I'm Not Letting My Learning Disability Define Me
When people hear the words “learning disability,” they usually think of dyslexia. Truth is, there are a bunch of types of learning deficits. From ADHD to dysgraphia and dyspraxia to executive functioning, the mind works so differently for everyone; it excels in different areas, too.
My journey with a learning disability began in the fall of third grade, when I realized I was slower than my classmates. From the moment my math homework was assigned, I felt panic and anxiety; just looking at those problems made me feel helpless. Curse those fractions and common core! My mother, who also struggles with an LD, spent much of her time trying to help me understand, but within a few hours she would lose patience and end up doing it for me. While it probably wasn’t the best way to motivate me, I was becoming emotionally affected. Turning in my tear-drenched homework was overwhelming. All I wanted to do was understand math like the rest of my class.
Finally, my teacher brought it to my mom’s attention that I could have a potential disability, and suggested I should get tested. Through years and years of testing, no teacher or psychologist could figure out why I couldn’t comprehend math or follow simple directions. I was excelling in my other classes—especially English. But not math. My report cards would look like an honor student’s, until you got down to the bottom and saw a big fat “F.” It was frustrating, especially since I didn’t understand my deficit until I got older.
As my grade school years passed, I started to understand the way my brain worked. In my early years of junior high, I learned I had something called a visual learning deficit, meaning a shortage in the brain’s ability to process information effectively. I have issues with short term memory and no sense of direction, plus my math skills are very poor and I have trouble drawing lines. There are many other elements of a visual processing disorder, but these are the things that have troubled me the most.
I’ve dealt with hurtful comments from people, like when I spend an hour on one problem, forget something that was said to me moments before, or divide instead of multiply. I also felt compelled to compete with my sister, who got amazing grades in school. Even people very close to me have made mean remarks about this. Just recently, I was told that “because you have a learning disability, you are too stupid.” I wasn’t hurt by this, because I’m not stupid. But I was appalled that someone would have the audacity to say something so ignorant. And even though I wasn’t personally affected by this kind of comment, the same can’t be said for the 4.6 million children who also suffer from a learning deficit and deal with the same kind of bullying.
Yes, hours of math homework are exhausting. Yes, I continue to struggle every day. And yes, I despise the word disability. My “disability” has never disabled me from anything. I continue to try and if it doesn’t work, I opt for Plan B. I am never reluctant to test my brain’s ability on my own terms. I like to put myself up for a challenge. From taking advanced classes to finding new ways to learn, I will not be deprived of anything a normal person without a disability can do.
The most powerful people in the world, like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, dealt with learning disabilities. That never stopped them, and it won’t stop me.
By Colleen Claire, 17