Executive Functions, Learning Disabilities & Life Success

A 20-year longitudinal study of individuals with learning disabilities identified six attributes shared by those individuals who met criteria for success, i.e. positive life outcomes. Fifty individuals participated in the 10-year follow-up,  41 of these were included in the 20-year follow-up (Raskind et al, 1999).

“Success Attributes” identified in the study included the following set of personal characteristics, attitudes, and behaviors that predicted success*:

  • Self-awareness
  • Proactivity (Initiative)
  • Perseverance
  • Goal setting
  • Emotional coping strategies
  • Presence and use of effective support system
 * Eight areas used to define success were: employment, education, independence, family relations, social relationships, crime/substance abuse, life satisfaction, and psychological health.

These attributes:

  •  were more powerful predictors of success than numerous other variables, including IQ, academic achievement, life stressors, age, gender, socioeconomic status, and ethnicity
  • parallel the concepts of “a resilient mindset” (Goldstein & Brooks, 2007), “self-motivation” (Deci, 2000 ) and “emotional intelligence” (Goleman, 1995) that apply to the general population, not exclusively to those with learning disabilities

Respondents in the study suggested that “we need to place greater emphasis on developing compensatory strategies aimed at circumventing difficulties rather than spending inordinate time remediating deficits.”  The study indicates that education should emphasize the development of success attributes to the same degree as academic skills.


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