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Adults with learning disabilities topic of workshop

by Merrie Leininger

Learning disabilities or attention deficit disorder affect adults as much as children and cause normal interactions – with doctors, teachers or other authority figures – to be difficult.

A conference for professionals who deal with adults with disabilities and fetal alcohol syndrome – and the adults themselves – will be held Jan. 20 at Turtle Rock Park in Markleeville.

Edie Veatch with family support services at Alpine Children’s Center has a learning disability and speaks first-hand about the difference just a diagnosis makes.

“(Guest speaker) Lynn Watson can test adults if they think they might have a disability,” Veatch said. “I used to look up and down the parking lot for my car and now know to look straight ahead when I get out of my car for a sign, so I can look for that sign when I come out of the store.”

She said her son also has a learning disability, and once he was diagnosed, she and her husband realized he could remember his tasks with a simple note.

n Participants. It’s important, Veatch said, that professionals such as judges, probation officers, doctors and teachers attend the conference. She said they may unknowingly put too much responsibility on a person with a disability, setting them up for failure.

“Teen-agers with disabilities start getting in trouble because don’t have the concept of consequences. For people with these disabilities, instant gratification is the first thing on their mind,” Veatch said. “For parents who have a disability, their child’s teacher automatically assumes they don’t want to work with the teacher if the parents are confused – and then the teacher just shuts down.

“Oftentimes, the parent thinks they are doing what is asked of them, but have misinterpreted a long list of tasks the teacher gave them.”

Veatch said teachers should determine if they are presenting too many things at once.

“You’ve got this whole list of stuff, when in reality, they (parents) can only work on one thing at a time. A parent with a disability may be working with their child for five hours a night on things they don’t know how to do,” Veatch said. “the teacher could get a tutor for after school. Maybe that would be the answer so the parent is not overburdened.”

Veatch said these people can get in trouble with the law because they don’t understand all the rules. Once on probation, they continue to violate probation again and again.

“Probation officers should recognize someone who was doing well, but then stopped returning calls or didn’t understand the need to go to work on time everyday. Those people may have trouble processing that information,” Veatch said. “The probation officer needs to look at doing it a different way. It’s going to take longer, but it doesn’t mean they can’t achieve it.”

The conference speaker, Lynn Watson, lives in Carson City, and spent over 20 years in special education.

The conference is free – thanks to funding from the Office of Child Abuse Prevention-Small County Initiative – and will be held 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with lunch provided. Participants should register early. To register during this weekend or on Monday, Jan. 15, contact Veatch at (530) 694-2934. During the week, call (775) 781-5111 or (530) 694-2390.