Growing Beyond a Learning Disability

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*photo by Madeleine S./written by Madeleine S.

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Learning disabilities:
“1. a condition giving rise to difficulties in acquiring knowledge and skills to the level expected of those of the same age, esp. when not associated with a physical handicap.” – Google’s definition

Before you read this article I first want to let you know that this is not meant to educate you about learning disabilities but to inform you of how one person’s learning disability caused insecurity and low self-confidence, and to help people understand people with learning disabilities.

Around the age of ten, from what I remember, was when my confidence levels began to go down. This was when I was diagnosed with a learning disability. When I was in fourth grade I couldn’t tell that I was insecure but when looking back to those years I felt a dramatic sense of, “you’re dumb” or “you don’t fit in”. All of my insecurities began after I was told that I had a learning disability called auditory processing disorder.

When I was in sixth grade I had already been going to a separate class called Resource. It was a place where other students with learning disabilities went to go get assistance on their homework and work on classwork drills to help us gather our information. After having to leave at the same time every day from my sixth grade class to go to Resource I began getting asked by my fellow classmates where I was going. Without hesitation I gladly told them I was going to Resource because I had a learning disability. Some of those students (a few of them in ‘honors’) responded back asking, “are you retarded? You don’t look like it.” That was when I began to feel like I wasn’t the same as my friends and wasn’t smart.

In junior high school the difficulties continued, although I did have many friends, worked hard, was in Girl Scouts, loved writing, socializing, and was happy. There was just one thing that I was ashamed of, my learning disability which I did my best to hide. My World History teacher was award winning and well known. She knew of my learning disability but still was so hard on me when it came to my classwork. I worked hard on my projects and tests but no matter what she always told I just needed to work harder. It frustrated me and hurt because I thought I was working harder yet she kept telling me keep going “above and beyond”. There was one more upsetting memory I have from junior high school. Towards the end of PE class, all of us were changing out of our PE clothes and one girl was running around the locker room undressed and someone complained. The PE teacher said, “Oh, don’t pay any attention to her. She’s in resource.” I remember coming home really upset because it felt that being in Resource was an excuse and a reason why that girl behaved the way she did.

In high school I asked to be taken out of Resource because I didn’t want to be “labeled”. For college, I went the community college in my town. That college, like many others, had a ‘Disabled Students Program’. It was great that the college offered different kinds of resources for students with learning disabilities but sadly I just didn’t utilize them. When I look back at how I didn’t take advantage of those resources I just want to kick myself in the butt! Before I was diagnosed, did I ever feel like I had a hard time in class, or understood things the same as everyone else? Or was it only after I was diagnosed that I realized that I was having a hard time with comprehension? I wish I knew, because at a young age it is hard for many kids in elementary school to feel like you fit in. Most of the time you want to have friends and feel the “same”. The learning disability just makes that even harder. Maybe if learning disabilities were explained to teachers a little bit more and if the ‘honors’ students weren’t made to feel superior over everyone else… then maybe it would have been easier for those of us with a learning disability.

Here I am now, a woman with a learning disability. I was once addicted to drugs and didn’t feel like I could make something of my life. I was wrong. I was insecure and worried too much about the petty things. Now I plan on going back to college. My goal is to work on the KDAC program for Alcohol and Drug Counseling and to complete my certificate in Business Supervision. I also want to educate myself more on learning disabilities in hopes to help myself and others be more aware of how to help people with learning disabilities.

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