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17-Year-Old with LD Wants to Take GED

LD and ADD/ADHD Expert Advice from Jerome J. Schultz, Ph.D.

Q: I am 17 years old and I can't spell very well. I have been studying for my GED and I noticed that I am having other problems. I don't understand a lot of direction and it takes me a while to learn something. I also find it hard to express myself verbally. If you can, please help me.

A: Since you are studying for your GED, it is likely that you left school early for some reason. You may be one of the thousands of people who couldn't find success in school because of an undiagnosed learning disability. Your problems with comprehension (understanding the directions), the fact that it takes you longer than others to learn things, and your difficulty expressing yourself verbally all point in this direction. Of course there are other things that cause such symptoms, but you owe it to yourself to rule out learning disabilities. If you've never been tested for LD, you can refer yourself to the special education program in the neighborhood in which you live. By law, the school has to provide you with a comprehensive assessment until you turn 21. I would encourage you to take advantage of this free service. If for some reason you feel uncomfortable about this, you can seek out a private psychologist (contact the psychology association in your state (usually listed as the [name of the state] Psychological Association) and ask for the names of people who evaluate young adults with learning disabilities. You can also call the Learning Disability Association in your state and ask for a recommendation. The LDA website has a listing of some state branches. Many large hospitals also have clinics that can test you, and the service might even be covered by your health insurance policy.

If you do have a learning disability, ask the people who do the evaluation to direct you to services that can help you become a better a student (and better employee, too). If it is determined that you have a learning disability, you are eligible for services that will help put you on the path to greater success. There may be adult literacy programs in your town, or school-based services, or private clinics that can help. If it's not a learning disability, then there may be other supports available for you. Hope these ideas help. And thanks for writing. I am sure that you speak for lots of other people who may be struggling because of unrecognized learning disabilities. Get back to us with a happy ending to this story!

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Jerome (Jerry) Schultz is the founding clinical director of the Learning Lab @ Lesley University, a program that provides assessment, tutoring, and case management services for children with learning challenges. Schultz holds a Ph.D. from Boston College, and has completed postdoctoral fellowships in both clinical psychology and pediatric neuropsychology.

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