• Laura Frame

Undetected Disabilities in Young Adults


I have often encountered young adult clients with undetected disabilities who somehow managed to complete highschool without receiving any accommodations or support. These individuals may have had supportive parents who acted as their unofficial executive functioning (EF) coaches while they were home or they were somehow able to muster sufficient compensatory strategies to fly under the radar up until they graduated. Sometimes these individuals have exceptional cognitive abilities that masked their underlying neurodevelopmental disabilities and may be twice exceptional. Although they usually are able to identify that they struggled while in school, they typically are able to explain how they compensated for their struggles and managed to squeak by. Unfortunately, once they move away to college without these support systems, they may be unable to hide their weaknesses and may encounter significant difficulties. Once they enter college, they are forced to face a daunting combination of an overwhelming course load alone along with juggling independent living skills. Without their support system readily available, these individuals tend to struggle, and often their performance declines.


Benefits of a Comprehensive Psychological evaluation

A comprehensive psychological evaluation may not only identify this individual’s strengths and assets, but their underlying weaknesses. If the evaluation is comprehensive and thorough, then it should provide a roadmap with research-based recommendations. Appropriate recommendations will identify a plan of action where these individuals may begin to reprogram their weaknesses and utilize their assets. If an emotional or neurodevelopmental disability is identified, then the individual may be eligible for accommodations. The overarching protection of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act may qualify them for accommodations either in postsecondary institutions or in the workplace.


Disability Accommodations

A few examples of commonly allowable disability accommodations for adults include additional time granted to submit assignments or projects; access to support services; and receiving copies of presentations in advance. These may help the individual no longer feel overwhelmed. Accommodations may offer the additional support needed so that they can experience success.


Evidence-Based Treatment Recommendations

At times, disability accommodations are only a small piece of the puzzle. There may be treatment options that are important to address underlying concerns. For example, if the individual has a mood disorder, then they may receive a referral for a specific type of evidence-based therapy. Also, if they are struggling to manage meeting multiple deadlines and do not have sufficient planning and organizational skills. In these situations, they may benefit from working with either an ADHD and/or EF coach. Their coach will teach them the skills needed in order to efficiently plan and organize their materials and to utilize better time management skills.


Next Steps

After receiving their interactive feedback and evaluation reports, many young adults comment that they gain a deeper understanding of their needs and capabilities. Some clients may feel validated that their struggles have finally been acknowledged. The psychological evaluation process should both identify weaknesses as well as facilitate the ability to develope a clear plan of action. As part of their next steps the psychologist may help the individual identify where to start and how to access recommended accommodation and/or services. The benefits of having a highly detailed, all-ncompassing evaluation can last a lifetime by equipping individuals with the appropriate tools, skills and a roadmap to follow. When given the appropriate support, individuals may experience an increase in self-confidence and impassioned belief in their abilities and competency to face future challenges. If you are ready to talk to an expert to begin this journey, then please reach out and contact us to schedule a consultation.





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