Articles in English, Strefa psychologa, z frontu badań

School Phobia in Children with Dyslexia

Autorzy: dr n.społ. Ewa Łodygowska, psycholog; dr n.hum. Damian A. Czepita (Jr), filolog angielski



Developmental dyslexia is a disorder affecting 10–15% of children [1], conditioned by genetic [2] and neurological factors [3, 4].

International Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD‑10) [5] categorizes developmental dyslexia as a type of specific disorders of school skill development (F81), distinguishing specific reading disorders (F81.0) and specific disorders in mastering correct spelling (F81.1). Moreover, the ICD‑10 classification shows the relationship of specific reading difficulties with speech and language disturbances and highlights the dynamic nature of the problems – continuing problems associated with reading, writing difficulties which may be longer though improving reading skills. In addition attention is drawn to the possibility of the emergence of emotional and behavioral problems during the school period.

Dyslexic difficulties affect the emotional‑motivational and social sphere of a child, which may result in reduced self‑esteem [6], withdrawal from school activity [7] and fear of failure [8], as well as increased level of fear [8, 9].

Fear is a negative emotional feeling and accompanies almost all non‑favorable events to humans. School fear refers to situations related to the functioning of the child in school and applies both to learning, as well as situations associated with the in class functioning [10, 11].

Although low levels of fear may serve an adaptive function (for example when it becomes a source of energy in a particular situation and encourages concentration on an action), high levels – inappropriate to the situation – the level of fear usually serves an inadaptable function role, having disorganizing effects on the functioning of the child [11]. This happens in situations where tension indicates the apparent threat and the degree of fear exceeds the optimal level for the child.

In literature it is possible to encounter research confirming exacerbated fear levels among dyslexic children [7, 8], as well as studies not confirming it [12]. However, little is reported about the impact of specialized counseling on fear levels of school children with dyslexia. Hence, the aim of this study is to determine whether dyslexic children with different therapeutic experience vary in the level of general school fear and other forms of it: fear due to inadequate performance, fear caused by the teacher behawior, fear occurring during oral or written tests.

Material and methods

The study included 165 pupils of the sixth grade of primary school and the first and second grade of gymnasium with a diagnosed developmental dyslexia. The studied subjects were classified into three equal groups (n = 55) with an equal sex ratio (30 boys, 25 girls):

  • group 1 – dyslexic children –– covered with a minimum three year therapeutic aid, lasting until the time of the test;
  • group 2 – dyslexic children with unsymmetrical therapeutic experience, that is those who in the past (at least two years before the time of testing) have stopped to participate in therapeutic activities. In addition, the activities were irregular, with at least one break lasting over a year and a half;
  • group 3 – children with dyslexia, who were never covered by any form of specialist therapeutic help.

Information regarding the therapeutic experiences of children were gathered on the basis of a psychological interview as well as by using a teacher questionnaire and a questionnaire for therapists developed by Ewa Łodygowska.

The groups were compared in terms of demographic factors, intelligence and the characteristics of dyslexic disorders; the groups proved to be homogeneous.

In the study the questionnaire “I and my school” by Skrzypek‑Siwińska was used. This type of “paper‑pencil” tool helps to specify the overall level of school fear. It also enables to examine fear associated with factors such as poor academic achievement (NO), the behavior of the teacher (ZN), and situations of verifying knowledge: oral testing (OD) and written tests (KL) [13]. The questionnaire used is characterized by good reliability (Cornbach’s internal consistency coefficient for the school fear scale is 0.911) and satisfactory absolute stability (test‑retest method: 0.76–0.870) [13].

In order to statistically verify the data two mean analysis of variance ANOVA and Tukey’s HSD post‑hoc test were used.

The presented study is part of the research conducted within the doctoral thesis of Ewa Łodygowska, under the supervision of dr hab. prof. UG Teresa Rostowska.


The carried out two mean analysis of variance ANOVA in scheme 3 (types of therapeutic experience) × 2 (gender), where the dependent variable is the level of school fear (LS), shows a significant main effect of the impact of the type of therapeutic experience and the impact of gender on the level of school fear. No evidence of an interaction effect of both factors were found, which means both of them are independent (Tab. 1).


tabela 1

Table 1. Analysis of variance: effect of therapeutic experience and gender on the level of school phobia

Girls are characterized by higher levels of school fear and this relationship exists regardless of their therapeutic experience (Fig. 1).


However, the kind of therapeutic experience also differentiates dyslexic children in terms of manifested school fear.

Analysis with Tukey’s post hoc tests shows that group 2 achieved significantly higher scores than group 1 (p = 0,005); the other dependencies are not statistically significant.

The statistical analysis of impact of the type of therapeutic experience and gender on school fear whose source is poor academic achievement (NO) and the behavior of the teacher (ZN) showed no statistically significant correlations (p > 0,05).

However, in the case of two other fear causing factors – oral testing (OD) and written tests (KL) a two mean analysis of variance ANOVA in scheme 3 was carried out (types of therapeutic experience) × 2 (gender) show significant main effects and irrelevant effects of the interaction (Tab. 2).


Table 2. Analysis of variance: effect of therapeutic experience and gender on the level of school phobia during written and oral tests

This means that in case of knowledge verification (during oral and written tests) girls show significantly higher levels regardless of their therapeutic experience (Figs 2, 3).

In addition, there is an important difference between groups of different therapeutic experience. Children in group 2 exhibit significantly higher levels of fear in oral test situations (p = 0.021) and written test situations (p = 0.017) than children from group 1. Group 3, receiving an intermediate result is not significantly different from the other two groups.


The study showed that the therapeutic effects of unsystematic care results in severe levels of fear in dyslectic children. Regular therapeutic support leads to a low level of school fear, which may indicate that professional therapy strengthens the sense of competence in children and allows them to use effective strategies when dealing with difficult situations [14, 15]. Surprising is the fact that a group of children without therapeutic experience – achieves intermediate results – and on a statistical level does not differ from the two remaining groups. Perhaps the reason for this is the giving up on school activities by children from this group and compensating the difficulties in other areas of life [8, 16]. In effect, learning as an irrelevant life activity does not involve the emotional sphere and does not determine fear.

The study also showed that boys and girls of various therapeutic experiences in a similar way react to the behavior of the teacher. They also do not differ in the fear level associated with school grades.

The situation of knowledge verification is fear creative. Both written and oral tests are perceived by girls as more threatening than in the case of boys. The perception of potentially stressful situations may be explained by the dependence confirmed in other studies that girls often apply the coping style based on emotions, and more frequently “struggle to overcome problems” by avoiding and seeking other activities [17].

However, no matter their gender – the type of therapeutic experience can affect the way knowledge testing situations are perceived as a threat. Children with unsystematic treatment experience show a higher level of fear (than children with systematic therapy), which may be associated with the weaker sense of efficacy and less competence in dealing with difficult situations [14], and – the recognition of learning as an important value.


Therapeutic interventions may not help a child with dyslexia but can also contribute to negative consequences if they are of inadequate duration, regularity and continuity. One such consequence is severe school fear that can affect in a disorganizing way the functioning of a child at school and determine the perception of school situations.

It is worth noting that knowledge verification situations are typical school situations. Thus, if a child perceives them in terms of threat, fear that goes with it can be activated very often, almost on every lesson. This permanent state of tension can lead to several changes in the cognitive, emotional, motivational spheres as well as it can contribute to the forming of psychogenic illnesses.


Summary [polska wersja]

 Purpose: Dyslexic disorders are found in many children, affecting the emotional and social sphere and producing negative consequences for school functioning of the child. The aim of the present work was to determine the impact of the type of therapy on school phobia in dyslexic children.

Material and methods: 165 dyslexic children were examined using the questionnaire “Me and my school” developed by Elżbieta Skrzypek‑Siwińska.

The therapeutic experience of the children was taken into account and three groups were formed: 1) children with regular therapy; 2) children with occasional therapy; 3) children without therapy.

Results: Children with occasional therapy demonstrated higher levels of school phobia. These children exhibited a higher level of fear in situations when their knowledge was tested. Girls revealed a higher level of school phobia and knowledge testing fear, regardless of their therapeutic experience.

Conclusions: The present study disclosed that the quality of therapy affects the emotional sphere of dyslexic children. Irregular therapy can produce serious consequences in the form of enhanced school phobia.


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Artykuł (pełny tekst) opublikowany w „Annales Academicae Stetinensis, Roczniki Pomorskiej Akademii Medycznej”, 2012, 58, 1, 66–70




psycholog dr n.społ. Ewa Łodygowska


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