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From Childhood to Grad School: My Journey Accepting a Learning Difference

Early in my life (7-8 years old) I was diagnosed with a learning disability. At that age, you don’t fully understand (at least I didn’t) what a disability is or how it will effect your life. As I grew older, I started to see how I was “different” than everyone else in school. I was put in different classrooms, had different teachers, learned different materials than all my friends and peers. As I grew older, these differences stood out more. In middle school and high school the last thing you want is to be “different” (for me at least). You want to wear all the “cool” clothes like everyone else or talk like everyone else. Of course, me being in separate classrooms or having different teachers brought up many questions within my friend group. I lied, made excuses, did anything to try and keep it all a secret. After awhile, the lies and excuses collapsed and the truth escaped. I was made fun of, picked on and humiliated. I hated it, and I hated myself because I was “different.” I adapted a negative perspective of myself and had the mindset of “Well, I’m too dumb to understand this material, so I won’t put in effort.” I was defeated and let my disability be my life; I was my disability.

I barely made it out of high school with a low 2.0 GPA. Surprisingly, I was accepted into a four year university. The day I started undergrad, I told myself “no one knows about my disability, so why hide from it but rather embrace it?” I took a leap of faith and was open about my disability to peers and professors. I felt free. With this new freedom, I began to learn more about my disability and ways I can live with it. I found that just because I had a learning disability doesn’t mean I can’t learn new things or pursue higher education. All it means is that I don’t learn the “same” as others. I started to see my disability as not a limitation but as something I just have to adapt to. Ultimately, I had to find special ways to learn material. While that can make the process harder and more challenging, in the end, I was proud of myself for accomplishing something I first thought was impossible.

In the end, for those who are struggling with a learning disability or any disability, remember you are NOT your disability. You are a person WITH a disability. Your disability is not your personality nor should it govern your life decisions. I, who was diagnosed with a learning disability, graduated with a Master’s degree in Social Work one year after receiving my Bachelor’s degree. When you put your mind to it and believe in your abilities rather than your limitations, amazing things can happen. #learningdisablity