It has been estimated (Adult with Learning Disabilities) 1 that 50-80% of the students in Adult Basic Education and literacy programs are affected by learning disabilities (LD). Unfortunately, there has been little research on adults who have learning disabilities, leaving literacy practitioners with limited information on the unique manifestations of learning disabilities in adults.
One of the major goals of the (Adult with Learning Disabilities) 1 National
Adult Literacy and Learning Disabilities Center (National ALLD Center) is to raise awareness among literacy practitioners, policy makers, researchers, and adult learners about the nature of learning disabilities and their impact on the provision of literacy services. This fact sheet provides: a definition of learning disabilities in adults; a list of common elements found in many useful LD definitions; and a list of areas in which LD may affect life situations of adults.
In 1963, the term "learning disability" (Adult with Learning Disabilities) 1 was used to describe such disorders as perceptual handicaps, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. In 1975 the passage of regulations accompanying Public Law 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, specifically included a definition of learning disabilities for children that served as a guideline to provide appropriate educational, legislative, and judicial relief. The federal definition was based on the needs of children with learning disabilities, not recognizing how their disability would affect them as adults.
It became apparent that (Adult with Learning Disabilities) 1 learning disabilities persist throughout an individual's life, and it became crucial to develop a definition that describes LD but did not limit the condition to children. Thus, professionals in education, psychology, neurology, biology, and child development have developed definitions that describe learning disabilities as a lifelong condition.
Many useful definitions for LD (Adult with Learning Disabilities) 1 have been accepted by educators, federal agencies, advocacy groups, and/or professional organizations. After reviewing several of these definitions, the National ALLD Center
Advisory Board selected the Interagency Committee on Learning Disabilities' definition of learning disabilities for use by the National ALLD Center. Advisory Board members selected this definition because it reflects current information and issues associated with LD, allows for the presence of learning disabilities at any age, and has been accepted by a committee with broad representation in the LD community.
The Interagency Committee on Learning Disabilities Definition
Learning disabilities is a generic (Adult with Learning Disabilities) 1 term that refers to a heterogeneous group of disorders manifested by significant difficulties in acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematical abilities, or of social skills. These disorders are intrinsic to the individual and presumed to be due to central nervous system dysfunction. Even though a learning disability may occur concomitantly with other handicapping conditions (e.g., sensory impairment, mental retardation, social and emotional disturbance), with socio-environmental influences (e.g., cultural differences, insufficient or inappropriate instruction, psychogenic factors), and especially attention deficit disorder, all of which may cause learning problems, a learning disability is not the direct result of those conditions or influences.
There are many variations of learning disabilities.
Learning disabilities involve difficulties in any of the following skills: listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, and mathematics.
Social skills may be affected by the learning disability.
Learning disabilities may be due to a central nervous system disorder.
Although a learning disability may be present with other disorders, these conditions are not the cause of the learning disability.
Common Elements in LD Definitions
The following concepts are (Adult with Learning Disabilities) 1 important to understanding the similarities and contrasts that exist among the many definitions of learning disabilities.
Some definitions suggest that learning disabilities exist when a person has uneven patterns of development. Other definitions suggest that learning disabilities are indicated by aptitude-achievement discrepancies.
Most definitions specify that the cause for learning disabilities is the result of a problem in the central nervous system.
Some definitions suggest that learning disabilities are caused by interference in the neurological processes that make proficient performance possible.
Most definitions imply that learning disabilities can be present at any age.
Most definitions specify that problems understanding spoken or written language can be caused by learning disabilities.
Some definitions specify that certain types of academic problems (e.g., those involving reading, writing, spelling, or math) can be caused by learning disabilities.
Some definitions specify that problems involving social skills, spatial orientation, sensory integration, or motor skills can be manifestations of learning disabilities.
Some definitions indicate that learning disabilities can coexist with other kinds of handicaps (e.g., emotional disturbance or sensory impairment). Other definitions are worded to eliminate the coexistence of learning disabilities with other disabling conditions.
Impacts of LD in Adults
The impacts of learning disabilities (Adult with Learning Disabilities) 1 may compound with age. While individuals with learning disabilities demonstrate some intellectual strengths, their areas of disability may prevent them from excelling as adults in certain life situations at the same level as their peers. Areas where learning disabilities may affect adults include:
Being criticized, put down, teased, or rejected because of failures in academic, vocational, or social endeavors often leave adults with learning disabilities with low self-esteem. Adults with low self-esteem tend not to take risks or strive to reach their potential. Also, adults with low self-esteem are less likely to advocate for themselves.
Learning disabilities that may manifest themselves in difficulties in spoken or written language, arithmetic, reasoning, and organizational skills will affect adults in adult basic education, literacy, postsecondary, and vocational training settings. These students may perform at levels other than those expected of them. Adult educators are not always prepared to address the unique needs of learners with learning disabilities.
Errors are commonly found in filling out employment applications be cause of poor reading or spelling skills. Job-related problems frequently arise due to learning disabilities that causes difficulties in organization, planning, scheduling, monitoring, language comprehension and expression, social skills, and inattention.
Adults with learning disabilities may demonstrate poor judgment of others' moods and attitudes and appear to be less sensitive to others' thoughts and feelings. In social settings these adults may do or say inappropriate things and have problems comprehending humor, for example. They may have problems discriminating response requirements in social situations. These traits may result in a difficulty finding and keeping a job or developing long-term relationships.
Responsibilities such as writing checks, filling out tax forms, or taking phone messages may present problems for adults with learning disabilities. Adults with LD may find themselves without the support systems (parents, schools, social services, etc.) that they relied on as children and have to incorporate their own accommodations when necessary.
During the past fifteen years, (Ann Corley & M. Taymans) 2 numerous studies have reported the employment status of persons with LD. Peraino (1992), in reviewing eleven follow-up studies of persons with LD, found an average employment rate of 70%, with some studies reporting similar employment rates up to five years after high school for persons with LD and their non-disabled peers (Blackorby & Wagner, 1996).
Edgar (1995) found that the less-than-full-employment rate for non-disabled individuals zero to five years after high school was partially explained by their enrollment in postsecondary education programs and those individuals with LD engage in postsecondary education at a low rate. Persons with LD who obtain employment upon exiting high school often find themselves in low-wage jobs with little opportunity for advancement and often without health insurance and other benefits (Blackorby & Wagner, (1997; Edgar, 1995).
Reder and Vogel (1997) (Ann Corley & M. Taymans) 2, in a secondary analysis of the NALS data, compared responses of subjects aged sixteen to sixty-four with self-reported learning disabilities (SRLD) with those of subjects who did not report having LD. Persons with SRLD were less likely to be employed full-time (39% versus 51%) and more likely to be unemployed (16% versus 6%). They also worked substantially fewer weeks per year, for lower wages, and in lower-status jobs than those in the non-disabled group. Reder (1995) reported that 42.2% of families of adults with SRLD were living in or near poverty, compared with only 16.2% of the families of their non-disabled peers. Positive outcomes have also been reported.
Employment opportunities seem to improve over time for individuals with LD, with a trend toward higher employment rates the longer youth are out of school (Blackorby & Wagner, 1997; Edgar, 1995; Frank, Sitlington, & Carson, 1995; Scuccimarra & Speece, 1990). Reiff et al. (1997) found that forty-three of forty-six highly successful adults with LD had an annual income of more than $50,000, with twenty-one making $100,000 or more.
Learning disabilities (Kerka, 2002)3 are generally defined as significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematical abilities (Michaels 1997; Ohler, Levinson, and Barker 1996). There are a number of types as well as major individual differences in severity, impact, and age of onset (Cummings, Maddux, and Casey 2000; Hitchings and Retish 2000)..There is no…