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Transition: School to Work

The following are past questions and answers from Dr. Larry Silver on this topic.

What resources are available to help learning disabled adults find success in the workplace?

I am an adult with a learning disability, and I'm trying to further my education in a field that I am well suited for. I'm not quite sure where I would best be suited, although I have several interests. How can I, and other learning disabled individuals, figure out what type of job opportunities align with our abilities and disabilities to get the right fit? And how, as an adult, do I get the resources I need to obtain the accommodations I may need in my future profession?

There are vocational guidance professionals who are familiar with learning disabilities. The focus is on the individual's strengths and weaknesses as they relate both to the training needed for a field of work and as would be found on the job. Then the task is to build on strengths while trying to compensate for the weaknesses. Try to find a professional familiar with vocational training and with special education. You might contact the Division of Special Education within the Department of Education at a university near you or contact your state's Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. Often there are agencies in cities that do such counseling.

LD services seem mainly geared toward children — where can a struggling adult find help?

Dear Dr. Silver,

I am 39 years old and have extremely poor memorization skills. I have taken several college courses and have failed some of the easiest of courses. For some reason I can't really grasp facts for future reference. Where can I go for help with this type of problem? All the learning disability facilities in my area are just for children. Any suggestions?

Yours Truly,


Go to the Office of Disability Services at the college you attended (or the one closest to you). Ask for names of professionals who evaluate and work with adults.

Why do I get tired when I'm trying to learn?

I am 48 and I still have the same problem I did in when I was in grade school. This problem is also the reason I didn't continue to college. When I am trying to learn (read, listen to an instructor in a class, watch a training video), I get sleepy. Almost like I'm going into at trance. I have poor comprehension and recall.

It has always bothered me and I feel like it kept me from reaching my full potential. I have many books and training materials but give up on reading or viewing them after I start.

I have a technical job that is changing at a rapid pace and this is causing me to fall behind my peers. What is this type of problem called? What can I do to over come it?

Your descriptions sound like you have a learning disability that impacts reading comprehension and possibly reading retention. You would have to have formal psycho-educational testing done to validate this is your problem. If confirmed, you can request accommodations on the job under the Americans With Disabilities Act. Try to find out who does this type of testing with adults.

How can I prove to my workplace that I have a learning disability if my high school records don't indicate a diagnosis?

Hi and thank you for taking my question. I'm an adult male in my late 30's. I was diagnosed with a learning disability in the early 1970s. I was in special education classes from elementary school through high school. Just recently, I put in a request for my high school to send me copies of my transcript to see if they had me listed as an LD student. They responded by saying that at that time, they didn't use the terminology of a learning disability. My high school transcripts show that indeed I was in special education classes, but do not list a learning disability.

I want information about my diagnosis because I want my workplace to know that I have a learning disability. I have no other record about my disability and I know my workplace will want something in writing or on file. Any suggestions about what I can do to prove my case?

Thanks for your advice,


Gerald: You are correct in needing documentation if you are to use the Americans With Disabilities Act to request accommodations at work. The federal law that established a formal need for special education services was not passed until the mid-1970s. Thus, your school may have provided special education services without the formal documentation needed today. Also, many schools kept a formal record on each student that could be read and released to the proper people and a confidential record that contained any testing or evidence of a disability.

Most important to you is that when you request accommodations based on the ADA, you need evaluations that are not more than three years old. Thus, you will have to find out who does formal studies, known as psycho-educational evaluations, for adults with learning disabilities in your area. The professional who does these studies will help you document your disabilities as they relate to work.

How can I get an accommodation at work for my difficulty with handwriting?

I'm a 28-year-old male and am currently a head of department at a school of media and design. I suffer from a form of dysgraphia (at least I think that's what it is) in that I have terrible handwriting. I actually draw the shape of the word rather than spell it out (my spelling is terrible) and I cannot control the placement of capital and lowercase letters if I write by hand (though with a keyboard I don't have a problem).

I've recently enrolled in an advanced assessors course where all the work submitted has to be hand-written. It takes me hours to write out a single page, which is then only mostly illegible. And although each sentence starts with a capital letter, extra capitals crop up throughout the sentence.

I just wanted to know if there is a specific name or diagnosis for this so that I can plead my case.

Thanks in advance,


You need appropriate accommodations — possibly permission to use a computer to write responses. First, you must document your motor-based writing disability. This can be done by a psychologist who does psycho-educational testing. Once documented, you are entitled under the Americans with Disabilities Act to such accommodations.

Meet with the Office of Disability Services at the institution you are attending. Explain your problem. Possibly, they can arrange for such studies. If not, they can direct you to the right person to do this assessment.