Growing up with Dyslexia: Cognitive and Psychosocial Impact, and Salutogenic Factors
Abstract: The studies in this doctoral thesis report aspects of cognitive and socio emotional development in a group of teenagers and young adults with dyslexia. The 75 subjects, between 14 and 25 years of age, had been diagnosed in the latter half of the 1990s, and the collection of quantitative and qualitative data was performed in 2003-04.
Study I investigated the stability of intelligence. Earlier research had shown contradictory results. Participants, who were 12 years old on the average at the first test, were retested after a mean period of 6½ years. There was a significant relative decrease in Verbal IQ, interpreted as an effect of the dyslexic individuals having less experience with reading and writing, and as a consequence, a lag in verbal ability. Performance IQ improved significantly and the tentative interpretation was that of a compensatory process. Dyslexic children might develop a more visual, intuitive and creative way to process information and solve problems, leading to an improvement in non verbal intelligence.
Study II involved interviews about school experiences in terms of well being, educational achievement, self esteem, peer relations, and future beliefs. Earlier studies suggest that secondary emotional problems are common. Early on, school was experienced as full of distress and failure for a majority. Peer relations were good for the majority though. With time, problems became more limited to reading and writing activities, interpreted as an effect of compartmentalization of the disability along with suitable choices of school curricula and occupations. Academic self-esteem seemed low and the most optimistic subjects were those who had finished school and were permanently employed.
In Study III, the first of its kind in Scandinavia, the purpose was to uncover factors important for a favourable socio-emotional outcome, so called salutogenic factors. The subjects and parents were interviewed. Subjects' global self-worth and sense of coherence were measured. Dyslexia was found to be a risk factor for low global self-worth when associated with poor peer relations and low parental support, typical for a group of "resigned" subjects. External salutogenic factors were; having significant others who believe in the subjects' capacity to cope with the situation, together with good peer and family relations, and having a hobby or being good at sports. Important internal factors were a special talent, the ability to compartmentalize the disability and a personal trait of persistence. The emergence of the latter was discussed.
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