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“My Dyslexia is Like a Bubble”: How Insiders with Learning Disabilities Describe Their Differences, Strengths, and Challenges

Rachel Lambert, Mina Chun, Jessie Davis, Key Lynn Ceja, Katie Aguilar, Pauline Moran, Lindsey Manset


Educational research undervalues the experiences of people with disabilities, including those with learning disabilities and/or dyslexia, whom we call insiders. In this study, we examined narratives pertaining to schooling from published memoirs and/or interviews with 30 insiders with learning disabilities or dyslexia. First, we describe how these insiders define learning disabilities. We found multiple definitions of learning disabilities (LD), from sharp divisions between “LDness” and “normal,” to conceptions of universal learner variability such as “everyone learns differently.” We also describe how insiders defined their gifts as learners, and the challenges they faced in schools. Insiders identified strengths around creative problem-solving, multimodal thinking, and persistence. Challenges in school involved learning how to read, difficulty memorizing disconnected facts and needing more time. Recommendations include designing instruction that builds on the cognitive gifts of those with learning disabilities and dyslexia while minimizing instruction that focuses on their challenges. 

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Dyslexia; learning disabilities; neurodiversity; qualitative research

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