Evaluations for ADHD and learning disabilities can be expensive and inaccessible for many – and Emily Yudofsky is working to change that. She is the co-founder of Marker Learning, a startup that is modernizing learning disability evaluations, diagnosis, and support.
Emily’s passion for helping students learn comes from her own experience navigating ADHD and learning disabilities as a child. With diagnosis and support, Emily went on to complete her undergraduate education at Yale University, where she studied Psychology and Neuroscience. Emily received her M.B.A. from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and was an early employee at Google [X], Alphabet’s “Moonshot Factory.”
Tell us about your ADHD diagnosis journey
I grew up in Houston, TX., and have two brilliant sisters. I spent most of my time in the pool (training as a competitive swimmer) or on the dance floor as part of a dance company (ballet, jazz and hip hop).
I was diagnosed with dyslexia at age 7, and was re-evaluated every 3 years, but my ADHD went undetected in the first couple of evals. It wasn’t until high school that I was diagnosed with ADHD. I remember having this “Aha” moment where I filled out a questionnaire in which you were asked if you related to a number of symptoms and thinking, “Oh my gosh – I do all of these things.”
I have the inattentive type and always found it hard to focus, but I attributed it to a lack of willpower, or my dyslexia, or learning disabilities in general. I knew deep down that it was really hard for me to concentrate even in personal conversations. But through my diagnosis I was able to really reflect and learn more about the condition – that ADHD doesn’t only affect attention. That it can manifest in impulsivity, disorganization, executive functioning, etc. These were never things I thought were related to ADHD. My focus was always around focus!
Tell us why you started Marker Learning
I started Marker because I identified that the learning and attention disability evaluation system was broken. It was exorbitantly expensive, lengthy, and inaccessible for so many. And yet access to a quality diagnosis can dramatically change your life path for the better.
I was so lucky to have been diagnosed at a relatively young age, but it’s not lost on me how many people don’t receive that critical support. We’re hoping to remove barriers so kids and adults can understand themselves better, and develop the skills and confidence they deserve.
We believe everyone should have access to the learning support they need to succeed. The platform delivers expert virtual evaluations at 1/4 of the cost of in person evaluations. Our licensed psychologists identify each learners precise learning needs and provide clear diagnoses & documentation that can be used for school or work accommodations, IEP or 504 plans.
What unique skills has your ADHD given you?
Being an entrepreneur is in my DNA. As a little girl, I was always coming up with new businesses and starting things, and over the years I’ve realized in part it’s due to my neurodivergence.
My ADHD has allowed me to observe the world around me, for better or for worse, rather than focusing on one particular thing. It illuminated the problems people are experiencing and inspired me to dream up solutions that could help.
Having ADHD also makes you impatient. When I see something wrong, I want to fix it, to do it better, to make it more efficient.
As an entrepreneur with ADHD, What are some of the challenges you experience, and how do you work through them?
Task initiation is something I struggle with. I often find myself starting to tackle something on my to-do list and then all of a sudden, I have started 5 things on my list and completed none of them.
I find that being incredibly scheduled with my day really helps me. I start the day by looking at my to-do list, and next to that list I’ll jot down the estimated amount of time needed to do that task. Then I’ll block out specific blocks of the day to complete each task, and do my best to only focus on that one thing during the allotted window. An example could be as detailed as: I have to send three emails, and I’m going to do those 3 in this 30 minutes and nothing else. I started working in block format in college for studying and have found that it still works for me.
You completed your B.A and M.B.A. What advice would you have for students who are navigating higher education with ADHD or a learning disability?
In college and grad school, It helped to be incredibly scheduled so that I could have fun and take advantage of the social experience. It’s kind of counterintuitive, but being more regimented actually provides more freedom. As somebody with ADHD, I get distracted easily and start and stop tasks. Having a time blocked approach enabled me to actually free up time to do what I love. Otherwise it bleeds together and you’re not able to enjoy your activity when you have thoughts hanging over your head of “what did I forget to do,” “what task didn’t I finish” etc.
It really helped me to work in busy, public spaces rather in my room alone to achieve non urgent tasks. Often people with ADHD need to be driven by absolute urgency, and that’s where procrastination comes in. It’s hard to do things proactively ahead of time in your own space, so going to coffee shops really helped me for two reasons. First, the background noise was helpful because in a library, if someone is whispering or a pen drops, I’d immediately tune in to those distractions. The hustle and bustle of a public space helps drown it all out. Second, I found the pressure of being in a public space to be motivating. I was immediately in the mindset of “I should be working” whereas as at home I’d go lay in my bed for 10 minutes or go cook something. Feeling like people were watching me, and I was expected to be working made me actually work!
Looking back, what would you tell your younger self?
Growing up I internalized a lot of shame and lost confidence, feeling like I wasn’t as smart as others because I was pulled out of the classroom, or I was yelled at for talking at the wrong moment.
If I could go back, I would tell myself to not sweat getting in trouble for what made me different, because those differences ending up being my strengths. I would say that ADHD gives you perspective no one else has. My ADHD has allowed me to recognize and appreciate other people’s unique abilities. I think differently, so I’m always quick to unearth other people’s idiosyncrasies and help them harness their talents. This helps me to manage teams, and to support my loved ones.
Marker Learning delivers remote psychoeducational evaluations for learning and attention disabilities. Our licensed psychologists identify precise learning needs using gold-standard assessments (exact tests and subtests are determined by the psychologist based on each client’s unique learning profile). Evaluations are delivered virtually via Zoom, and families receive a clear diagnosis, documentation, and an individualized action plan for $995. Learn more markerlearning.com.