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Dyslexia Guild Summer Conference June 2011

Dyslexia and self-esteem How to help dyslexic learners develop a positive self image
Presenter: Lesley Burnett Dyslexia Action Postgraduate Academic Director

What are we going to cover?

1.What to we mean by self esteem and positive self image? 2. How can we recognise low self esteem in learners who have dyslexia? 3. What helps learners to develop a positive self image?

Dyslexic students and self esteem: How do we research this?

Case studies Evidence from practitioners Autobiographies

There is an urgent need for further research into the connection between developmental learning difficulties of a dyslexic nature and the ways in which these can and do affect a persons sense of identity, possibly throughout their lives Burden (2008) p.194

What do we mean by self-esteem?

How do you see yourself?

Self-concept The way a person describes his or herself Self-esteem
A persons evaluation of how their ideal self relates to their self concept.

Ideal self How a person would like to be

A model of self-concept
89% of dyslexic learners in a study by Zeleka (2004) had a poor academic self-concept

(Marsh, 1992)
The same study found that their non-academic self-concept was similar to those without dyslexia.

Global self-concept

Academic self-concept

Non-academic self-concept






Source: Riddick (2010, p. 37)

The effects of a poor Academic Self-Concept

Literacy failure

Learner recognises his limitations

Resulting in a lack of:

Confidence to succeed



How can we recognise low self-esteem in learners who have dyslexia?

I can do this!

I cant do this!

Self efficacy
(Bandura, 1997)

Confidence in approaching and completing tasks

Learned helplessness
Seligman (2006) I cant be bothered. I dont want to try. I will fail. The learner is placed in a negative situation. She feels she has no control and that there is no escape.

When placed in a more positive situation, the apathy remains. This is learned helplessness

Attribution theory/style
Weiner (1974)

Its all my fault

The teacher made me rush

I cant do it because Im no good at reading

No one understands how I feel

The reasons a learner gives for success or failure

Motivation: Whats in it for me?

When deciding whether to commit to a task, internal factors come into play:
Attitude: Whats in it for me? Is this task valuable?

Agency: Do I have the skills to do this?

(Burden 2008)

Selfconcept: Am I good enough to do this?

Self-concept has a direct effect on attainment (and vice versa) and motivation is central to this.

Responses to stress
Possible sources of stress in school:Literacy failure Too much pressure Being asked to read aloud Being seen as different

Poor motivation

low self-esteem

Tiredness stress withdrawal, behavioural anxiety

further failure difficulties

How to help: Key factors

While feelings of frustration and anxiety are not the causes of dyslexia, they can exacerbate its effects and result in low self-esteem and disaffection. Overcoming these adverse emotional consequences depends on building strong individual resilience and coping strategies, and school and family support for learners experiencing dyslexic difficulties
Rose Review (2009) P. 122

Protective factors (1)

Parental support Supportive non-dyslexic friends Friends or role models with similar difficulties Teacher or adult who believes in the child

Significant others
Teachers Parents

Peer group

Friends with similar difficulties

The support of significant others is crucial in giving dyslexic learners a positive self-concept.
(Lawrence, 2006)

Parents/carers know and understand child best

Help children develop strengths through activities out of school

Most significant others in early years

Can act as advocates for the child in partnership with school

Research by Riddick 2010

Supportive role in helping child cope with learning failure

The role of peers

Peers become the most significant others in a childs life as they get older.
Burnett + McCrindle (1999)

Peer tutoring: helps to stop dyslexic child appearing different.

Humphrey (2003)

At the age of about 8 children start to compare themselves with others.

Gurney (1988)

Peer emotional support is very powerful.

Cowie and Wallace (2000)

The role of the teacher

Acceptance Genuineness

(Lawrence 1996) based on the work of Carl Rogers (1951)

Think about: How the language you use affects those you teach.

Think about:

tried hard but your handwriting could have been neater.

Great ideas here, even though your spelling let you down.

Giving learners a voice

This means that learners should be given the opportunity to express their views. These views should be listened to and respected. Talking about their learning can help to raise awareness of strengths and effective learning strategies. Research suggests this is of benefit to pupils in raising selfesteem (Lawrence, 2006) Resources are available to help teachers to elicit the views of pupils: MALS by R. Burden (Myself-As-A-Learner-Scale) Pupil Voice: Listen to Me materials (Widgit) Target: Self esteem by Jenny Foster (Helen Arkell Dyslexia Centre)

Protective factors (2)

Early identification Effective early reading intervention Positive primary school experiences Positive secondary school experiences Good academic achievement

Early identification

It is generally agreed that the earlier dyslexic difficulties are identified, the better are the chances of putting children on the road to success.
Rose review (2009) P. 42

Observation and monitoring at Wave 1, especially in the Early Years Teachers trained in recognising signs that might put child at risk of dyslexia Teachers able to access and use effective reading interventions

Positive school experiences

Grouping according to interest rather than ability Promoting peer support No failure, only feedback
(Neil Mackay)

Supportive and understanding teachers School ethos that celebrates all strengths, not just those that are academic

Praising work for effort and content rather than accuracy

Good academic achievement

it is in the knowledge of the short and long-term outcomes of self-esteem that we, as educationalists, are presented with our greatest challenge: to teach our children not only to succeed, but also to value themselves.
Humphrey (2003) p.135

Burden, R. (2008) Is dyslexia necessarily associated with feelings of selfworth? A review and implications for further research. Dyslexia, 14, 188 -96 Burden, R. (2005) Dyslexia and Self-Concept. London: Whurr Humphrey, N. (2003) Facilitating a positive sense of self in pupils with dyslexia: the role of teachers and peers. Support for Learning, 18 (3), 129 -36 Lawrence, D. (2006) Enhancing Self Esteem in the Classroom (3rd edn). London: Paul Chapman Mackay, N. (2006) Removing Dyslexia as a Barrier to Achievement. Leeds: SEN Marketing Miles, T.R. (2004) Dyslexia and Stress. London: Whurr Riddick, B. (2010) Living with Dyslexia. (2nd edn.)Abingdon: Routledge. Rose, J. (2009) Identifying and Teaching Children and Young People with Dyslexia and Literacy Difficulties. Nottingham: DCSF Zeleka, S. (2004) Self-concepts of students with learning disabilities and their normally achieving peers: A review. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 19, 145 -170