Specific learning disorders (SLD) persist into adulthood. Persons with SLD frequently experience emotional and social difficulties. Following qualitative descriptions of individuals with SLD who experienced learning, as traumatic, we hypothesized that individuals reporting SLD would report higher levels of learning-based post-traumatic-stress-disorder (PTSD) symptoms. In Study 1 (N = 216), participants responded to questionnaires concerning SLD and learning-based PTSD. A separate sample (N = 43) was queried about adjustment disorder symptoms. Study 2 (N = 176) examined if current psychological distress was predicted by levels of learning-based PTSD at each developmental stage (elementary/high-school/post-high-school) and whether SLD links to current psychological distress. Finally, we assessed if SLD-psychological distress associations are mediated by cumulative levels of learning-based PTSD across these school periods. In Study 1 individuals reporting SLD displayed higher learning-based PTSD levels than those without SLD. SLD-PTSD associations held beyond adjustment disorder symptom levels. In Study 2, SLD was linked with psychological distress, mediated by accumulated learning-based PTSD symptom levels across school periods. These results suggest that in individuals with SLD, learning experiences may be associated with learning-based PTSD symptoms. Further, persons with SLD may be scarred by their traumatic learning experiences linking with current psychological distress, a link mediated by cumulative difficulties experienced over school years.
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