One of the most challenging questions for the mental health profession to field over the past few decades has been the simplest: why are there so many more kids diagnosed with ‘special needs’ today than there were when we were kids? There is no definitive ‘good’ or ‘right’ answer to that question, but as many adults are discovering — many too late — they have suffered because they weren’t diagnosed properly as kids.
The Adult ‘Special Needs’ Checklist
If you have 6 or more of the following symptoms, consider strongly talking to your doctor about the potential that you might have a disability such as ADHD that is preventing you from taking full advantage of your own potential. Do You:
• Spell poorly, even when given ample time to correct yourself?
• Take a long time to get to the point in a conversation — or particularly in an argument?
• Commonly get accused of speaking too loudly or too softly?
• Have people mock you for using lots of ‘filler sounds’ (i.e. ‘uh,’ ‘um,’ ‘you know’)?
• Have messy writing with lots of cross-outs and write-overs?
• Find yourself reading the same sentence or paragraph over and over because it didn’t make sense the first time?
• Frequently mispronounce words even though you know the correct pronunciation?
• Often fail to finish all of the tasks you were assigned at work, even if you have a checklist?
• Often have to ask to have the instructions repeated to you after the task is supposed to be well underway?
• Make lots of careless mistakes, to the point that you’re accused of not caring about the subject?
• Confuse letters and numbers with a similar appearance?
• Write letters, memos, or instructions in a disorganized, confusing way?
• Lose important things on a regular basis, even after making efforts to keep track of them?
• Fail to understand charts and graphs?
• Lose track of, underestimate, or overestimate how much time has past or how much time a task will/should require?
• Get lost frequently?
• Mix up your right and left regularly?
Why Get Diagnosed Now?
You may well feel like it’s too late for you — at 35 or older, it can seem like you’re well beyond the scope of most forms of intervention. But the truth is that many adult sufferers of minor to moderate disabilities only discover their condition because they recognize their own traits in the diagnostic tests used on their children. For adults in that situation, getting formally diagnosed can be a massive psychological step forward in their lives: from seeing themselves as “unlucky” or “destined to fail” to seeing themselves as having a defined challenge that can be understood and overcome.
The power inherent in having a name to give your problems — or, more fundamentally, in recognizing that your problems have a defined source — is often incredibly liberating for an adult who suffers from a learning disability. There’s a lot of knowledge about these disabilities out there; once you understand that it applies to you, you can take advantage to great effect.