04 SES 03 D, What You See Is Not What You Get: Disability Revisited
The positive effects on later education of early reading and writing skills have been well documented (Mol and Bus 2011). On the other hand, early reading and writing problems can lead to poor performance in text reading and comprehension (Berninger et al. 2006), and often students struggle with these deficits throughout their school years and beyond (Fletcher, Lyon, Fuchs and Barnes 2007), which is likely to affect also on school achievement (Ferrer et al. 2015). This means that students with reading and writing disabilities must cope with repetitive academic failure, which can seriously impede their academic self-competence (Chapman and Turner 1995). Earlier studies have shown that recurrent academic failure and negative self-concept are closely inter-related (Klassen 2002). Self-concept is an important component of psycho-social adjustment and emotional well-being. It has been widely reported that children with reading and writing disabilities have more negative and lower academic self-concept than their typically achieving peers (Carroll & Ile, 2006). Proper compensation strategies could help sustaining the level of academic self-concept, but not all teachers are aware of the amount and content of support that students would need (Gerber, 2012). Moreover, students who receive the most negative evaluations from significant others report the lowest levels of self-concept (Bain and Bell 2004).
It has also been shown that many children with reading and writing disabilities feel isolated, and as many as half report that they are regularly teased at school (Humphrey 2002; Mishna 2003). Socio-metric research has shown that students with reading and writing disabilities often are generally less liked or accepted by their classmates than other children. Moreover, students without learning disabilities perceive higher levels of intimacy and support for self-concept in their friendships than the students with disabilities. One potential explanation for emergence of the social difficulties of students with learning is that they are simply less interested in developing relationships with their peers (Pearl and Donahue 2004).
The main aim of this study is to explore the longitudinal relationships of reading and writing disabilities, academic self-concept and social relations of children studying at grades one to four. The specific research questions in this study are:
- What is the relationship of students’ reading and writing disabilities and self-concept at the beginning and end of second grade and end of fourth grade?
- What is the relationship between students’ self-competence and social status at second and fourth grade and how this correlates to reading and writing disabilities?
The study is part of longitudinal research project “Cross-linguistic Comparison of Learning and Teaching to Spell and Read" in 2010 to 2018 between Finland, Italy and Germany. In this study only the Finnish data was used (321 students, 151 girls and 170 boys). In Finland children start school at the age of 7 (mean age of participants was 7.17 years). In this longitudinal study word reading and writing skills were assessed by Finnish standardized tests (Lindeman 1998) at the first, second and fourth grade, and sentence writing at second and fourth grade. Academic self-competence was measured by FEES (Rauer and Schuck 2004). Socio-metric status was based on peer nominations at the end of second and fourth grade. Defining of different social status were based on dimensions by Coie and Dodge (1988); Popular, Rejected, Neglected, Controversial, Average. In this study both positive and negative criterions were used to discover also possible resistance or rejection in interpersonal relationships. To answer the research questions correlation analysis (Spearman), crosstabs and analysis of variance (ANOVA) were used (SPSS, version 25).
The results showed that already at the beginning of second grade low reading level and low academic self-competence are significantly related and this relation remains significant also at the end of second grade and at the end of fourth grade. Writing disability is related to low self-competence only at the fourth grade. To conclude, the environment for positive development of academic self-competence could maybe fostered by boosting more the actual reading and writing skills right at the beginning of school, but dual approach of enhancing reading skills and reading self-concept simultaneously could be even more effective (Hornery, Seaton, Tracey, Craven & Yeung, 2014). Low self-competence and much negative feedback from peers correlated significantly both at the end of second and fourth grade. The results of the relation between social status groups and reading and writing disabilities showed that at the end of second grade only in the group of rejected students there were significantly more students with reading and writing disabilities. The basic language problems (speaking, naming, understanding language) can be part of this problem. Positive relationships in schools are central to the well-being and school engagement of students, thus foster a safe and respected
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