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To Teens With Learning Disabilities, From an Adult Who's Been There

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Dear teenagers who have nonverbal learning disability (NVLD) or other learning disabilities,

I am writing to you in the hope I can make a difference for you as you go through your school years. You see, I was like you in so many ways when I was in school. I faced all the same challenges in and out of the classroom you are likely going through, and today I am proud to say I am a young adult who overcame them. How did I do this, you ask? I never gave up, and neither should you.

The town you are growing up in may be just like mine, with too many kids who have disabilities not reaching beyond their limits to take advantage of all the wonderful support out there. Inclusion was the norm in my school, but still many students were not encouraged to take all the hard courses or join an athletic team because it would probably be “too hard” for us. This was so wrong. I took the harder path and I am better physically and emotionally because of it. Don’t let anybody sell you short.

Sure, I had my ups and downs, and because of my NVLD the school support I had wasn’t the same as a typical special education student. But I had enough social and academic skills to take the harder path. It wasn’t easy, but I did it. A lot of tears were shed but I made it and I believe you can too.

I can remember how in elementary school just tying my shoes or buttoning my pants was such a struggle, and how embarrassing it was to have to ask a teacher or aide to help me so I could go to the bathroom. And let’s not even talk about art class, I was the worst at cutting and pasting and others didn’t want me in their groups. Later I struggled with not being able to open my locker and being picked last in all the gym classes. But as I got older, I saw I wasn’t the only one. There were lots of other kids who weren’t as coordinated as I was, and I may have been even more athletic than some of my classmates. I began to feel a little bit better. I believe you can too if you stay positive and always look to accomplish more today than you did yesterday.

The gross and fine motor stuff was nothing compared to the difficulties I had with speech. My speech impairment was with me everywhere, not just in gym class or art class. Thankfully I had a great speech therapist who understood me and my frustrations. We got to know and trust each other, which helped tremendously. She was my saving grace and I thank God every day for all she did for me.

I hope you will take from reading this how important it is to never lose faith in yourself and your abilities. Yes, it can be a somewhat confusing journey at times, however with the support of others I believe you can find success like I did. I firmly believe it starts with believing in yourself and not being too negative. Accept the challenging path and don’t be afraid. You will be amazed at how much you are capable of doing. It’s not easy and I know you may want to give up like I did many times, however by working hard no matter the obstacle, I believe you can achieve great things.

Getty image by Kerkes.

Originally published: June 12, 2019
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