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The daily demands and forces that affect adults, though different from those affecting children, are nonetheless significant. From the perspective of learning disabilities we all agree that children with learning disabilities grow up to be adults with learning disabilities. The consequences of their learning disability, however, change. The arena shifts from school to work and community. The implications become more significant. The child with learning disabilities may rely on family and school for support. The adult with learning disabilities, however, often struggles to find a support system. Therefore, adults with learning disabilities may be at increased risk to develop emotional problems and specific psychiatric disorders as a consequence of their learning disability in the adult years.
Professionals need to recognize the logical consequence of increased feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, lower self-esteem and lack of assertive skills that arise as the result of living day in and day out with a handicapping disability, particularly one that for many adults with learning disabilities, was either inadequately identified or not identified, and was even less likely to have been treated. I urge my fellow mental health clinicians, counselors and advocates to do the following:
1. Recognize and accept that a child with a learning disability grows up to become an adult with a learning disability. 2. Listen carefully to what our clients and patients say. 3. Obtain careful childhood histories, as those individuals with learning disabilities and psychiatric problems in childhood likely continue to have both problems in adulthood. 4. Do not assume that all individuals with histories of learning disabilities will experience emotional problems but recognize that all will be affected to some extent. 5. Reasonably assume that most individuals with learning disabilities have had a much more difficult life course emotionally and are more likely to experience feelings of low self-esteem. 6. Adults with learning disabilities can and do experience more life and vocational problems than others. For some, these problems are invasive and intrusive. For others, they are fairly subtle. 7. Many individuals with learning disabilities use other strengths to compensate for their disabilities and develop a variety of coping strategies, allowing them to function well in every day life. 8. Listen carefully when taking a history. An undiagnosed learning disability may, in some individuals, represent a significant variable to explain the course of reported emotional problems. 9. With increased community acceptance and recognition that learning disabilities represent a life time phenomenon, medical, mental health and educational professionals are going to find themselves supporting and treating more and more of these individuals. As adult learning disabilities become popular, these individuals are also excellent targets for the marketing of all kinds of fads, mythical treatments, and unproven remedies. Knowledge professionals can offer their patients and clients a powerful sense of hope by being available and providing accurate information, understanding, and support. Although much of the science in adult learning disabilities remains in the future, common sense and clinical judgment can offer great help today.
instructors. over-eats or loses her appetite. only a qualified professional can diagnose anxiety or depression in your child. and making decisions. you can begin to support her to regain her self-esteem. or may fear being separated from home or from parents or other adults to whom he's attached. With this said. a child who is anxious may seem worried most of the time. Controlling. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. according to Dr. which is used by physicians to diagnose psychological problems.In the next few months. is overwhelmed by challenges facing him.A child who is depressed. Robert Brooks. you play a critical role in identifying early signs of possible problems. (Note: These are not complete lists of symptoms. according to DSMIV criteria. adults with learning disabilities can improve their ability to tolerate change. Denying. may act nervous in certain settings. or a mental health professional. family. however. interfering with learning. In addition. in order to manage the pain they would feel if insecurities were acknowledged. feels worthless or hopeless.) If you are worried that your child may be experiencing psychological difficulties. or loneliness. growing." Occasional and short-term use of these unproductive coping strategies is probably not a cause for concern. and daily activities. when tasks become difficult or frustrating. or when expected to perform. parents. has trouble thinking. Clowning. such as in crowds of people. But when they become the habitual way a child approaches daily tasks. Being aggressive and bullying. Some warning signs of psychological difficulties Low self-esteem is a common issue for kids with LD. depression. and what research shows about effective approaches for coping with these challenges Adults with Learning Disabilities: A Call to Action . through social skills practice. Being impulsive. feels inappropriate guilt. upcoming articles in this series will focus on particular psychological difficulties that can affect children with LD. and enjoying life. and expert on self-esteem. and other professionals can help adults with learning disabilities by making transition processes easier through understanding and accommodating the adults' needs. Fourth Edition (DSM-IV). to hide lack of confidence or to relieve pressure. to counteract a sense of helplessness. concentrating. at school. family physician. categorizes the signs of low self-esteem in kids as either "direct" or "indirect. or has little hope for future success.To avoid the tendency to blame the person for their lack of flexibility. Avoiding a task or activity for fear of failing. seems sad or irritable most of the time. By taking action when you first notice that your child is having problems. loses interest and pleasure in many activities she used to enjoy. Brooks. discuss your concerns right away with your pediatrician. signs of low self-esteem may be masked by a variety of self-defeating coping strategies. motivation. such as anxiety. finishing tasks as quickly as possible "just to get it over with. Dr. such as: Quitting. it is important to understand the neurological basis for this difficulty with adjusting to change. As an expert on your child's personality and typical behavior. and the pleasure she gets from friends. it's time to look at the feelings behind the behavior. a psychologist." Direct indicators include words or actions that suggest that a child lacks self-confidence. Harvard Medical School professor. At times. Some kids with learning difficulties may become either anxious or depressed as a result of ongoing academic and non-academic struggles related to their LD. to fend off feelings of vulnerability.
While much progress has been made in many of these areas. or sensitivity to the needs of adults with learning disabilities. At present there is a paucity of appropriate diagnostic procedures for assessing and determining the status and needs of adults with learning disabilities.In a 1985 paper titled "Adults with Learning Disabilities: A Call to Action. Adults with learning disabilities may experience personal. prevocational preparation. and private funding agencies concerned with learning disabilities have not supported program development initiatives for adults with learning disabilities. understand. state. Federal. Advocacy efforts on behalf of adults with learning disabilities currently are inadequate. Few professionals have been prepared adequately to work with adults who demonstrate learning disabilities. and emotional difficulties that may affect their adaptation to life tasks. Employers frequently do not have the awareness. and career counseling necessary for the development of adult abilities and skills. all of which unfortunately still hold true today: Learning disabilities are both persistent and pervasive throughout an individual's life. Older adolescents and adults with learning disabilities frequently are denied access to appropriate academic instruction. This situation has resulted in the misuse and misinterpretation of tests that have been designed for and standardized on younger people. The manifestations of the learning disability can be expected to change throughout the life span of the individual. social. Corporate as well as public and private agencies have been unaware and therefore have failed to accept their responsibility to develop and implement programs for adults with learning disabilities. . knowledge of." the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities articulated the following concerns about the issues faced by adults with LD. These difficulties may be an integral aspect of the learning disability or may have resulted from past experiences with others who were unable or unwilling to accept. or cope with the persons' disabilities. coordinating services and supports for adults with LD and finding ways to support this population with essential information and effective resources remains an enormous challenge.
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