“Digging a Hole With a Fork”: Investigating Reading Difficulty in Manitoba: An Exploratory Case Study of Adults

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Understanding the daily life and school experiences of adults in Manitoba can inform important structural and systemic priorities to better meet the needs of those with reading disabilities (RD). The research questions for this study were (a) how have adults with severe RD experienced school in Manitoba and (b) how has RD had an impact on their life experiences? Following a constructivist stance, this study employed a case study approach in which 11 Manitoba adults who self-identified or were diagnosed with RD participated in one-on-one semi-structured interviews. They expressed feelings of pain and the impact of unmet needs, as well as joy when feeling understood and embraced. The results suggest that a diagnosis of RD, especially earlier on, created a more defined self-image and acceptance of RD. Further, when the system of support provided tools, accommodations, and understanding, participants felt encouraged and optimistic. Schools were found to have an emotional impact and therefore have an important role to play. Some participants reported that diagnosis and advocacy were due to happenstance encounters or family influence. Community supports were found to be largely absent. Although those who were in post-secondary study typically found accommodations, only one participant reported utilizing a public disabilities organization for advocacy in the workplace or school. Individuals who moved towards self-actualization appeared to embrace diversity and challenges while at the same time developing strong compensation skills to work through problems caused by RD. Further, individuals who persistently worked towards personal goals had come to a more peaceful reconciliation of their struggles. A conceptual model was developed that identified the essential interaction of self-identity, community, and personal traits. Given the complexity and variety of experiences, community and school systems meant to support those with RD must coordinate efforts by learning more about RD and listening to their voices.
dyslexia, learning disabilities, reading, literacy development in adults, higher education, Manitoba
Bjornson, V. C. V. (2021). “Digging a Hole With a Fork”: Investigating Reading Difficulty in Manitoba: An Exploratory Case Study of Adults (Doctoral thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from https://prism.ucalgary.ca.