Fact Sheet Index


  • 50% of all students in special education in the public schools have learning disabilities, 2.25 million children. (Source: U.S. Dept. of Education 1992)
  • 35% of students identified with learning disabilities drop out of high school. This is twice the rate of their non-disabled peers. (Source: National Longitudinal Transition Study (Wagner 1991)
  • 50% of juvenile delinquents tested were found to have undetected learning disabilities. (Source: National Center for State Courts and the Educational Testing Service 1977)
  • Up to 60% of adolescents in treatment for substance abuse have learning disabilities: (Source: Hazelton Foundation, Minnesota 1992)
  • 62% of learning disabled students were unemployed one year after graduation; (Source: National Longitudinal Transition

Many teenagers have struggled for years with a learning disability, oftentimes without parents or teachers recognizing the issue. Without proper intervention, these teens often end up frustrated and work far below their abilities. This leads to a loss of self-esteem and self-confidence. Adolescents with learning disabilities learn best when their class work is structured for them on an individual basis. Their coursework needs to be difficult enough to challenge them, but no so difficult that the teen becomes frustrated and discouraged. Finding this balance between too-easy and too-hard is the greatest challenge facing teachers and parents of students with learning disabilities. Unfortunately, when learning disabilities go unrecognized, teachers and parents often label these students as “lazy” or “incapable,” and the teen will often meet these low expectations in response.

Teens with learning disabilities are often bright, creative, and capable, but have neurological issues that impact performance in certain areas, such as reading, math, or social skills. The child might perform exceptionally well in one area, but underachieve in another. These disparities in performance often frustrate and confuse parents and teachers. They cannot understand how a child so capable in one area of his or her life has so much difficulty in another area. If teachers and parents do not properly identify the learning disability, such adolescents can “fall through the cracks” of the traditional education system.

There are a number of educational alternatives that can help teenagers with learning disabilities reach their true potential. When parents investigate these opportunities, they should discuss their child’s strengths and weaknesses, and find out how the program approaches children with learning disabilities. Parents do not want to give up on their teen, so they should be careful not to put their child in the hands of someone who will just let them “get by.” Many therapeutic boarding schools specialize in learning-disabled students. These programs have effective means of bringing out the best in these kids, teaching them how to accomplish more than they ever imagined possible by showing them how to emphasize their skills and creatively use those skills to progress in areas where they have difficulty.

Some terms related to learning disabilities:

Dyslexia, a reading disability
Dyscalculia, a math disability
Dysgraphia, a writing disability

Many students with learning disabilities also have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Aspen Education Group has a number of programs that can help pre-adolescent and adolescent children who have learning disabilities. These intensive programs can quickly narrow down the issues your child is experiencing to help him or her on a positive life path.

The SUWS Youth program is an outdoor experiential program addressing the needs of struggling youth. Children will be assessed as to how they interact with staff, peers, and tasks and to determine individual patterns of coping. Students ascend through a network of levels designed to challenge, test, and encourage emotional and physical health. Talk to a program representative for more information.

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