That was a surprising result from a survey asking students what mattered most in preparing for jobs and college.

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Students with learning disabilities make up the largest slice of the special education pie (about 42 percent nationally), but their needs and capabilities often are misunderstood.

They may be written off as lazy or discouraged from taking challenging courses that they could handle with proper instruction and adjustments.

A student with dyslexia, for example, may well succeed in honors English if the final involves making a video or a computer app instead of writing an essay.

For some, finding their niche in the real world is more satisfying than trying to conform to the one-size-fits-all demands of a public high school.

That was one of the surprising results from a survey conducted by the National Center for Learning Disabilities, a nonprofit advocacy organization, which asked about 1,200 recent high school graduates to identify what mattered most in preparing for jobs and college.

Researchers “heard from a fair number that they were much happier overall being out of the school environment and on their own, doing something that was either college or work-place related where they could be the masters of their own fate,” said Sheldon H. Horowitz, one of the study’s authors.

Learning disabilities are brain-based disorders that cause significant problems  in reading, math, writing and oral expression that are unexpected because they are not caused by mental retardation, autism or other medical or psychiatric problems.

With proper instruction and support, students with such disabilities can succeed in school and beyond, which is partly why the U.S. Department of Education is beginning to hold schools more accountable for improving the academic success of kids in special education.

Horowitz and his colleagues sorted the survey’s respondents into three groups: those who reported they were struggling after graduation, those who were coping and those who were successfully navigating jobs and college.

All three groups included a mix of students who had been diagnosed with a learning disability or attention problem, students who reported struggling with those problems, but were never formally diagnosed, and students who had never struggled with those issues.

The best predictor of success immediately after high school, regardless of whether a student had a learning disability, was their level of self-confidence and the amount of support they received from parents, friends and their communities.

The researchers concluded that academic instruction and support aren’t sufficient to predict success and aren’t likely to be effective unless combined with social and emotional support.