Academic journal article International Journal of Emotional Education

Emotional and Meta-Emotional Intelligence as Predictors of Adjustment Problems in Students with Specific Learning Disorders

Academic journal article International Journal of Emotional Education

Emotional and Meta-Emotional Intelligence as Predictors of Adjustment Problems in Students with Specific Learning Disorders

Article excerpt


Diversity and social inclusion are two highly topical themes in schools. School cannot be considered only as a learning place, since it is the context where first peer comparison takes place, and where children and adolescents have their first experiences of academic success and failure. These experiences contribute to personality and self-concept development. For this purpose, the situations of students presenting learning difficulties have to be managed optimally in order to avoid potential psychological problems and dropout from school, amongst others. One of the challenges facing schools in this respect is the inclusion of children with special educational needs, including those with specific learning disorder (hereafter SLD), the focus of this paper.

Inclusion of students with specific learning disorders

SLDs are described as neurodevelopmental disorders with a biological origin. People with SLD have a normal level of intellectual functioning and difficulties in one or more specific learning domains, such as reading, written expression, and mathematics (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, APA, 2013). The onset of SLD appears during the years of formal education, and the performance of affected academic skills is below average for age; this condition persists throughout the person's life.

In view of their extreme specificity of their learning difficulties, students with SLD may suffer even more than other children with special needs during the school years. There are many cases in which the diagnosis is not recognized, or is made only after a long period of academic failure. This occurs because despite their great difficulties in reading, writing and maths, they are not visibly "different" from their classmates and their disability is not immediately evident. Despite the number of studies of, and research on, individuals with SLD, some people still tend to consider their academic failure as the result of low motivation and commitment. The rigid assumption of these interpretations has a negative impact on the inclusion process, which should take into account all cognitive, emotional, pedagogical and social aspects of learning and education.

The literature on students with SLD has concentrated more on cognitive factors (memory, attention) and didactic or intervention approaches than on affective factors. Even the DSM 5, in defining the severity level of the observed disorder, suggests considering only the capability of task completion and support needed, with no attention to the individual's abilities to cope with demanding learning situations, or to personal and socio-emotional adjustment. Similarly, norms for the inclusion of students with SLD, at least in Italy (Law 170/2010), are more concentrated on didactic strategies for learning (i.e., compensatory tools or dispensatory methods), and less on the improvement of social or emotional learning to prevent adjustment problems.

Adjustment problems of students with specific learning disorders

Despite their learning difficulties, some people with SLD, lead a normal healthy life and achieve important personal and professional goals. This is demonstrated by the well-known list of people with SLD who have become very well known in various fields of art, literature and science (e.g., Albert Einstein, Steven Spielberg, Leonardo Da Vinci). However, there are also many people with SLD who may be overwhelmed by their difficulties and develop symptoms of adjustment problems. Various studies of adolescents with SLD have described the presence of emotional and social difficulties that can have a negative impact on their adaptation and development (Daniel, Walsh, Goldston, Arnold, Reboussin, & Wood, 2006; Kiuru Leskinen, Nurmi, Salmela-Aro, 2011). Furthermore, students with learning difficulties are also at risk of educational drop out (Korhonen, Linnanmäki & Aunio, 2014).

Adjustment problems, academic success and emotional intelligence

Various research studies have demonstrated that both adjustment and academic success may be influenced by emotional intelligence. …

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