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College & College Prep

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

My child seems to have trouble with major tests. Could this be a sign of a learning disability?

My son has always been the type of kid who kept himself busy, making things, drawing, music. I noticed in his high school years his marks were inconsistent. He'd do well in his writing assignments and usually the homework, but on his major tests he'd door poorly. He commented that when he was doing his SATs, there was a boy sniffling with a cold and that the noise threw off his thinking. He got a low score. He doesn't like to read books unless they have to do with music; but when he argues, I can tell he's a smart kid.

His pre-calculus course in senior year he did pretty well except for the testing, where he didn't seem to transfer the concepts he knew. Now he's anticipating college with his first year in media design. Does he sound like someone who should be tested? If so, what type of place should I go to?

I cannot be specific based on the information you've provided. What have the school professionals been concerned about over the years? Yes, formal psycho-educational or neuro-psychological testing would be helpful in clarifying some of your questions. If the results are not helpful, he should be evaluated by a mental health professional.

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.

Does a university student need a medical assessment to receive accommodation for learning disabilities?

I always did very well in school, but I always suffered with writing and presentations. My anxiety level has always been high, and I was diagnosed with GAD. When I reached the university level, I asked to be tested, but didn't have the $800. I completed two degrees after this, and when I was in the last semester of my third degree, I was told by a disabilities office that I could be assessed by a graduate student for a small amount.

I was assessed and a learning disability was confirmed, but the assessment was very vague and did not give a specific diagnosis. Now I am completing a Master's degree and am falling far behind. I showed the University the letter confirming my disability status that I received from the disabilities office, but they insist that it must be a medical assessment. I cannot afford further testing. I am working and studying. What can I do?


First, my deepest respect for your perseverance. Wonderful. If the earlier testing was comprehensive and confirmed LD, you should not need additional testing. If the concern is the wording of the report, contact the person who did the testing.

Explain your problem and ask that he/she edit the report and send you a new copy. If this is not possible, you might need updated testing.

A medical assessment would be needed if you request accommodations based on your Generalized Anxiety Disorder or if you had ADHD. There is no need for such an assessment if your disability is a learning disability.

What accommodations can be made for Executive Frontal Dysfunction?

My son has recently been diagnosed with Executive Frontal Dysfunction. In the past everyone has said ADHD, but I knew that was not accurate.

Recently met with the IEP team and the school is not familiar with Executive Frontal. Can you please tell me how I can assure that my sons needs are being met on the IEP and that it is reflected in the classroom and not just on a piece of paper.

Organization and Executive Function difficulties can be caused by a Learning Disability, by ADHD, or by both. It is important to clarify which is the problem.

Should the behaviors be secondary to ADHD, medication will help. If due to LD, special education interventions will help. If due to both, medication and special education will be needed. So, work with an educational professional to clarify which is the problem. Based on the results, see your family doctor and/or request that the school professionals assess for services.