Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The battle | Graduate school with learning disabilities

It's been months that I have been randomly and quietly alluding to the fact that I struggle with learning disabilities. I have really REALLY wanted to share things of this a little more openly but I have been waiting to do this specifically because I wanted to provide you with a whole picture of what I have been having to deal with vs. just an much inferior snapshot of a very complicated "big picture."

I have struggled with two major learning disabilities for probably all of my life. However, it wasn't until just this year (specifically this summer) that I was finally able to put some names to the obvious struggles and call them what they are: ADHD and a Reading fluency disability [Some call this dyslexia but per current standards and practices of educational psychology, the correct term is reading disability with the identification of how the reading is affected.]

I am honestly not ashamed to share the fact that I have learning disabilities with you all. Why? Because for as much as it has hindered me during times in my life - specifically, from ever being able to be more than a solid B sprinkled with C student in middle school through high school - having the specific learning disabilities I now know I have has made me the person I am so strongly comfortable being...

From my earliest years I have ALWAYS been the most imaginative and "visionary" (if you will) individual among my peers. My naturally creative nature has lent itself to me having accomplishments to my name that others constantly remind me are truly exceptional and worthy of admiration and awe. (I don't want to go into those now though because that's not the point so I guess trust me or not on this.) As a result of knowing life as being constantly and consistently challenging (even though I didn't know why it was like this), I am an individual who is not easily discouraged and who doesn't know anything but deeply rooted perseverance and will power. Some people could also call this being stubborn but I call it not being easily shaken or stirred for anyone or anything. I mean, I do have my moments of feeling down and out but they are few and far in between and I don't stay in them for all too long because my instinct of resilience always kicks in before I shed too many tears. And as it happens, all of the aforementioned things have derived mostly from the fact that I have the disabilities I have (but never knew for sure).

I am convinced at this point in my life that the hand I have been dealt is solely because of intelligent design and the designer responsible for all of it is the amazingly sovereign Lord God Almighty. I understand the challenges I have been given as things meant to strengthen and preserve me rather than break me down and  reduce me to nothing. For me it's all a matter of CHOICE in the perspective I can take and the choice I constantly make is one that is focused more on what I have over what I don't have because for as much as being doubly learning disabled has taken from me, what it has given back has been beyond measure MORE than what I could ever imagine asking for. This is because I fall into the category of being an individual who is twice exceptional. Basically, I have specific and special talents and gifts despite the fact that I also have learning disabilities.  And you know what? This is not something that is particularly out of the ordinary. As it happens, history is chock full of folks who are also considered to be twice exceptional...


This past weekend I had to spend the majority of it holed away doing a serious amount of graduate school work because that's how it goes for me. I work slowly and am constantly up against deadlines and typically score lower than what my aptitude suggests I should despite the fact that I try really REALLY hard on every bit of work I do whether it's a quick and "easy" assignment or a more intense and long term investment of my time and effort. No matter how it goes it's always that most all things academically oriented just challenge me. I would accept nothing less than frustration about this but at this point in my life I am beyond that and I have been able to harness my creative to be inventive and resourceful in order to not just my learning disabilities dictate how much success I have or not.

Today is the first day of teaching for me - my 6th of my total teaching career and my 4th of teaching what I am and where I am. Since receiving my official diagnoses from all of my diagnostics, I have actively been sharing this about myself with many of my students (and their parents) in the most open and honest way. Last Friday I had a full day of meetings scheduled in order to help me and my colleagues to help each of the exceptional students we will have in our classes in the best ways we can. EVERY TIME I shared the fact that I, too, have learning disabilities in during any of the meetings, I cannot tell you the immediate sense of connection the student of the meeting would make with me when our eyes would meet and they would smile only to have me return the same knowing smile. EVERY TIME I shared my struggles as well as the solutions and successes I have found despite everything, the parents would breathe their own sighs of relief that the battles they have been working so hard to help their kids to fight were far from being called over and could (no doubt) be called over in terms of failure vs. great triumph and success.

Yes - it's possible for me to treat my learning disabilities as the end of me and the life I wish I could have but you know what? I much prefer accepting them as an integral and ESSENTIAL part of me that works in partnership with the unique gifts and talents I absolutely know I have and, in turn, springboards each and every one of those things so that the success I am poised to find at any given opportunity is something that is absolutely within my reach even though it's not that way for others.

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