Academic Resilience: A Retrospective Study of Adults With Learning Difficulties


  • John G. Freeman
  • Shari A. Stoch
  • Janet S. N. Chan
  • Nancy L. Hutchinson



This article reports qualitative analyses of two sets of retrospective interviews with adults with learning difficulties. The purpose of the study was to examine the high school experiences of these adults from a holistic perspective to understand possible factors that contributed to one group staying in school and the other group leaving school early. One set of interviews was conducted with adults who had returned to complete high school at an adult learning center (the late successful group). The second set of interviews was conducted with the early successful group, adults who had completed high school during adolescence. Interview questions focused on interests, friends, and general aspects of the high school experience. Analyses yielded three themes: intrapersonal support, interpersonal support, and institutional support. These data suggest that schools might act in a number of ways to counter the high rate of early leaving by adolescents with learning disabilities, including building strong teacher-student relationships, using students' interests to develop curricula and structured activities, and fostering a sense of purpose.