Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

A Preliminary Comparison of Successful and Nonsuccessful Closure Types among Adults with Specific Learning Disabilities in the Vocational Rehabilitation System

Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

A Preliminary Comparison of Successful and Nonsuccessful Closure Types among Adults with Specific Learning Disabilities in the Vocational Rehabilitation System

Article excerpt

A Preliminary Comparison of Successful and Comparison of Successful and Comparison of Successful and Nonsuccessful Closure Types Among Adults with Specific Learning Disabilities in the Vocational Rehabilitation System

The vocational success of adults with SLD has only recently been investigated (Zigmund, 1990). This is surprising since it has been extensively documented that the learning problems characteristic of persons with SLD persist into adulthood and that the sequelea of the disorder have significant implications for vocational success (Haring & Lovett, 1990; Koller, 1994; Mellard & Hazel, 1992). For example, adults with SLD are less likely to graduate from high school (Adelman & Vogel, 1990; Malcolm, Polatajko, & Simons, 1990), and typically demonstrate increased problems finding and maintaining employment compared to persons without SLD (Shapiro & Lentz, 1991; Smith, 1992). Additionally, adults with SLD typically have a lower job status (Gerber, Reiff, & Ginsberg, 1988) and are often underemployed (Koller, 1994). Typically working in unskilled, entry level jobs, many adults with SLD are financially dependent and live at home with their parents (Haring, Lovett, & Smith, 1990; Spekman, Goldberg, & Herman, 1992).

In addition to on-the-job difficulties associated with traditional academic deficits, many persons with SLD possess other cognitive deficits including memory, processing visual information, comprehending spoken language, or solving novel problems requiring higher-order executive mental processes (McCue, 1995). Specific problems in the job setting may range from such tasks as accurately completing job applications, comprehending instructions in technical manuals, to writing summaries of completed work. Difficulties in the interpersonal sphere, often associated with learning disabilities, exacerbate the overall adjustment process of the individual (Reiff & Gerber, 1994) and promote difficulties on the job. In fact, some researchers have concluded that client social skill deficits lead to more on-the-job difficulties than academic or vocational deficits alone (Blalock, 1982; Patton & Polloway, 1982; Smith, 1988).

Although a number of different definitions of learning disabilities exist (e.g., Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-Fourth Edition [DSM-IV; 1994] and Public Law 94-142 [1977]), the following VR definition of SLD relates directly to employment issues:

A specific learning disability is a disorder in one or more of the central nervous system processes involved in perceiving, understanding, and/or using concepts through verbal (spoken or written) language or nonverbal means. This disorder manifests itself in one or more of the following areas: Attention, reasoning, processing, memory, communication, reading, writing, spelling, calculation, coordination, social competence, and emotional maturity (RSA, 1985). As can be seen from this definition, SLD is more than an academic deficit and manifests across a variety of higher order cognitive functions, all of which can affect a successful vocational outcome.

It is clear that the number of individuals with SLD entering the work force is continuing to grow. In 1993, the U.S. Department of Education noted that 51% of students in public school special education classes were diagnosed with SLD, representing a 200% increase since 1977 (Coutinho, 1995). Consequently, it is not surprising that specific learning disabilities constitute the fastest growing disability population served by the Vocational Rehabilitation system (Dowdy & Smith, 1994). Given the increasing complexity and advancing technological pace in the next century, the growing emphasis on more collaborative approaches to problem solving, and the demand for more rigorous employee credentialing and productivity requirements (Brown & Gerber, 1994), there is an acute need for more realistic predictors of long-term vocational success for individuals with SLD. …

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