Monday, June 27, 2016 at 9:00 a.m.
Room 203, Graduate Student Centre (6371 Crescent Road), UBC Point Grey Campus
Supervisor: Dr. Lynn Miller
Supervisor Committee: Dr. William McKee and Dr. Brian O’Neill (Social Work)
University Examiners: Dr. Laurie Ford and Dr. Jennifer Baumbusch (Nursing)
External Examiner: Dr. Cheryll Ann Duquette (University of Ottawa)
Title: Adults’ Experiences of Receiving a Diagnosis of a Learning Disability
A learning disability (LD) is a term used to refer to a heterogeneous group of disabilities characterized by difficulty acquiring or demonstrating one or more academic skills, such as reading, writing, and mathematics (Fletcher, 2012). Learning disabilities are often identified in childhood or adolescence, but persist over the lifespan (Gerber, 2012). There is a small, but growing body of literature that has examined the experiences and outcomes of adults with LDs (e.g., Gerber, 2012; Nalavany, Carawan, & Sauber, 2013; Wilson, Armstrong, Furrie, & Walcot, 2009). This literature has neglected to differentiate between individuals who were diagnosed with LD in childhood, and those who were diagnosed in adulthood. Limited research suggests that an increasing number of individuals are seeking and receiving an assessment and initial diagnosis of LDs in adulthood (Sparks & Lovett, 2009).
There is little understanding of how adults make sense of the experience of seeking and receiving a psychoeducational assessment and receiving a diagnosis of an LD. This study employed a qualitative research approach, interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA), to understand the meaning of seeking and receiving a psychoeducational assessment and of receiving a diagnosis of an LD in adulthood. Six adults who had received a diagnosis of an LD engaged in semi-structured interviews. With regard to the experience of seeking and receiving a psychoeducational assessment, four broad themes and five subthemes were identified. The broad themes are: 1) Reviewing the past, 2) Pursuing the assessment, 3) Perceptions of the clinician, and 4) Understanding the results. With regard to the experience of receiving a diagnosis of an LD, four broad themes and 11 subthemes were identified. The broad themes include: 1) Gaining insight and perspective on the past, 2) Making sense, 3) Conceptualizing a new self, and 4) Reflecting on the LD and society. Participants described experiences prior to, during, and following the LD assessment and diagnosis. The findings are considered in relation to the existing literature. Implications for practitioners, recommendations for future research, and the strengths and limitations of the study are discussed.