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Is it possible for a learning disability to go unrecognized until a student first enters college? I struggled intensely my freshman year of college to keep up with the readings and writing papers. It is difficult for me because the vocabulary I tried to develop over the course of high school seems like it has left me. I used to memorize vocabulary words and use the thesaurus a lot in high school to help me but it seems like new and complex vocabulary words don’t stick.

I am also a very slow reader and the ideas and concepts I’m trying to understand are difficult to remember after reading. It seems as though I can’t quickly process the information. I end up highlighting passages like crazy and going back to re-read them again and again. It makes it difficult to remember what was read and summarize it.

It is also difficult for me to do mental math which limits my computational skills. All of these struggles actually led me to become so frustrated that I attempted suicide. I am now in recovery for depression and anxiety but still wonder if all of my academic problems are directly related to depression only.

Most people are telling me that since I was never diagnosed with any disability earlier in life, it would be impossible for me to have one. But I definitely remember struggling in high school to keep up with my peers. School was pretty much my life. Are there any tests which could be done to investigate this further?

I am sorry to hear of your problems. First, may I comment on your emotional difficulties. Anxiety and depression might be the result of adjusting to college or to the frustrations resulting from poor academic performance. However, more often, they are the current expression, maybe more intense, of a chronic problem. That is, I suspect that you have had periods of anxiety or depression since childhood. It is critical that you continue psychological help beyond getting through the acute phase.

Yes, it is possible to have learning disabilities and not be recognized until college. There are several possible reasons. Perhaps a parent or both parents provided much support with homework and projects during school, covering up any areas of difficulty. You might have gone to a school that cared enough to adapt their teaching to fit your abilities to perform or that provided much support and assistance during school. You graduated with a sense of competence that might not have been there.

What ever the reasons, meet with someone in your college’s Office of Disability Services. Arrange to receive the necessary testing to either document your learning disabilities or to clarify other possible problems. Based on these findings, seek appropriate help plus accommodations.

Note from LD OnLine: For more on diagnosis, see What Do You Do If You Suspect Your Child Has a Learning Disability. For more on the social and emotional problems, see Social and Emotional Problems Related to Dyslexia. Good luck.

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