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Are you struggling in your day-to-day life or at work? Do you feel held back from achieving what you desire, or are you finding everyday tasks to be challenging? It’s possible that you are one of the many adults with a learning disability or difficulty. 

In a school, learning disabilities are often recognized by educators and professionals. However, in the context of the workplace and daily life, these challenges can often go unnoticed or are misunderstood.

Many adults face learning obstacles, yet may not realize the underlying cause.

Understanding the signs of learning disabilities as an adult brings self-awareness and more importantly - a place to start. By recognizing the indicators, individuals can take proactive steps to address their challenges, and improve their overall well-being. 

That’s why, in this blog, we take a look at the signs and symptoms of learning disabilities in adults, and, most importantly, how you can strengthen your brain through Arrowsmith programming.

The Impact of Learning Disabilities and Difficulties in Adults

Learning disabilities and difficulties encompass a range of conditions that affect cognitive processes related to learning and performance, from core skills like reading and writing, to high order processes like memory and problem-solving. While social and economic reasons can explain why some are held back - more often than not - struggles in these areas are not due to IQ, work ethic, or opportunity. Rather, they are caused by differences in brain structure and function, and they can vary from person to person.

The impact of learning issues can be far-reaching, affecting educational pursuits, job performance, career advancement, and personal relationships. Often there are emotional and psychological consequences, low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression.

According to most global studies, around 15 percent of the population, or one in seven individuals, has some form of learning disability. 

Realistically, more are likely affected. To make matters worse, they are often dismissed as having personality flaws, lack of motivation, or even limited IQ. The reality is far from it. 

Learn About the Arrowsmith Cognitive Assessment

What Lies Beneath Adult Learning Disabilities and Difficulties? 

As we discussed in our recent blog, Cognitive Function Definition: An Overview, our brains work as an orchestra and our cognitive functions are the instruments. 

Learning and performance occurs through a series of brain, or cognitive, functions activating together. The acquisition and execution of learning tasks is directly shaped by our level of functioning within these networks. 

Weak cognitive function ⇨ learning and performance is affected. 

Multiple weak functions ⇨ learning may seem impossible. 

Consider now, the impact of weak functioning in any of the following: 

  • Understanding and Reasoning

  • Memory

  • Communication

  • Executive Function

  • Literacy - Reading and Writing

  • Numeracy - Mathematics and Number Sense 

It’s easy to see why academic or professional pursuits are sources of struggle with issues like these. No matter how simple or controlled the environment, our cognitive profiles are responsible for every single moment of our lives. So, when someone has even one of the above processes underfunctioning,their performance suffers: they suffer. 

The Toil and Trouble of Cognitive Weaknesses 

We are what we do. We see ourselves through our abilities, our achievements, our performance. What happens then, when these experiences are shaped by cognitive issues? How do weak cognitive functions impact our social and emotional health? In fact, they can be devastating. With underperforming cognitive functions, we’re at greater risk of : 

Chronic Frustration

Frustration and feelings of inadequacy due to ongoing difficulties at school and the workplace. Tendency to compare oneself to others, leading to low self-esteem and self-confidence. Persistent challenges erode a sense of self-worth and hinder personal growth.

Anxiety and Depression

Studies show increased levels of anxiety and depression. Worry over performance, judgement and criticism. Heightened stress. 

Impulsivity and Attention Issues

Trouble focusing on tasks, distracted easily, impulsive. Impact on concentration, effective learning, task management and execution. 

Social and Relationship Challenges

Initiating and maintaining conversations are difficult. Poor nonverbal communication and emotional intelligence. Social isolation, strained relationships, and feelings of alienation.

While it may be true our brain shapes who we are - know this: you can shape your brain. 



The Good News? Learning Difficulties Do Not Have to be Lifelong

While a common belief is that learning difficulties are lifelong, this isn’t the case. 

Arrowsmith uses the principles of neuroplasticity and cognitive exercises to target and strengthen cognitive functions. Through this approach, individuals improve essential cognitive functions and fundamentally transform their experience. 

For every cognitive struggle, there is a solution. As personal as one’s experiences may feel, there is a customized solution for each of us. An exercise or series of exercises that target and strengthen our ability to learn and perform. 

The shift in one’s learning and performance through cognitive exercises are profound. 

Individuals who avoided reading now read for pleasure. 

Complex tasks at home or the office, be it: parenting decisions, human or project management, orchestrating complex financial projects, or seeking a degree or promotion - all become achievable.  

Challenging moments and even life’s crises are now opportunities in which to navigate, solve and succeed. 

Relationships - including those with others and ourselves - deepen and flourish with heightened understanding and communication. 

Let’s look at Shannon, for example, who’s case study was published in The Woman Who Changed Her Brain, a book by Barbara Arrowsmith-Young, Founder of the Arrowsmith Program. 

The 35-year-old had graduated from law school and was working as a research lawyer, as well as being a talented portrait artist. 

Yet something wasn’t right. Shannon had to work extraordinarily hard to earn her law degree and it took her an inordinately long time to write briefs - she would lose the conceptual thread, get lost in the details and have to retrace.

Enter Arrowsmith. 

Within the first 2 months of participation Shannon said: 

“When I did work, it actually felt fun. I was multitasking, transitioning from drafting the affidavit to reviewing a transcript to drafting the brief, and I could handle it all with a lot more ease. I didn’t get stressed about it and I was able to finish it in a timely way. The client was happy with it; my employer was happy with it. 

“The fuzziness was gone and I could discount superfluous information. Three weeks into the program, I began to see changes in my art. The images I drew were more realistic, and accomplished with less effort and in half the time. I was gobsmacked.”

Not only that, but the program also helped Shannon progress with her therapy. “It’s like a year and a half of psychotherapy suddenly all started to make sense. When I’m talking to my therapist, we can talk about how to move forward because the understanding piece is now there. My experience with the Arrowsmith Program is life-changing. I have this unexplainable feeling of confidence.”

In fact, Arrowsmith can explain Shannon’s confidence. Through building her cognitive ability, her cognitive competence, Shannon’s confidence emerged. The fact is, Shannon now has the intellectual capacity to perform, execute and manage. The feeling or sensation of confidence was simply a natural byproduct of her new brain. She is accomplished. By changing her brain’s level of functioning, Shannon not only saw significant changes in her professional responsibilities: she redefined who she was. She is now capable and confident. She no longer questions her position or authority. No more imposter syndrome. 

Are you feeling held back in your personal or professional life? Take the Arrowsmith Cognitive Assessment to learn about your unique Cognitive Profile and find out how you can overcome your challenges through cognitive enhancement. 

Learn About the Arrowsmith Cognitive Assessment

Debbie Gilmore
Post by Debbie Gilmore
June 27, 2023
Debbie Gilmore is a passionate change-maker and Executive Director of Arrowsmith, dedicated to transforming education and learning worldwide. With over 40 years of experience spanning classrooms to administrative roles, she's driving educational reform. Debbie collaborates globally with educators and professionals in a wide field to help them bring about cognitive enhancement to unlock every human’s potential.