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The Process of Accepting My Learning Disability

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The moment I knew that something was different about me was when I was told I had a learning disability. I don’t remember the exact moment my parents told me. I can remember watching my neurotypical peers tie their shoes, do dot-to-dot worksheets and excel at math. I would watch them socialize and I would be rejected. I felt like everything I did was a challenge.

I began the process of accepting my disability as a young child. The process of accepting my disability was similar to the five stages of grieving some people go through when a loved one has passed away. Grief is categorized in five stages: denial, anger, bargaining depression and acceptance. Each person experiences the process of grief differently. Not everyone will experience all of the stages, or go through them in a sequential order. Initially I can remember feeling angry and frustrated. I would study for a test or work hard in a class and would not do well. I was angry at the other students because things seemed to come easily to them. Academically things got easier as I progressed through school. Socially things got harder as I moved through the grades. I often felt sad when my peers rejected me for having a disability.

I was also told that I could not use my disability as a “crutch.” I was confused by this as a child. I wondered if specialty classes or extended test time was a crutch. My peers would often remark that my disability gave me an unfair advantage. I can remember being told that all we did was “baby work” and we were given the answers. I also had peers wish they had a learning disability so they could get the accommodations.

Acceptance of having a learning disability was not a neat or easy process. New circumstances would bring me to a different stage. I had to embrace that I have a learning disability and that my brain works differently than a person who is neurotypical. I had to figure out what accommodations were going to work and to advocate for myself. I also had to stop comparing myself to people who didn’t have a learning disability. My brain works differently than those considered to be neurotypical. I also had to be selective about who I disclosed my disability to as well. You can’t see a learning disability, so it’s easier to hide than a physical disability. The invisible factor did make it harder for people to believe that I have a disability. I had to accept that not everyone was going to be understanding. Worrying about what others thought about me did little to help my situation.

Having a learning disability has caused me to grieve being the neurotypical person. I try to focus on what I can do, rather than what I cannot do. I knew I was at acceptance when I could tell someone that I am not good at math and not feel bad about it. Most importantly I can chose to not make my learning disability an excuse not to do something, instead I can find an alternative way to do things.

Photo credit: Highwaystarz-Photography/Getty Images

Originally published: May 10, 2020
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