What role does depression play in one’s ability to understand? Can you recommend a helpful book?

According to, depression can impair one’s cognitive functioning. The disorder interferes with one’s thought process, the ability to make decisions and concentration. Depression changes the brain, which can slow the brain’s functioning. Depressed people frequently experience memory problems and have trouble remembering events or details. As a result they may be unable to complete tasks that require both high-motor and cognitive skills. Patients may appear confused, scatterbrained, overwhelmed or become frustrated easily. Even everyday tasks can be difficult for someone struggling with depression. These mental impairments are especially costly to children and students who are still attempting to learn crucial fundamental skills.

The following symptoms of depression can also contribute to learning problems or disabilities:

  • Mood swings and emotional irregularities
  • Low self-esteem causing feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and self-hatred
  • Feeling irritable, agitated or anxious
  • Not finding pleasure, ultimately causing the individual to become disinterested in activities, work and other performance-based behaviors
  • Significant sleep disturbances (insomnia or hypersomnia) that affect the individual’s physical and psychological health

Other online articles regarding this topic include:

What is the main difference between an accommodation and a modification?

An accommodation is a change to the environment; e.g., a private room for testing, a change in testing format, the use of assistive technology, etc.  A modification is a change to the content of the curriculum or the testing, or a change to what the student is expected to learn; e.g., fewer questions on a test, shorter assignments, or how test results are interpreted.

Handwriting is very difficult for me and now that I am a graduate student I need to do a lot of writing. What type of accommodation would you recommend to help me?

Access to a keyboard and/or a speech-to-text program like Dragon Naturally Speaking may be effective solutions, but using speech-to-text may not be possible for note-taking during class.  It should be very helpful for writing papers, though.  You can find out more about Dragon at You can also check your computer’s list of accessible programs; most have a speech-to-text program already installed on your computer that you don’t have to pay for.

For note-taking in class, you may want to check out the “Live Scribe” pen, which allows you to take notes, draw pictures, and digitally record what the teacher is saying – all at the same time.  It also instantly syncs with your laptop so you have a digital version of what you’ve written.   For more information, go to

There’s also an app called “AudioNote” that does much the same thing and is much cheaper.  See

One last idea is to use a graphic organizer approach to writing reports, papers, etc.  For more information about various types of graphic organizers and resources, see

Is it possible to get exemption from taking a foreign language class if I have a diagnosed learning disability?

According to Robin L. Schwarz’s article, Learning Disabilities and Foreign Language Learning, “Policies on waivers from foreign language requirements vary enormously. Every school has its own set of requirements. Some require full documentation of a learning disability with findings pointing to the deficits which are associated with foreign language learning problems; others might require a score on the Modern Language Aptitude Test ( MLAT).

Unfortunately for the LD student, many schools, especially colleges, may require evidence of having attempted a foreign language and failed…Students and families asking schools for accommodation on this issue need to be well-versed themselves and prepared to provide literature or at least reference to literature that will inform the school of this problem. Even better, when possible, parents or adult students should discuss the problem with a school before enrolling, to be sure that the problem can be dealt with.”

Can you advise me on what resources are available to help me improve my executive functioning?

Traditional strategies for improving executive functioning include the use of graphic organizers, daily and weekly planners, color-coding and other organizational tools, and allowing extra time to complete tasks. Also, sports and exercise have recently been shown to improve executive function skills such as focus, working memory, and cognitive flexibility.

There are also many assistive technology applications available to assist with executive functioning. Smart phones have calendars with a system of reminders built-in, as well as digital note pads to help with memory and organization. Additionally, there are many apps available if you search online for “executive functioning apps.” Two good places to begin searching are the “Tools for Life App Finder” and the app finder at Learning Works for Kids.

What kind of assistive technology is available to help with reading and writing?

With all the free & cheap assistive technology available for reading and writing these days, you can provide your own accommodations at home – without any formal evaluation – and sometimes at work, depending on the accommodation needed. Here are a couple of ideas you might want to look into:

Natural Readers software is a free text-to-speech software program you can download on your computer. With this program installed on your computer, your computer will read out loud everything on your monitor after you highlight the text. This includes internet sites, email, and word processing documents. Actually, it can read anything you see written on your computer.

Prizmo is an app for your phone that lets you take a picture of what you want to read and then it reads it out loud to you. This works great for books, magazines, menus, or whatever else you need to read that’s not on a computer. You can check it out at about It costs $9.99 at the App Store. You can even create files that have multiple pages if you take multiple pictures.

GT-AppFinderFor other ideas about assistive technology that may be helpful, click here and check out Georgia Tech’s TOOLS FOR LIFE APP FINDER.

Just click on the picture that looks like the one here, and it will give you information about free & cheap apps.

What is the difference between auditory processing disorder and ADHD?

An auditory processing disorder is a condition that adversely affects how sound that travels unimpeded through the ear is processed and interpreted by the brain. For more information, see learning-disabilities/auditory- processing-disorder/

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurobiological disorder that is influenced by environmental factors. Typically, people with AD/HD have developmentally inappropriate behavior, including poor attention skills, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. For diagnosis, the behaviors must be out of the normal range for the person’s age and development. According to the DSM-5, characteristics include:

  • Starts in early childhood, usually before age 12.
  • Behaviors are chronic.
  • Behaviors last at least 6 months.

For more information about AD/HD, go to learning-disabilities/adhd/.

I have learning disability. Is there a higher chance for my kids to have them also? And if so what age should I get them tested?

Yes, there is a higher chance that your children may have learning disabilities. According to The Neurobiology of Reading and Dyslexia, by Sally E. Shaywitz, M.D., and Bennet A. Shaywitz, M.D.), 27%-49% of children with dyslexia have one or more parents who also have dyslexia.

LDA supports the idea that, “It is never too early to seek help for your child, but waiting too long could be very harmful.” For further information about characteristics to watch for at different ages, click here.