May 10, 2012

An Adult With A Learning Disability--It's Not Over When School Ends

It's funny when I was a kid I found out I had a learning disability it really didn't affect me much.  Sure I needed extra resources for school, but it really didn't change me.  I really never thought about it, even when I sat down for homework that normally took my classmates an hour and it took me three or more.  Even when I got a C on something that I worked so hard at, when the person next to me completed it that morning and got an A.

A Little Background


I was not officially diagnosed with a learning disability until I was a Junior in High School.  However, I went through the public school and I was given the help that I needed.  I didn't go to my regular reading or math classes until I was in fifth grade.  I was always pulled out and did my reading and math with a teacher in the resource lab.

I had speech as a young child, but didn't have it when I started elementary school in grade 1.

When it became apparent that I was truly struggling in high school and was barely passing classes that I studied hours and hours for I got tested.  It was more for the fact that I received the extra help that I may needed in college or for taking the tests that I needed to get into college.

Testing


I went to New York City and was tested.  Turns out that I compensated all of those years for a language based learning disability.  That in itself is a very broad term, but I never really had any pinpoint on a type of language learning disability.

For me that meant that I have trouble taking in information and spitting it back out.  I have trouble explaining myself and following directions.  The main thing that got me through was my innate strength in visual learning.  I scored really high in anything that had me using anything visual.  Otherwise, I did pretty poorly.  I never really read the full results.  Remember I was older so I understood everything.

Now What

So what did I do from there?  Well I was a Junior in High School now so I had to figure out where to go from there.  

I pretty much already had many things in place to help me.  I had a tutor for math twice a week and a tutor for Spanish.  I had very, very understanding teachers that would sit there and break things down for me so that I could grasp them.  They had some serious patience.  They were great teachers.  

I then added in another tutor, but this one was different.  She basically taught me how to learn from the beginning.  We went back to things that you learn how to do in Kindergarten.  Her main purpose was to give me tools that would help me gain an understanding of how to deal with my learning disability.

I was basically tutored four times a week and did all of my homework on the weekends.  I took some tests untimed.  However, for the most part it was me working as hard as possible.

Howabout College


Well there was never a doubt in my mind that I would ever go to college.  However, I had to come to the conclusion that Harvard probably wouldn't be calling my name, but why would I do that to myself anyway.  I knew I couldn't make it in certain schools.  Some would be too daunting for me. I wouldn't enjoy myself.  My life would be about continually struggling to get a C.  I didn't want that for myself.  I wanted to enjoy school and I wanted to reach my expectations and give myself a chance.

Therefore, I picked a school that had tutoring and had a special program for learning disabilities.  After I started school I realized that I could get tutors on my own and didn't really need the help of the program.  I also realized that my professors were extremely helpful, and wouldn't you know all that hard work in high school started to pay off and I was able to figure things out on my own.

To this day I still use all of the skills I was taught way back then.  Without them I would probably be lost.

I am not going to go on and on about what I ended up accomplishing but I finished college and graduate school.  I am not a rocket scientist but I do have degrees that I enjoy.  

Sometimes there is this annoying urge for me to go back to school and go to medical school, but I just don't think that is going to happen.  

Getting Older


As I use my brain less and less now, because I am a Stay At Home Mom  and my days don't consist of calculations and reading a Classic, I am realizing I am starting to struggle again.

That is the whole point to my post.  I am realizing that I am having trouble having conversations and telling others what I really want to say.  I have a total loss for words.  

I am having trouble remembering things and holding onto the ladder of information that I so diligently used through school.  Maybe its just hitting my thirties, but I came to a conclusion I should do something about it.

That is part of the reason that I blog too.  I love learning and learning from others.  I also have decided maybe to take some classes in the fall.  I need to keep this brain moving!

So yes some days it is definitely a struggle.  I don't really see it as anything more than me.  It is just part of who I am.  So I have to write directions down and I have to visualize landmarks.  Sometimes I completely forget a word that I am talking to someone about and I just can't get out of my mouth what I want to say.  These things just make me, me.  

I look at my girls and I am so excited to learn right along with them. 

Competition


I have some very smart siblings.  Mensa type smart.  Do I or did I ever feel competition?  Never.  Not one day.  I am happy I have siblings that can walk into a room without studying and ace a test.  

I love to soak in information from people that have knowledge that I don't have.  I take it and I absorb it.  That is how I have always compensated.  I ask questions.  I make pathways in my brain.   I visualize what others are saying.  

Never a day in my life have I ever felt that I was inferior because of my learning disability, because in reality it made me want to learn more and more.  It made me who I am today and it made me a stronger person.  I hope those that have children that are facing similar struggles realize that too.  

Now I am not saying there were not nights or days that I was incredibly frustrated, there was one time taking statistics that I literally cried on the floor, but never did I let anyone make me think that there was something wrong with me or that I was not good enough.  That is simply not true.

I am also not saying I wasn't bullied.  I was.  People can be terrible.

Today


I wanted to share this with everyone, because sometimes its hard for others to understand that when school is over it doesn't mean that our learning disabilities just fade away.  It is a part of who we are and how we function in everyday life.  It does not make us though, we are far stronger than that.


Anyone else have a learning disability?  How do you deal with it now that you are a adult?

If you are an adult with a learning disability find out more on your rights and resources below





3 comments:

Monicas Mom Musings said...

I don't have a learning disability. But I have been dealing with advocating for my children. Mostly my middle daughter. She has nothing diagnosed and they aren't throwing around words like disability with her. After much struggle and urging for them to test her I did finally get an IEP in place for her at the end of her 2nd grade year (she's just rounding out her 4th grade year). She actually might be very similar to you. When she was tested visual learning was a very strong area for her. She does really well in math though. It's when they throw in word problems that she tends to have problems because reading is a struggle for her. And she works so hard. Breaks my heart to see her put so much work in and still not reach the goals she has set for herself. Albeit they are lofty goals, but still, I so worry about her getting discouraged and giving up. I'm so not sure what the future holds for her. I'm trying to figure out what the best place will be for her in middle school and eventually high school. It's good to know that if she wants college isn't out of the question for her though. I have noticed that she has a greater love for learning than her older sister who stuff comes easier to. It must be because she has to work that much harder to learn it. So much satisfaction that she did it.

Jenny said...

There are so many resources out there when she gets to college. The big thing is about the testing to get in there. I had to get the testing done in order to take my SAT's untimed. I did, but its funny because I didn't end up needing the extra time anyway lol. The college I went to is one of the top one's in the country to go to if you have a learning disability. They also have another college for students that need additional assistance and guidance. I will say it always made me work harder. I had to work so hard for my three degrees that I learned a lot. I really enjoy learning now. It took a long time to get there but I did :) Just wanted to let you know also that many colleges offer resources and allow students in under those programs....even top schools in the US. For instance I wanted to go to Boston College and I probably could have gotten in under their program for learning disabilities but I decided not to.

Working Mom said...

I do not have a LD, however, I have been struggling with finding out what is going on with my daughter for years now. In third grade, she was diagnosed ADHD. We just found out from a developmental pediatrician that she is not ADHD. She was just tested fro CAPD yesterday and diagnosed with a mild case of CAPD. She is undergoing psychoeducational testing at school next week. By the way, we are not finishing up her 5th grade school year and just finding all this out...

This was a very inspirational post and a great reminder that all we struggle for isn't just for school, it is for life lessons that will help her cope for years and years to come.

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