August 19th, 2015

Student Voices: A Study of Young Adults With Learning and Attention Issues

Download the Student Voices Executive Summary.

For teens, the years leading up to leaving high school are a time of hope, challenge, optimism and anxiety about the future. Schools provide guidance to help teens as they prepare to exit high school. Educators help them make choices about the next steps in their journey—whether this is to community or four-year colleges, vocational preparation programs or the workplace. At the same time, parents adjust how they interact with their children, priming them for independence as they enter this next phase in life.

Despite everyone’s efforts, far too many teens and young adults experience significant struggles during this critical time in their lives.

We know from studies conducted during the past decades that this post–high school transition process can be especially challenging for young adults with learning disabilities. We also know that a substantial number of young adults—as many as one in five—struggle with learning and attention issues (LAI) but many have not been formally identified. We know very little, however, about the experiences, characteristics and factors that contribute to the success or difficulty experienced by these young adults during this time in their lives. That is, until now.

The Student Voices research findings will begin to fill that void. Instead of doing research “about” young adults, our study involved young adults from the start: in one-to-one interviews, in the design and implementation of our survey and in the implementation of a national, online questionnaire. We collected responses from 1,221 young adults. We listened to their perspectives. Looking back at their years in middle school and high school, they told us how they got where they are now, one to two years post–high school.

By exploring their perceptions and attitudes, we were able to look beyond traditional measures of “success.” With the help of these young adults, we shed light on critical factors that are important but often overlooked in the lives of individuals with LAI.

Our goal for this study was to gather firsthand information from young adults and determine what factors had the greatest impact on them during this period of transition. We knew we could not answer all of the unanswered questions about this population. Instead, we set out to generate knowledge as a starting point for further inquiry.

The findings of this study are intended to encourage debate and discussion about ways to ensure that all young adults, including those with unidentified LAI, can move beyond their struggles, past having to simply cope with their challenges, and become successful navigators after leaving high school.

We encourage you to take a close look at what we discovered. You’ll gain new insights and a deeper understanding of what matters to young adults with LAI. You’ll see through a new lens what it means to be at a particular spot on the continuum of post–high school outcomes. And we hope that you’ll be inspired to take action that will have a positive impact on their lives.

Access the slides from Student Voices Webinar (September 17, 2015) that featured:

    • Jim Wendorf, Executive Director, NCLD
    • Stacy Parker-Fisher, Director of Learning Differences Programme, Oak Foundation
    • Sheldon Horowitz, PhD , Director, LD Resources, NCLD
    • Marshall Raskind, PhD, Educational Researcher
    • Erica Anthony, Research/Marketing Consultant

The Student Voices Webinar video is available below:

This work was made possible by the Oak Foundation with in-kind support from the Poses Family Foundation.

Click here to download pdf files of the Student Voices Executive Summary, Infographic, Research Forms and Data Sets.


Download pdf files of Student Voices Research Forms and Data Sets here

More than 1,200 young adults with learning and attention issues were surveyed to gather firsthand information about factors that had the greatest impact on them during and after their transition from high school. Read about what they say mattered most to them during this time in their lives. Consider how their answers can inform decisions made by parents, educators, employers and society in general. And explore the data gathered as part of this study to better understand ways to help young adults with learning and attention issues navigate toward success.

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