Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Jacqueline Specht


Provincial demonstration schools provide specialized programs for students with learning disabilities and provide a supportive environment where students learn about their learning disabilities and how they learn best. Embedded within subject area instruction, these schools provide intensive training on the use of assistive technology. This mixed methods study followed 12 students (8 males and 4 females between 14 and 16 years of age) and their parents in order understand students’ transition from a demonstration school into high schools, their assistive technology use in both school environments, and how these environments may have impacted their self-concept and school motivation. Participants reported students experienced a positive transition to high because of the independence and self-advocacy skills students acquired at the demonstration school. Teacher-student relationships were more positive at the demonstration school than at high school. There were no significant differences between the degree to which assistive technology impacted students’ competence, adaptability, and self-esteem at the demonstration school and at high school. Students continued to benefit from assistive technology in high school and used the technology to varying degrees. Students’ perceptions of their general intellectual ability, and reading, writing, spelling, and math competencies increased while attending the demonstration school. Students’ perceived reading and writing competences decreased in high school, yet remained higher from when students entered the demonstration school. There were no significant differences between students’ motivation and engagement at the demonstration school and high school. Implications surround supportive school practices for students with learning disabilities and how these practices can be applied in inclusive schools.