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5 Things That Trigger Traumatic Memories of My Childhood With a Learning Disability

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Many people with learning disabilities go through negative and even traumatizing educational experiences. These experiences obviously hurt us both short- and long-term, but many people who haven’t been in our shoes think that after a while it doesn’t hurt or something along those lines. Well, I’m here to say this is not only a myth, but a huge problem for the LD community. Why? Because the traumatic event is engraved in our minds and can easily be brought back to life by specific triggers or random flashbacks.

Unfortunately, low self-esteem and other mental health issues often coexist with learning disabilities, making this an important topic to discuss. Although everyone has different triggers, below I share the top five things that still trigger me after all these years.

1. Public humiliation

This is by far my biggest trigger. I have been humiliated and shamed in front of people by my peers, teachers and others. If you name the person, odds are it has probably happened. I have many stories I could tell going back as far as third grade. Now when I am humiliated around others, it triggers all those memories and makes me cry and start to self-doubt. This vicious cycle is destructive and can last anywhere from a couple of hours to multiple days, sometimes longer.

2. Teachers hovering over me

I had a paraprofessional assigned to me from kindergarten through middle school, and the para would spend a decent amount of time hovering over me. I didn’t like it when my para would hover over me, since it not only broke my concentration, but with it often came either a stern and startling remark to pay attention or a lecture about how I was doing my work wrong. Now whenever a professor hovers over me without warning, I immediately freeze until they go elsewhere. I freeze because I still hear the startling “pay attention!” in my head, even though the last time that happened was a good decade ago.

3. Group work involving math or a tight time constraint

Although I have gotten better at this since college, group work can still be a trigger at times. I get triggered when my group gets impatient with me and leaves me behind or when someone makes cruel remarks such as, “how do you not understand this?” and more. It only gets worse with math since my disability has the greatest impact on my ability to learn math.

4. Being called on randomly

I have never liked being called on randomly, even now since I always seem to get called on at the worst times. Being called on led to me being humiliated in front of everyone, since the teacher would always demand an answer I didn’t have, or I’d get it wrong. I even got humiliated when I chose to remain silent. Even now I am reluctant to give an answer if called on, and am always the first to look down when the teacher is choosing someone to call on.

5. Talking down to me

This is a big one. My peers would often talk down to me in school, and it would infuriate me since it only reinforced their views of me. I also consider talking down to be changing your tone of voice and changing the wording of what was said after you only said it once. Yes, I’m slow, but I’m not “stupid.” It still infuriates me when people talk down to me, and I don’t hesitate to tell them if I am in a situation where I can do so.

Educators and others, please consider potential triggers and work to minimize them. It means the world to me and others in the community.


Getty image by Courtney Hale.

Originally published: March 4, 2020
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