Secure relationships help teens prevail over learning disabilities

Strong bonds with parents or teachers help them feel more at ease

Father helping son ride a bicycle

Many learning disabled children, besides their issues at school, feel socially and emotionally challenged. It may start early in childhood, but it gets more severe as they enter adolescence. Their feelings may include anxiety and isolation and even depression.

A positive relationship with someone close and important in their life — including parents and teachers — helps improve learning and "socioemotional" experiences, suggests Dr. Michal Al-Yagon of Tel Aviv University's Jaime and Joan Constantiner School of Education. Her study, published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, highlights difficulties that children with learning disabilities have in establishing secure attachment relationships to their mothers and teachers. Children without such disabilities do not have these difficulties, the research suggests.

Not having these close and supportive relationships has an adverse effect on the teens' social and emotional functioning, contributing to behavioural problems including isolation, depression, and aggression. "We found that more secure child-adult attachments may act as a protective factor during this developmental period, whereas insecure attachments are a risk factor" for social and emotional issues, Dr. Al-Yagon says.

These results could help researchers design more effective interventions for children and adolescents with learning disabilities. Helping to fortify their relationships with parents and teachers may reduce their emotional and behavioural problems.

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