Adults with severe reading and learning difficulties: A challenge for the family physician

Mary S. Kelly, Ruth L. Gottesman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: An estimated 40 to 44 million adults living in the United States have severe difficulty reading, writing, spelling, and doing arithmetic. These deficiencies interfere with their receiving adequate health care. Many of these adults have reading or other learning disabilities that further compromise their ability to understand their medical conditions and to participate fully in their own care. Methods: The literature on the cognitive and affective characteristics of adults with reading and learning disabilities was searched using the MEDLINE, PsychLIT, and ERIC databases. This literature is reviewed with an emphasis placed on how these characteristics might challenge a family physician's ability to provide optimal patient care, and what can be done to meet these challenges. Illustrative case vignettes of adults with these disabilities are described. Results and Conclusions: The cognitive and affective characteristics of this patient population make it difficult for the family physician to provide optimal medical services. Suggestions are given to make medical care more accessible and appropriate for these patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)199-205
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American Board of Family Practice
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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