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The High Cost of Being Disbelieved as a Student With Learning Disabilities

In life, many unbelievable, yet true things happen. Some of them are so unbelievable that you can’t believe it happened either.

This is a common experience many students with disabilities have in school. From negative comments from others to other uniquely strange events, they all have one thing in common: they are “unbelievably true.” This then leads to us not being believed when we tell these stories to others. People either don’t believe us or downplay it like it’s no big deal.

I have many “unbelievably true” stories I could tell, but right now I will tell one of the many stories I have of a particular teacher — we will call her Ms. X. In early high school, Ms. X was my special education teacher. At first, she was nice, but after a while, I realized how harsh she could be. She didn’t seem to have a problem with pointing out student shortcomings when students were struggling, nor with insulting students both in private and around others.

One day, she decided to pull me and one of my mainstream peers into her classroom for the extended learning period to help with positive and negative number concepts. So my peer and I go and she gives us a quick overview and hands us worksheets to do. Of course, my peer finishes quickly and gets another sheet, while I’m stuck on the second problem. A few minutes later, my peer finishes the second sheet and I’m still stuck on the same problem.

Ms. X then tries to help me to no avail while my peer says, “This is so easy, how do you not get this?”

Ms. X then says, “This is obviously going to be more difficult for me,” and sends my peer to the next room. I then ask Ms. X if she could help me with my math homework and she angrily says, “No, I will not. You should’ve done your homework last night. I guess you’ll have to take a zero.” I went to math next period in tears.

Would someone like your parents, another teacher, or another close and trustworthy person believe this story if you told it? What if you told similar stories multiple times over a long period of time with each story getting worse? Would they be on your side, or would you have to fight this alone? Would the school take action, or would this kind of conduct continue with no one to help you heal?

If your answers were mostly no, this is how many students with disabilities experience school and everyday life. This is what it means to have another arrow be shot into your freshly stitched wound repeatedly and then have others say your wound isn’t real. I hope that by telling these stories, more awareness of the impact of the “unbelievably true” stories will spread and maybe improve life and the odds of being believed. I also hope increased awareness will help current and future members of the disability community to properly heal instead of suffering from numerous unhealed psychological wounds.

Getty image by TomWang112.

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