Special Education ETDs


Dana Hathcock

Publication Date



This qualitative study was designed to analyze the perceptions of adults with learning disabilities concerning social competence issues. The questions in the research were posed to participants to elicit examples of the challenges experienced as a child and as an adult; examples of the coping skills utilized; examples of circumstances which helped to alleviate the challenges; perceptions regarding the educational system and people/situations in general as factors in performance; and successful outcomes as well as possible reasons for those outcomes. Five female and five male individuals ranging in age from 25-40, having been identified with learning disabilities, participated in this study. Three sets of interviews, based on Spradley's (1979) ethnographic interview, were conducted in Albuquerque, New Mexico during the year of 1998. The focus of the interviews were (1) video clips of social interactions; (2) strength and challenge areas for the four characteristics of social interactions: cooperation, assertion, responsibility, and self-control; and (3) follow-up questions based on the first two sets of interviews.

The major findings revealed:

Most of the participants tended to isolate themselves by choice.

Most of the participants tended !o withdraw within group situations by choice.

Most of the participants had a strong desire to avoid hurting others.

The ability to interact positively with others had a direct relationship with having a positive self-esteem and a strong self-confidence.

All believed that their ideas and creative strategies used to compensate for their learning differences should be viewed as unique versus defective and honored instead of ridiculed.

As children the female participants tended to be very quiet, serious, and the "perfect kid". The girls internalized their frustration.

As children most of the male participants had distinct behaviors depending on the situation. For the most part, the boys externalized their frustrations.

Most of the participants indicated language processing difficulties of some kind. Stress and being overwhelmed with life in general tended to slow the processing even further which affected social interactions.

This exploratory study was rather broad, yet allowed various intriguing concepts to surface. Further research should seek the relationship between intuition and anxiousness and the effect of changing the educational environment on social challenges, as well as additional suggested information.

Document Type




Degree Name

Special Education

Level of Degree


Department Name

Special Education

First Committee Member (Chair)

Ginger Blalock

Second Committee Member

Elizabeth Nielsen

Third Committee Member

Loretta Serna

Fourth Committee Member

Ann Nihlen