By Dr. Michael McManmon, founder, College Internship Program (CIP)
Many young adults ages 18-26 need support as they enter college, pursue career training, and learn the skills needed for life, work, and independent living. The diagnosis of a learning difference will help young adults with sensory issues receive the help they need and gain the self-awareness necessary to make a successful transition from adolescence to adulthood. Finding the right classroom, dormitory room, or an apartment environment that supports and accommodates your young adult’s needs is essential.
When I was in my early 50’s I was officially diagnosed with a learning difference. Looking back at events during my childhood and schooling my late-in-life diagnosis explains so many of the sensory issues, situations, and difficulties I experienced and continue to experience as an adult.
When I was in high school, with no desk in my bedroom or quiet space to study, I used the dining room table when doing my homework and my favorite pastime, drawing. I had to learn to deal with the constant traffic going past the table and the sensory overload this caused as my six siblings would walk by me all evening. Looking back and in retrospect, this was good training for college as it prepared me for being able to seek a quiet space to study.
My dorm room was impossible for this task. The noises and distractions reminded me of my chaotic study space at home and caused me to feel the same anxiety I experienced during my early school years. I found that if I started to read a book in my room, I would get distracted by my roommate trying to talk to me. In my case, the rules of the library were perfect for me. Studying in a small, enclosed cubicle met my needs, as everyone had to be quiet. I would feel enclosed, encased, secure, and accomplish my work in an atmosphere that fed, not deprived my senses. There was just enough background noise to keep me awake, but no conversation to distract me.
For your young adult, the issues might be loud or repetitive noises (i.e., a loud clock ticking), bright lights, or foul smells. Young adults who suffer from sensory overload can either implode or explode when faced with these issues on a daily basis. To avoid either scenario, young adults need to develop their own specific pro-social coping mechanisms for dealing individual sensory issues.
Awareness is the first step, followed by being motivated to change and lastly, being willing to incorporate new behaviors for coping with their individual issues. Finding the right sensory environment for your young adult is vital. Some students can do well in a cubicle in a library, others require fluorescent lights, or a quiet space with dim lights. The spaces that students work should be accessible and work for them not against them. This allows your young adult with learning differences to be more productive and gain the skills necessary for school, life, and in the workplace.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Michael McManmon, EdD, has 35 years of experience working with young adults age 18-26 who have learning differences. He is the Founder of The CIP, a post secondary program with six Centers nationwide that serves this growing population. CIP helps young people with learning differences make successful transitions from adolescence to young adulthood.