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Thanks to Those Who Stuck by Me and My Learning Disability

Ahhh, September. Fall foliage, crisp cool air and boot season. But it is also back-to-school season. A time of stress and anxiety not only for those of us with a learning disability but also for those who love and take care of us. As a former student with a disability who is currently working with students with disabilities, I know I would be nowhere without my parents, teachers, therapists and caregivers — and the list goes on. I have always associated the fall season with gratitude, so this one is for you guys, the ones who have stuck by me no matter what.

To the neuropsychologists who evaluated me and helped me received the services I needed — thank you from the bottom of my heart. I may not have liked the label of nonverbal learning disorder (NLD), but it ultimately was the final push I needed to help me get where I needed to be. One of the first articles I wrote when I was a child in middle school was entitled “Girl Left Behind,” in response to the “No Child Left Behind” act passed in 2001. I described how I felt less than, how the other children “got the guide to life,” and I never did. Even though there was some strong language in your reporting, such as “right hemisphere dysfunction” and “doesn’t have a clue what she learned during the school day,” it was that strong language that ultimately helped me to catch up and not be “left behind” anymore. Your accuracy has not gone unnoticed.

To the many teachers I had through my formative years — thank you for pushing me to my potential. Thank you for helping me realize I am a separate entity from my nonverbal learning disability and that I am so much more than it. Thank you for all the late nights you spent grading papers and writing IEP reports and goals. Your belief in me and your desire to see my success has helped me to continue to want to learn and grow, even as an adult.

To the occupational, speech and school therapists — thank you for not only executing the services as written in my IEP but also for going above and beyond the call of duty. You, like my teachers, looked at me as Danielle. Not as nonverbal learning disorder. The social world at school was intimidating. Places like the cafeteria were like jungles. Thank you for helping me navigate those jungles and see through all the tall trees.

To the counselors and therapists I have seen throughout the years — past and present — thank you for helping me uncover the hurt lying so deep within my heart. Thank you for helping me heal the emotional wounds that come along with having a learning disability and social anxiety. You have also helped me to realize my potential and point me toward a career where I can use my experiences growing up with NLD to help the next generation of students with disabilities. You all were always there for me when I needed you the most, regardless of whether I picked up the phone, emailed or texted. In times of emotional distress, I knew there was always a compassionate counselor for me on the other end.

Last, but not least, to my parents and siblings — thank you for being my biggest advocates. My parents were often referred to as the “Brains” (mom) and “Mouth” (dad) behind the whole operation during IEP meetings and struggles with the school system. Thank you for spending your afternoons doing homework with me trying to help me relearn all I learned in school. Your attendance at IEP meetings, conferences and seminars gave our whole family a wealth of knowledge on how to best help me. You never gave up on me and encouraged me to never give up on myself. Thank you for teaching me about the power of being strong in the face of distress. My wonderful siblings — thank you for accepting me and my challenges unconditionally. You also saw me as just your sister, Danielle, not as any kind of label. I have the world’s best support system, and it started with all of you.

Sometimes, living as an adult with a learning disability and struggling with social anxiety can be taxing, both mentally and physically. I try to turn my mind toward all I have to be grateful for. I have so many people in my life who have helped me navigate the scary world we live in. These people have the biggest hearts, and I hope I can impact just one student with a disability in the positive way that all of these wonderful people have done for me. I love you all.

Getty Image by Lordn