Adult Learning Disabilities

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I grew up hearing that learning disabilities go away.  “People get kids tested for dyslexia so their kids believe they can’t read,” my dad would say.  My mom felt that ADHD is an excuse for bad behavior.  My parents and grandparents didn’t believe in the existence of learning disabilities.  

Naturally, as I was growing up, I didn’t know much about learning disabilities; that is, until I learned I had some learning differences.

My initial research was about the effects of learning disabilities on children.  Then an article about symptoms of learning disabilities in adults popped up.  I can trace so many of my problems in adulthood to learning differences.  But I was curious about specific signs in adults.  

Especially since there is so much research about the effects on children, this seemed to be a topic of importance.  There are many adults who live with an undiagnosed disorder.  This is problematic since learning disabilities continue to affect people’s lives, even as adults.

Undiagnosed learning disabilities affect three main areas; self-image, connections, and careers.  Some of the signs are universal, and some symptoms pertain to specific learning disabilities.  So if you’ve ever wondered why things are so hard sometimes, this information might be useful.  

Universal Signs

Listed below are the universal signs that accompany any undiagnosed learning disability:

  • Low Self-Esteem
    • The feeling of low self-esteem is quite common in people with untreated learning disorders.  It is the byproduct of people being mislabeled as lazy, slow, stubborn, defiant, etc.  This feeling also results from having to work extra hard to be successful, and possibly failing repeatedly.
  • Difficulty with Interpersonal Relationships
    • People with learning disabilities find it challenging connecting with other individuals.  This can include making new friends, maintaining friendships, and remaining in long-term relationships.  This is potentially due to having differences in communicating and interpreting information.
  • Using Coping Strategies
  • Challenges with College and Career
    • People with learning disabilities often struggle with college and career.  This is due to the need for a different working environment or struggles with reading and writing.  
  • Mental Illness
    • Learning disabilities take a toll on a person’s mental health.  When learning differences go untreated, people develop mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression.  The longer a person lives without support, these feelings only worsen.

Specific Signs

Now, given that there are a variety of learning disabilities, there are specific signs that accompany each one.  If you have struggled with the above feelings, it could point to having a learning difference.  The question becomes which one.  

  • Underdeveloped Writing 
  • Avoidance of Reading
  • Poor Spelling
  • Difficulty with Math Calculations
  • Short Attention Span
  • Problems Focusing
  • Easily Getting Overwhelmed

Underdeveloped writing skills, avoidance of reading and writing, and poor spelling might point to dyslexia or dyspraxia.  Struggles with math calculations and numbers generally connect to dyscalculia.  If tasks become stressful due to reading, writing, or math it’s possible that the underlying cause is either dyslexia or dyscalculia.

Lastly, having a short attention span, problems focusing one’s attention, and getting overwhelmed are seen in people with learning disabilities.  These are frequently things that people with ADHD have a hard time with.    

I’m not suggesting by writing this that if you struggle with any number of these things it indefinitely suggests a learning disability.  There are plenty of individuals who deal with mental health and academic struggles.  But you are a person who has found school and work to be difficult due to the above issues, it could very likely indicate a learning disability.  Especially if your academic challenges have left you feeling out of place.

Even in adulthood, while it might not seem like a big deal, getting an evaluation can be helpful.  Learning disabilities are lifelong conditions that affect a person’s ability to navigate work and relationships.  It’s critical to get the right support so that you can lead a more fulfilling life.



  • “APA Dictionary of Psychology.” American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association,
  • Berg, Viktor., 5 Oct. 2020,
  • Cicerchia, Meredith. “When Learning Disabilities in Adults Go Undiagnosed.” Touch-Type Read and Spell (TTRS), 6 July 2019,
  • Steber, Carolyn. “11 Subtle Signs You Might Have a Learning Disability as An.”, 22 Sept. 2017,



Recognizing Learning Disabilities in Adults: Do I Have a Learning Disability?

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11 thoughts on “Recognizing Learning Disabilities in Adults: Do I Have a Learning Disability?

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