HomeLearning DifficultiesHealth & DevelopmentLife After High School

On the Right Track: Teaching Your Teen With LD to Manage Travel and Transportation

Many kids with learning disabilities and AD/HD have a hard time getting around independently. Learn how you can help your teen fine-tune his navigation skills.

By Arlyn Roffman, Ph.D.

People with learning disabilities (LD) and/or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) often have difficulty getting from one location to another. They frequently lose their way, have trouble using public transportation, and struggle with driving-related issues. Contributing factors may include poor time management, problems with spatial and visual perception, and difficulties with eye-hand coordination. Diane Swonk, a successful economist who has dyslexia, admits, "Every time I get off the elevator in the place that I've worked for 17 years, I'm still lost. I still can't get on the right train going home from work unless I try really hard. Going from Point A to Point B is just not easy for me."

This article will explain many of the challenges individuals with LD and AD/HD face in travel and transportation. It will offer a variety of strategies for teaching your teenager how to get around effectively, which will further prepare him to function independently as a young adult.

The table below illustrates how various characteristics of LD and AD/HD can result in challenges to getting around.

Learning or Attention Problem

Challenges in Travel and Transportation


Difficulty reading road signs

Temporal perception (sense of time)

Problems planning enough time to get where one wants to go


Tendency to get sidetracked on  the way to a destination

Spatial perception

Tendency to become disoriented easily; have trouble following maps; have problems navigating around new, unfamiliar areas


Difficulty distinguishing east from west and right from left and a subsequent tendency to follow directions inaccurately

Depth perception

Problems gauging how fast cars are coming, when crossing a street as a pedestrian or when driving through an intersection

Receptive language

Difficulty understanding spoken directions

Auditory processing

Difficulty following the steps or sequence of spoken directions

Auditory figure-ground (focusing on one sound against a noisy background)

Problems "tuning in" to messages delivered over public address systems in noisy bus depots, train stations, and airports

Visual memory

Trouble remembering landmarks along a familiar route

Visual figure-ground (focusing on one object in a crowded visual field)

Difficulty reading maps; problems reading departure and arrival boards at airports, train stations, and bus depots; trouble finding one's car in a large parking lot or one's suitcase on an airport baggage carousel


Arlyn Roffman, Ph.D., an expert on transition issues in special education, is a Professor at Lesley University, where she served as founding director of Threshold, a transition program for young adults with learning disabilities, from 1981 to 1996. She has served on the professional advisory boards of several national LD organizations and maintains a private practice in psychology.