Signs of learning and thinking differences in adults
Alexis Clark, MA, MS
At a Glance
Learning and thinking differences are lifelong issues.
Learning and thinking differences can run in families.
With the right support, adults with learning and thinking differences can manage their symptoms and find success.
Some people think learning and thinking differences only affect children. But adults can have them too. That’s because learning and thinking differences are lifelong issues.
Maybe there are certain tasks and situations you’ve struggled with since childhood. Things like staying focused and organized, writing down information or changing routines may be hard for you. You may even see your own child coping with the same difficulties and wonder if it’s related to what you’re experiencing.
Learning and thinking differences aren’t something you outgrow. And
some conditions run in families
. For instance, you might not be as hyperactive as your child with ADHD, but you may show other signs, like frequently losing track of things.
Keep in mind that having learning and thinking differences doesn’t mean a person isn’t intelligent. The key is to recognize the signs and seek out supports that can help.
Trouble with reading and writing
Struggling with reading and writing can be a sign of learning differences like
. As a child, maybe it took you a very long time to complete reading assignments. (Explore other
signs of dyslexia in kids
Now as an adult, you may notice you avoid reading and writing whenever possible. Or you might hesitate to return an email because you’re worried you’ll misspell too many words.
Lots of people aren’t good at math. But maybe you’ve noticed that figuring out tips and balancing your checkbook have always seemed extra hard for you. Cooking might even be tricky if you struggle with quantities and measurements.
Do you struggle to focus when you’re working on something or following a conversation? Maybe you “tune out” or have trouble sitting still for long periods of time. Or maybe you’re generally forgetful and absent-minded, and often run late.
These can be common
signs of ADHD
(also known as ADD). It’s common for people not to be diagnosed with ADHD until adulthood. ADHD also tends to run in families. So if you have a child or other family member with ADHD, there’s a greater chance you could have it, too.
Simple tricks can help reduce signs of ADHD, too. You can minimize distractions around you, like having your desk face a wall instead of the window. Use earphones if there’s outside noise that distracts you. You could also try using
Maybe you’ve noticed you’re not comfortable in social settings, and it’s not because you’re shy. You might find it hard to keep up with a conversation. Or maybe you tend to miss
and find yourself interrupting often.
If you’re struggling with social skills, there are lots of ways to improve. Learn
basics about social rules
. And try specific strategies. For instance, if you know there’s a school event for parents or something for work, prepare for it. Make a list of general topics you’re comfortable talking about and questions to ask.
Search online for local resources that can help. You can look for
social skills groups
for adults in your area. You may also find local professionals, like speech therapists, who can help you get better at social interactions.
Most importantly, remember that having a learning or thinking difference doesn’t mean you’re not intelligent. Learning and thinking differences are very common, and finding support is a key to finding success.