I've noticed this concept mostly through my work in elementary classrooms, however, I do see such differences in the adults that I am working with as well. Some successfully manage a family/home life while not being able to read or complete any type of school work on their own. Particularly, I have a current student who is the mother of 7 children, all of whom she has custody of, and holds down a job to maintain a stable and loving homelife for those children. When completing initial testing for our program, it was revealed that she can not read above a Kindergarten or first grade level.
I have observed a significant performance differential in one 50+-year-old male student. He works basic multiplication and division with decimal problems with a basic level of accuracy, and speaks constantly about his love for math. he is able to focus and pay attention during his math class, and verbally participates, completing all written assignments. But in his reading class, he says he dislikes reading, cannot readily pay attention, is extremely distractible, and has low levels of reading speed and comprehension. This differential is a good sign of potential LD. He is not classified as such yet,, but he is a new student and will be assessed soon. A second student I have is a 70+-year-old male who has difficulty with reading comprehension and phonetics. His math skills are also significantly better than his written expression and reading skills, suggesting the possibility of a learning disability as well. he is also a new student with assessment on the way.
Thanks, Jennifer and William, for sharing your experiences with learners in your programs. These disparities between functional abilities and academic achievement are not uncommon in adult learners. It's important to use a strengths-based approach to both help these learners identify what they can do, as well as what they struggle with and need support to improve. Learner groups can sometimes help struggling learners. For example, a student like Jennifer's mother of seven might be grouped with other mothers with higher reading abilities in a reading circle. The other women modeling their reading practices can be an additional strategy to support the teacher's instruction. Likewise for William's two men who are more advanced in their math problem-solving abilities. They can model their math abilities for others who are struggling with these skills, while also benefitting from observing how those peers use reading strategies to help solve word problems. Breaking down the silos between math and reading as discrete skills can have a powerful impact on learners who see themselves as 'good' in one, and 'bad' in another.
Thanks again for sharing your experiences. It would be great to hear more about the strategies you're using to address these learners' needs, and how they are progressing over time.
Disabilities and Equitable Outcomes Moderator