Adult Learning Disabilities

AdultsThe impact of learning disabilities is lifelong. The issues that made school work so challenging as a child crop up again in the workplace and even in our homes. Paper work and reports at work; keeping up with bills and – back to school again! – helping our children with their homework can be a struggle. 

Whether you grew up knowing you had a learning disability and received special education services, or you have struggled with learning difficulties without ever knowing exactly what your problems were, you are probably now in command of a number of techniques that make life easier. Over the years, you have figured out ways to get and keep track of the information you need, and developed systems for helping you get and stay organized. 

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Cutting the Cord

Cutting ropeSo I awoke to an empty house this morning. My 32-year-old baby is on his own, at least I think he is. When my husband passed away, there was no question that life had to change. Why would my son and I continue to live in a huge house where the work was never finished? Then the major question…the one from the day we began to accept our son’s learning disability…can he make it on his own?

To give Liam confidence, to achieve my mission as a parent that my child be independent, to prove wrong those who thought he was too disabled, to allow me to move on with my own life, and also to give Liam the convenience of living more near his own place of employment…the decision was reached: I would encourage Liam to buy a place of his own.

We have often talked about this before, even before my husband got sick. We would ask Liam if he wanted to buy his own place. He would reply that he would like to someday of course. His sisters both had places of their own, but Dad and I needed him.“Isn’t that right, Mom?” he’d ask. I would always confirm this and tell him how lucky we were to have him to help us. He was as neat as could be and was a tremendous help to us.

About six months after his Dad died, I told Liam that we would need to sell this big house and asked if he was ready to live on his own. He said he was and seemed very interested in the prospect. We talked about it several times and I told him we would start looking in summer. After numerous talks with him about finding a place, he said, “You mean sometime, right?” I said, “No, Liam. I mean now. Is that okay?” He agreed that it was, but, of course, he is always so agreeable. So we talked about it a lot more, with me always trying to gain a perspective on the thoughts going on inside his head. We finally started looking one day. Liam came to me and said, “You mean next summer, right?” Again, the answer was, “No…. this summer. Are you okay with that?”

We spent a good deal of time searching. Finally we found condos for sale very near to the location Liam had initially wanted. The model on the first floor was very nice and Liam really liked it. We then went to the model on the third floor. For some reason, he really did not like it. I insisted he tell me his reasons for not liking it because it was the location he wanted, it was brand new, and the most reasonably priced of any we had found. It turned out that he did not like the way it was decorated. A very big turnoff was a picture hanging on a kitchen wall. I explained to him that the condo would be totally empty and he would put his own things into it. I needed to explain this to him a few weeks later again…he found that concept very hard to understand, but he finally got it.

Once Liam realized that he could change things in the condo, he decided he did like it and we went downstairs to talk to the sales rep. He told her he did like it, but asked if there was any way he could change the kitchen cabinets. “Oh, yes,” she readily offered, standing up and showing Liam the wall of choices. He stood up as well and pointed to the one that he wanted for his condo. It was the most expensive of any cabinet and would add thousands of dollars to the price. He definitely has champagne tastes with a beer pocketbook.

Getting Liam to understand the financial side of the whole deal was all the more difficult. Considering his salary, he had a good deal of money saved, but still did not have a large enough down payment to make his monthly payments low enough so that he would have enough left over to still take his Tae Kwon Do lessons and eat out or go out with his friends. I would need to help him financially which I did. Typical of Liam, he was so sweet. He stopped more often for milk or bread and always offered to buy me lunch or something in return for my agreeing to add a significant amount of money to the down payment.

We had regular vocabulary lessons. “What is a mortgage?” “What is escrow?” We had math lessons. “If you put this much down, how much will you still owe?” “Remember we put down earnest money that goes toward the cost.” “If you only put 10% down, how much would you owe?” I asked, “What will your lawyer do?” What is the lady at the bank going to do for you? (Answer: “Give you the mortgage.”) These and many more questions were reviewed. Liam knew none of the answers initially but learned them all. I even encouraged him to practice signing his name quickly since he would need to do it so many times at the closing. I explained to him that his signature should not be spread out as he has always done, and that penmanship did not count.

It was uncomfortable realizing how the various people we met perceived me…an overbearing dominant mother. One of his sisters helped me one day when I felt near tears realizing that the person I had talked to had formed this opinion of me. She said, “You need to do that for Liam. You don’t do that for my sister or me.”

Trying to schedule an appointment to select carpet, etc., with the sales representative at the building, a very nice lady about my age, she wondered, “Couldn’t he pick out his things himself? Do you really need to come?” I simply said, “Yes, I do.” I called the lawyer’s office and arranged for him to attend the closing. I mentioned I would be there and the attorney’s secretary said, “Why will you be there? Your name is not on the bill of sale, is it?” I said, “No, it isn’t, but I will be there.” Just before the closing, I debated whether or not to tell our lawyer that Liam has a learning disability. Then I visualized him whispering away to Liam about some problem that might come up at the proceeding, my straining to hear, and everyone thinking, “Poor Liam. What a dominating mother he has.”

I decided to call the lawyer. I just said, “I want you to know that Liam has a learning disability just in case anything comes up during the closing. You would be explaining it to him and he might not understand.” The lawyer quipped, “That happens all the time. I say something to someone at the closing and the next day they call up and say, ‘What were you talking about?’” It was as easy as that, and nothing did arise at the closing, but he did tell me to be careful with certain papers and pointed out things that Liam should remember to do at certain times. No one listening would have thought anything, and Liam rapidly signed the documents. I had forgotten to tell him though that, when asked to initial something, he should write it and use three initials. I just said that to him very quietly at the closing. I needed to repeat it once, but he did fine after that. Had he done it his way, maybe it would have been okay also.

It is now six months since my son has bought a condo of his own. Just as when his father died and Liam felt he needed to become the man of the house, Liam’s confidence got a new lift. Just as I expected, he is conscientious about paying his bills, he keeps his condo like a showplace and is a good neighbor. At the same time, he is investing in his future.

I am always cutting the cord with Liam. Everything, or close to it, that Liam has ever learned has had to be taught to him, but with his success thus far in his role as homeowner, he is truly gaining independence…the ultimate goal of all parents.