So, 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 numerous 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’re like me and feel like your adult years have been a big struggle, this information might be useful.
The universal symptoms of a hidden learning disability include low self-esteem, difficulty connecting with other people, coping strategies, challenges with college and careers, and dealing with mental illnesses.
Feelings of low self-esteem, inadequacy, anxiety, and depression accompany any untreated learning disability. They are the byproduct of adults mislabeling struggling students as lazy, slow, stubborn, defiant, etc. As students live longer without the needed support, these feelings only worsen.
Additionally, people with different learning needs develop coping strategies for their daily lives. This is likely due to having to navigate a world with needs that differ from the normal expectations and structure. Coping strategies, by definition, are adaptive behaviors and thoughts used to modify your reaction to a stressful situation.
The other two challenges that result from undiagnosed learning disabilities are challenges with careers and college and struggling to form authentic connections. The first one shouldn’t come as a surprise given that most people have struggled their way through school. The idea that a student’s problems are the result of age and maturity is what needs to change, in my humble opinion.
And, yes, 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.
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.
Learning disabilities affect a person’s ability to perform academic tasks. It’s probable you might have a learning disability if projects at work or college are challenging because of the reading, writing, math, or focus involved.
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, https://dictionary.apa.org/coping-strategy.
- Berg, Viktor. Homecare.co.uk, 5 Oct. 2020, https://www.homecare.co.uk/advice/signs-and-diagnosis-of-a-learning-disability-in-adults.
- Cicerchia, Meredith. “When Learning Disabilities in Adults Go Undiagnosed.” Touch-Type Read and Spell (TTRS), 6 July 2019, https://www.readandspell.com/us/learning-disabilities-in-adults.
- Steber, Carolyn. “11 Subtle Signs You Might Have a Learning Disability as An.” Walldiscover.com, 22 Sept. 2017, https://www.walldiscover.com/11-subtle-signs-you-might-have-a-learning-disability-as-an/Ym-vay1pZGVhLWFjY9VsZXJhdGUteW-1ci1sZWFybmluZy13aXRoLXNrZXRjaG5vdGVzfHxodHRwczovL9kucGluaW1nLmNvbS-vcmlnaW5hbHMvMjYvMDkvNDkvMjYwOTQ5MDcxODJiMTU0Y9MwMTEyODYzYTljNjliZDIuanBn.html