Tom was an overgrown boy, with shaggy brown hair creeping out of the sides of the baseball hat he usually donned, and a soft-spoken demeanor. He was intelligent in the analytical sense: he could readily solve a problem or a question with solid accuracy, though not with tremendous speed. Where he fell short was with executive function: he had never used a planning device of any kind, he completed all of his assignments at the last minute, his backpack was a jumble of random papers from all subjects, and he was a tad abrasive when the subject was broached with him, especially if it was coming from his parents. In addition, he was shy when approaching other adults, particularly when asking for help, which obviously applied when dealing with his teachers, or frequently when avoiding them systematically at all costs.
As a result, it was no surprise to note that Tom’s transcript from high school revealed uneven results. When the stars aligned— he remembered what to do, his teacher favored him, the material clicked in his brain, or his jumbled bag produced the right assignment or book— he was highly successful. But more often, ‘disaster struck the unprepared’ when one of these elements went awry. Instead of changing his approach in these circumstances, he took it as a signal that he was unable to complete that particular work due to his own inadequacy, took a hit to his ego, and repressed this whole process from himself and the world. Subsequently, he would take steps to avoid, if at all possible, the source of his shame. Often it was in humanities classes like English or History, which he found far more difficult than math or science.
When it came time to matriculate to college, avoidance was no longer going to be possible. The ‘anonymous approach’ isn’t exactly all that successful in higher education. While high schools frequently offer support systems to account for this type of student, college systems are far more relaxed, content to let them slip into obscurity, often resulting in total failure. Often colleges will offer guidance and support services, but because of the numbers of kids per support staff, they rarely get the type of attention that many of them need.