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Is there life after high school? A primer for teens with learning disorders

Page 4 of 4

By Linda Broatch, M.A.

What about laundry, bills, and toothaches?

In order to stay in college or keep a job, young adults must master hundreds of practical daily living skills, such as sticking to a schedule, paying bills, and going to the doctor or dentist as needed. According to Arlyn Roffman, an expert on daily living skills for young people with learning difficulties, a lack of such skills is common.  "The National Longitudinal Study (on Transition)6 has given us a lot of data over the years that really support the need for training in daily living skills."

The study looked at adults three to five years out of high school, in relation to three factors:

  • engagement in work or school
  • residency outside the parents' home
  • social/community engagement 

Only 27 percent of the adults with learning disabilities were independent in all three of these areas.  About 50 percent were independent in two of these areas.  Dr. Roffman notes that this represents a significant lag behind non-learning disabled adults. "And what's happening with the other 50 percent?" she asks, noting a common concern.

Although young people with learning difficulties face some particular challenges in making the transition to adulthood, some advance planning, flexibility, and perseverance on the part of parents can provide important guidance and support.  In the coming months, we'll be exploring several specific transition topics in greater depth and offering strategies and resources to help you help your child.


  1. Henderson, C. (2001) College Freshmen with Disabilties, 2001: A Biennial Statistical Profile. Washington, DC: American Council on Education.
  2. Patton, J. & Dunn, C. (1998) Transition from School to Young Adulthood: Basic Concepts and Recommended Practices. Austin, TX: PRO-ED, Inc.
  3. Dunn, C. (1996) "Status Report on Transition Planning," Transition and Students with Learning Disabilities: Facilitating the Movement from School to Adult Life, Patton, J. & Blalock, G., Eds. Austin, TX: PRO-ED, Inc.
  4. Latham, P. (1997) "ADD and test accommodations under the ADA," Attention!, 4: 41-43, 46.
  5. Gerber, P., Ginsberg, R., & Reiff, H. (1992) "Identifying Alterable Patterns in Employment Success for Highly Successful Adults with Learning Disabilities," Journal of Learning Disabilities 25(8): 475-487.
  6. National Longitudinal Transition Study-2

Linda Broatch has worked for many years in nonprofit organizations that serve the health and education needs of children. She has an M.A. in education, with a focus in child development.

Comments from readers

"What would be the best state to live in for special needs teenage children with learning disabilities that will need future services after house school?"