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Self-Esteem and Learning Disabilities

Self-esteem is the feelings and thoughts that people have about their own competence, worth, and ability to make a difference in the world. People with good self-esteem confront rather than flee challenges, learn from successes and failures, and treat themselves and others with respect. A far-reaching goal for all students should be to develop positive, realistic self-esteem.

According to ground-breaking work by Erickson, people go through predictable stages of social-emotional development. Elementary-aged children must face the challenge of resolving conflict between feelings of industry (e.g., self-reliance, competency) and inferiority. If children experience success during these early school years, they will develop positive attitudes about themselves and their abilities. They will view themselves as competent and industrious. On the other hand, if they experience frustration and failure, they will feel inferior and incompetent.

Unfortunately, many children with learning disabilities do not experience success in elementary school. Being identified as learning disabled or special can negatively affect the self-image of some children. So these children are more likely to develop poor self-esteem and negative ideas about their capabilities. If these children do succeed, they are more likely to attribute their success to luck than to their own abilities.

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