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Learning Disabilities and
Positive Psychology
Sherilyn Groeninger
Hunter College
SPED 707
Characteristics of LD
Effects of LD in students
What is Positive Psychology?
Positive Psychology in Academic Setting
Grant Proposal
Learning Disabilities
 Neurobiological disability in one or more of the processes in
understanding or using language
 May manifest itself in a person’s inability to listen, think,
speak, read, write, spell, or do math
 17% of students receiving special education have a learning
disability (Learning Disabilities Association of New York City, 2012)
Previous LD Interventions
 Students and teachers should work together to find
ways to sort different information, use humor or
exaggeration in learning, use visual aids, explore all
the senses, and make learning fun (Hoover 2009)
 Accommodations may include differentiated
presentation of lessons or materials, different
response mechanisms, or time modifications (NCLD 2006)
Effects of LD on Students
 Feurer and Andrews (2009) found that students with LD
reported higher levels of academic stress than students
without LD
 Learned helplessness occurs when a student experiences
repeated failure and, in turn, expects continued failure and
loses motivation.
 Some studies have shown that the mere diagnosis of a
learning disability will increase the likelihood of
helplessness, lowered expectations, and lower self-esteem
(Valas 2001).
Depression in Students with LD
 Research also indicated that there are significant and
positive correlations between school-related stress and
depression (Feurer and Andrews 2009)
 Other reports have suggested that students with LD
convey higher reports of depressive symptoms than
students without LD (Nelson & Harwood 2011)
 A relationship was also found between students who
display low academic competence in first grade and
students with depressive symptoms in seventh grade
(Herman 2008)
 Students with LD who seek normative-based standards
have been found to be more inclined towards depression
when there is a risk of failure or negative outcome
(Sideridis 2007).
What Students Need
 There is a need for schools to serve as support
systems to children.
 Herman et. al. (2009) call for schools to promote
positive mental health in their students in order to
prevent any psychological problems in children
 Goals of early intervention should expand beyond the
prevention of problems to include the promotion of
well-being (Park & Peterson 2003).
Positive Psychology
 The movement toward positive psychology began with the
ideas of Martin Seligman and his call to shift psychology’s
concern with prevention and cure to an emphasis on
human strengths and virtues. (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi
 Strategies of positive psychology used in counseling and
rehabilitation therapy
 Strategies include a person coming up with at least three
good things about themselves or use the ‘ABCDE’
approach to help clients restructure irrational, negative
beliefs into more positive thoughts and behaviors (Chapin
& Boykin 2010).
 Positive Psychology Video
Using Positive Psychology in
Treating Depression
 Methods of cultivating positive feelings and behaviors
significantly enhance well-being as well as decrease
depressive symptoms (Sin & Lyubomirsky 2009)
 A related study used the positive psychology
techniques of “Three Good Things” and “Using Your
Signature Strengths in a New Way” to determine
whether positive psychology affects depression and
happiness. Results of this study indicated that
positive psychology exercises led to increases in
happiness (Mongrain & Anselmo-Matthews 2012)
Positive Psychology in Schools
 Research has indicated that skills that increase resilience,
positive emotion, engagement, and meaning should be
taught to children in the academic setting (Seligman et al
 Positive feedback and public posting of student
accomplishments are just two of the many ways to
promote a positive psychological environment (Jenson et
al. 2004).
 In an article from U.S. News and World Report by Lindsay
Lyon, psychologists Karen Reivich and Jane Gillham found
that building resilience in younger children through
positive psychology can help prevent depression before it
begins (2009).
The Penn Resiliency Program
 Utilizes the components of Positive Psychology in order to
train both students and teachers on how to integrate
themes of resilience and optimism into the curriculum
(PRP 2012).
 Program consists of several lessons where resilience
concepts and skills are taught through skits, role-plays,
short stories, or cartoons, and in turn, taught to the
 PRP also teaches strategies for students to use for
problem-solving and coping with difficult situations and
Grant Proposal
 PS 023- roughly 190 out of 530 students receive
special education services
 Professional Development on how to integrate
Positive Psychology in the classroom
 A trained representative from the Penn Resiliency
Program would hold the workshop for the teachers
during the summer before the school year starts
 Three day workshop consisting of 12 mini lessons
 Goal is to instruct special education teachers on how
to bring out the strengths of students and teach the
children how to generate positive alternatives for
themselves in their individual lives
 Chapin, M. H., & Boykin, R. B. (2010). Integrating Positive Psychology Techniques into
Rehabilitation Counselor Education. Rehabilitation Education, 24(1-2), 25-34.
 Feurer, D., & Andrews, J. W. (2009). School-Related Stress and Depression in
Adolescents With and Without Learning Disabilities: An Exploratory Study.
Alberta Journal Of Educational Research, 55(1), 92-108.
 Herman, K. C., Lambert, S. F., Reinke, W. M., & Ialongo, N. S. (2008). Low Academic
Competence in First Grade as a Risk Factor for Depressive Cognitions and
Symptoms in Middle School. Journal Of Counseling Psychology, 55(3), 400-410.
 Herman, K. C., Reinke, W. M., Parkin, J., Traylor, K. B., & Agarwal, G. (2009). Childhood
depression: rethinking the role of the school. Psychology In The Schools, 46
(5), 433-446.
 Hoover, A. (2009). Memory tips for students. Retrieved from
 Jenson, W. R., Olympia, D., Farley, M., & Clark, E. (2004). Positive Psychology and
Externalizing Students in a Sea of Negativity. Psychology In The Schools, 41(1),
 Learning Disabilities Association: New York City. (2012). How many people have
learning disabilities? Retrieved from
 Lyon, Lindsay. (2009). Positive Psychology for Kids: Teaching Resilience With Positive
Education. US news and world report. Retrieved from
 Molony, T., & Henwood, M. (2010). Signature Strengths in Positive Psychology.
Communique, 38(8), 15-16.
References Continued
Mongrain, M., & Anselmo-Matthews, T. (2012). Do Positive Psychology Exercises Work? A
Replication of Seligman et al. Journal Of Clinical Psychology, 68(4), 382-389.
NCLD. (2006). Accomodations for students with ld. Retrieved from
NCLD Editorial Team. (2012). Learning Disability Fast Facts. Retrieved from
Nelson, J. M., & Harwood, H. R. (2011). A Meta-Analysis of Parent and Teacher Reports of
Depression among Students with Learning Disabilities: Evidence for the Importance
of Multi-Informant Assessment. Psychology In The Schools, 48(4), 371-384.
New York City Department of Education. 2012. School demographics and accountability snapshot.
Retrieved from
Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2003). Early Intervention from the Perspective of Positive Psychology.
Prevention & Treatment, 6(1), 35c.
Positive Psychology Center. (2007). Retrieved from
Seligman, M. P., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology: An introduction. American
Psychologist, 55(1), 5-14.
Seligman, M. P., Ernst, R. M., Gillham, J., Reivich, K., & Linkins, M. (2009). Positive education:
positive psychology and classroom interventions. Oxford Review Of Education, 35(3),
Sideridis, G. D. (2007). Why are students with LD depressed? A goal orientation model of depression
vulnerability. Journal Of Learning Disabilities, 40(6), 526-539.
Sin, N. L., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2009). Enhancing well-being and alleviating depressive symptoms with
positive psychology interventions: A practice-friendly meta-analysis. Journal Of Clinical
Psychology, 65(5), 467-487.
Valås, H. (2001). Learned Helplessness and Psychological Adjustment II: Effects of learning
disabilities and low achievement. Scandinavian Journal Of Educational Research, 45(2),