satisfaction and education. Within all three studies, onefactor for success for adults with learning disabilities was the level ofeducation. Persons with mild learning disabilities who dropped out of highschool are often employed at a lower rate than persons with mild disabilitieswho graduated. (Edgar, l987; Hasazi, Gordon, & Roe, l985; Zigmond &Thornton, l985). Persons with learning disabilities who graduated from collegeare more likely to hold a professional and managerial position than persons withlearning disabilities who only graduated from high school. (Rogan & Hartman,l976, 1990).
The successful functioning of persons with learning disabilitieswas evident by post-secondary education. Eighty nine percent of the studentsGerber, Ginsberg, and Keiff (1992) studied obtained a bachelors degree orhigher. The current study examined the occupations and social status of adultswith learning disabilities who graduated from college. Employment Currentemployment at the time of the interview, 35 of the 49 participants was employed.One working on graduate school part-time, 7 of the remaining 14 were engagedbecause they were attending school full-time, 2 working on undergraduatedegrees, and 5 were attending graduate school. The occupations of theparticipants varied and included customer service representative, bartender,medical researcher, reporter, camp director, bank teller, salesperson,mechanical engineer, artist, botanist, corporate vice president, teacher,embryologist, investment banker, paramedic, social worker, securities broker,line cook, office manager, and so forth. Of the employed participants, 25 werein professional, technical, or managerial positions; eight were in clerical andsales and two were in service occupations. Eighty percent of adults withlearning disabilities were employed full time, in professional or managerialpositions or occupations.
Job Satisfaction Of the 35 employed, 33 were satisfiedwith their current employment. Even though most of the participants enjoyedtheir jobs, 21 of the participants stated they would like a different job.Reasons for wanting a different job included a) wanting to make more money b)wanting a more challenging or interesting occupation. Social Status All but oneof the 49 participants was socially active. Social activities ranged from goingto bars, movies, and dinner, as well as sporting events. Only nine of theparticipants said they were unsatisfied with their social lives. Disclosure ofLearning Disability Of the total of participants who had been employed, onlynine indicated they had ever disclosed their learning disability wheninterviewing for a job. The reasons for disclosing their disability to theirinterviewers was a) they were not ashamed of their learning disability and feltthey had learned to compensate b) that their disability would have an impact ontheir performance of the job.
Most participants did not reveal their disabilitywhen applying for their job. Reasons for not revealing their learning disabilitywas a) fear of discrimination and stigmatization b) no longer being affected bythe disability. The primary reason for not disclosing their disability was thefear of discrimination. Impact of Learning Disability Participants in the studyby Adelman and Vogel as cited by Greenbaum et al. reported that their learningdisability affected their work and that they had devised specific strategies forcoping with their difficulties. Some of the strategies include taking extra timeto complete work, asking for additional help, carefully monitoring or proofingown work.
In the current study, participants were knowledgeable about theirdisability and its effects on their lives. There were a total of 41 participantswho had difficulties in multiple areas such as, reading comprehension,organization, and note taking. Eight indicated they had difficulty in only onearea: reading (n=3), composition (n=2), mathematics (n=2), or informationprocessing (n=1). Participants typically described their learning disabilitieswith the term dyslexia. What role did the participants` learning disabilityaffected their work environment; 39 participants indicated that their learningdisability affected them either at work or in other areas of their lives. Theseareas included reading, writing, math, and memory.
Adelman & Vogel, (1990)as cited by Greenbaum et al. (1996) the most common problems centered onprocessing, language, and math difficulties. The current study adds to a growingbody of work indicating that a learning disability is a persistent problem thatdoes not go away with age. Conclusion From this study, we have found thateducation plays an important role in the future success of a person with alearning disability as well as persons with learning disabilities adjust well tothe demands and complexities of adulthood. (Greenbaum et al. 1996) The studyexamined some of the difficulties and fears one may face in the work place. Thearticle suggests that self-awareness can help a person with a learningdisability by strengthening them to become the person they want to be. Thearticle however, does not address or suggest specific strategies one may use toachieve personal goals.
The article did cover how most participants wereunwilling to disclose their learning disability to their employer. People withlearning disabilities have specific rights according to the Rehabilitation Actof 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Revealing learningdisabilities to an employer would allow accommodations and adjustments for thosepeople in the work place but the authors did not go into great detail concerningdiscrimination issues.
Moving to the second study, students with learningdisabilities in education face a similar task as that of adults in the work.According to Ysseldyke & Algozzine, 1990 as cited by Barga (1996), it isestimated that five percent of young school aged adolescents is considered tohave some type of learning disabilities. Due to the passage of the Brown v.Board of Education in 1954 schools are now becoming involved in assistingdisadvantaged students. Congress passed the 1973 Vocational Rehabilitation Act,which focused on providing equal education for any and all students withlearning disabilities. This law mandates that students with learningdisabilities receive supplemental services while attending educational settings(Barga, 1996).
Today, the number of students in higher educational settings whohave experienced some type of learning disability has increased from .3 percentin 1983 to 1.2 percent in 1987 (Heath, 1992).
This same survey found thatstudents with learning disabilities in postsecondary institutions have grown toover 20,000. From this we can clearly see that students with learningdisabilities are the largest group of students who receive services that assistthem with the learning process, especially at the college level (Jarrow, 1987 ascited by Barga, 1996). Clearly, there has been a great increase of students whoare showing learning disabilities in the higher educational arenas.
Studentswith learning disabilities have difficulty in reading, writing, and spelling andwith mathematical concepts. Often time`s students are easily distracted,unfocused, and have a hard time developing good time management skills. Inaddition, many students who struggle with learning disabilities have greatdifficulty in understanding and following directions and struggle with differentaspects of their social situations that they encounter.
One of the mostsignificant facts about these students is their alarming rate of high schooldropout. According to Lichtenstein, 40 percent of students with learningdisabilities drop out of high school, as opposed to the 25 percent withoutlearning disabilities (Lichtenstein, 1992). The purpose of this study was tofind out the factors that has enhanced the success of students with learningdisabilities in school settings and to explore how these students managed theirdisabilities from kindergarten through college. This study was designed due tothe alarming number of students with learning disabilities who dropped out ofschool. There were two objectives for this study. The first objective was tofind out how students with learning disabilities managed their disabilitieswhile in school; and the second objective was to find the methods of success.
This study was conducted at an average sized, 4-year state university with anenrollment of 9,000 students. The students for the study were identified withthe help of the director of learning disabilities clinic. The students werefirst contacted through a letter that was written and generated by the directorof the clinic and the researcher. From the letter, four traditional and fivenontraditional students with learning disabilities were selected for this study.Selection was based on verbal response, willingness to participate in thisstudy, and availability of time.
The age of the students ranged from 18-45years, with the median age being 27.5. The range of disabilities varied widelyfrom each person. Data for this study was collected over a six month period oftime and the collection of the data consisted of conducting semistructured,open-ended, taped interviews; completing classroom observations; reviewingacademic files; and collecting other documents related to the study`sparticipants. The focus of the interviewers was on exploring the student`shistory and educational experiences from kindergarten through their currentschooling status. The results indicated that the students experienced variousforms of labeling, stigmatization, and gatekeeping that created many of thebarriers that they have faced in their education.
To gain a better understandingof these results I will define labeling, stigmatization and gatekeeping.Labeling is defined as anything functioning as a means of identification or as adescriptive term, formal or informal (Barga, 1996). Basically, this means thatwhen someone comes into another person`s presence, we label and categorize theindividual based on his or her appearance. From this study, students describedlabeling as a very positive experience when it made sense out of their academicstruggles and involved getting help. On the other hand, labeling was negativefor students when it created conditions of being set apart from their peers andreceiving differential treatment from other people.
Stigmatization is defined asreceiving differential treatment based on others` perceptions (Barga, 1996). Inthis study, stigmatization took on several different forms, depending on thecontext. At times stigmatization was evident through name calling, accusations,and low academic expectations by peers and teachers. During the college level,stigmatization was self-imposed or forced on the students. Gatekeeping isdefined as the barrier process that serves to maintain the status quo of anorganization (Barga, 1996). This was accomplished by either denying studentswith learning disabilities access to a college goal or permitting access but onconditional terms. The coping techniques that were found due to this study wereof great importance.
Coping techniques are behaviors or initiatives the studenttakes to assist in managing his or her disability (Barga, 1996). The firstcoping technique was benefactors. The benefactors functions included providingemotional support and understanding, acting as a sounding board for personalproblems, helping with homework, and being an advocate on behalf of the student.The second technique was self-improvement techniques, which included takinglonger breaks, seeking and initiating help at the university level, usingpositive affirmations for motivation, and seeking situations that producedpersonal growth. The final coping technique was study skills and managementstrategies. Use of technology, relaxation techniques before tests, tapingclasses, maintaining a personal day timer, and the amount of time devoted tostudy.
From this study we can clearly see that students experienced labeling,stigmatization and gatekeeping and the ways that they learned to cope with theredisability was through relying on benefactors, implementing self-improvementtechniques, and utilizing particular strategies and management skills to assiststudents with academics. The results from this study have tremendousimplications for schools and school administration. The purpose of this studywas fulfilled and it is of great importance for the future of students withlearning disabilities. In conclusion, the findings of research have shownsimilarities and differences in accommodating persons with learningdisabilities.
Barga (1996) finding supports students with learning disabilitieshas increased at an alarming rate and learning disabled students continue toface challenges in the school environment. Greenbaum et al. (1996) found afterpost-secondary education persons with learning disabilities adjusted well to thecomplexities of adulthood even though those individuals rarely disclosed theirlearning disability to their employer fearing being discriminated against. Howcan we as a society empower persons with disadvantages to become more aware oftheir rights as defined by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans withDisabilities Act of 1990? We should make every effort to inform students aboutservices offered in schools as well as their rights to those services. Employersneed to become more knowledgeable of their responsibilities to employees facedwith learning disabilities. Both schools and employers need to become more awareof discrimination, labeling, stigmatizations, and gatekeeping that persons arefaced with during their life as disabled. Due to these negative outcomes,persons must avoid disclosing their disability to make it through a school orwork situation. However, disclosing is starting to become easier as the stigmalessons, but unfortunately, discrimination is not yet cleansed from our country.
Some may wish not to disclose their learning disability, but by using positiveterms to explain what one needs can be another option. Example: I need Mary toproof my work before you see it. That way we can both pay more attention to thecontent and not worry about the way it is typed. Have you seen the XYZ software?It gets the computer to talk so that you can hear what is on the screen. Sincemy job requires so much detailed reading, it would be wonderful if I could hearit. Then there would be fewer errors.
Regardless of the strategy, one may take.An accommodation request must be well thought out, and the easier it is for youremployer, the more likely your success. As stated in the passage earlier,participants of the Greenbaum et al. study indicated difficulties in multipleareas one being organization. A strategy for helping organizational skills mayinclude using a daily calendar, keeping your work area clean of clutter, colorcode items, keep items on shelves and bulletin boards. Use an alarm feature onyour work computer so to remind you of important meetings.
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