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by Abigail Van Buren

Man Held Back in School Struggles to Gain Ground

DEAR ABBY: My boyfriend (I'll call him Timothy) was in special education classes all through school. He is very intelligent, but has a slight learning disability. Because of the way the educational system was set up, he was put into classes with students who had severe learning disabilities. He wasn't even taught addition and subtraction until his senior year.

Despite the odds against him, Timothy enrolled in community college. The lowest-level college classes are a huge jump from his high school classes and too fast-paced for him. He has talked with the counselors and tutors, but no one can help him. He has put much time and effort into classes, but still has made only failing grades. He blames himself for this, although it isn't his fault.

It breaks my heart to see Timothy's self-esteem dashed and his ambitions crushed. He is terrified of what his future holds if he cannot get an education.

Abby, aren't there classes for adults who never learned to read and write in school? Timothy can read a little, but not well. Where can I get more information for him? -- LOVES HIM AND WANTS TO HELP

DEAR LOVES HIM: Inquire at the high school about remedial reading classes for adults. Also, libraries usually have programs to assist adults and children with reading and writing problems. Perhaps they can refer you to tutors who volunteer their skills without charge simply for the love of helping those in need.

Another thought: Not everyone learns in the same way. Some people learn more easily when they hear a lecture, rather than from a book. Others learn faster when they see something demonstrated. A trade school may provide a less frustrating environment in which Timothy can learn. Another alternative might be a union apprenticeship program.

DEAR ABBY: Our bridge group has been together for more than 30 years. Our members have always been very supportive of each other. We do more than play cards; we socialize and travel together. In short, we're good friends.

For the last year or two, we've had a serious problem with one member of our group. She causes discord and irritates the rest of us. So far, we have avoided a direct confrontation with her.

Some of her annoying habits include constantly interrupting, repeating her own thoughts on what has just been said by others, complaining constantly about her neighbors and her health, loud belching, irritating loud laughter, keeping us waiting while she uses our phones without permission, and embarrassing behavior in public. I could go on and on, and her behavior is getting worse.

We have tried to solve the problem by joking about it, mildly insulting her or just ignoring her. But it doesn't seem to register, and she makes no effort to alter her behavior.

Aside from this, she is a very generous, good-natured individual, and we care about her. We feel she is "fragile," and several members of the group suspect she's mentally ill.

We'd like to salvage our relationship with her, but she's pulling the group apart. We avoid getting together because of her. We must do something if the group is to survive. Can you help us? -- HAD IT IN "SPADES"

DEAR HAD IT: Your bridge group has been together for so long that it would be a shame to ask one longtime member to throw in her hand. She may be having mental problems -- or she may have suffered a hearing loss as she has grown older.

Alert someone in her family to talk to her, or designate two or three of the club members to do it for the good of the group. The alternative is to slowly exclude her from your gatherings.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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