Having a Learning Disability has often felt like I was playing a game that I was destined to lose. I was given a set of cards that I had to play despite the cards being a bad hand I could not trade the cards in I could pick up other cards, but the original duds had to remain. All around me I watched as my opponents had better cards, and seemed to strategize with ease. My peers made friends and learned easily. I struggled socially and academically My team mates who shared diagnosis were not always helpful. Often times they had different ideas and didn’t value of a member of a team. I felt like I was a single player, not a team mate.
Playing games was difficult for me with my executive functioning . I struggle to remember to the rules of a game, and concentrate on the game. Other players will be exasperated that I forgot what the rules were again! I have been told to pay attention I also have trouble anticipating on what opponents are doing and strategizing a plan to win. My struggles with eye hand coordination and visual perception made playing team sports difficult.
As I got older the game of having a disability changed. Some parts of the game became harder and the stakes were higher. To my surprise I slowly began to win more rounds than lose. I still had the bad hand of cards, but I learned how to play them. I used the strategies such as extended test time, tutoring, breaking information into small chunks helped me academically. I also found what I am good at such as reading, writing and public speaking demonstrated the positive attributes I bring to the game. I had to learn to avoid games involving math as much as I can.
Socially the game became more difficult, as I progressed through school. I can remember not being to relate to peers in learning support. Most of my learning support peers struggled more with reading and behavior issues. Sadly many of them came from rough traumatic backgrounds. The regular education peers did not view me as smart and lumped me with the learning support students. The stakes became higher as groups became more defined and I felt like I didn’t fit into on particular group. I began to hang out with other peers in a nearby school district, and made friends. The game also changed when I graduated. I wasn’t stuck with the same peers I had been with since Kindergarten. I was able to choose who I wanted to spend my free time with.
Not going with crowd has also made me into an independent person. I had to function without the approval of others and make unpopular decisions. I can work in a group, but I can also work by myself as well.
The most important tool of success has been advocacy. I had to get comfortable saying that I have a disability and these are the s that I need. I can remember not wanting to talk about having a Learning Disability in school because of the stigma accommodations associated with it. I can remember peers hurling unkind words about me on the playground and in the hallway. Having a disability or any other type of difference was not accepted in the small community I went to school in. Differences were feared and not celebrated. I also experienced some school, college, and employers who viewed a person with a disability with negative connotations. . My experience with disclosing my disability took courage, and much practice. Talking about my disability has gotten easier over time and practice. I still get nervous every time I have to disclose my disability to new people, but I can work through it.
The game of having a disability is always changing and evolving. Just when you think you have the answers, the game changes course. The only consistencies are my disability and bad hand of cards. I will always have a Learning Disability and cards that I can’t trade in. Slowly I am realizing it’s not about the hand I have been given, but how I play it. I. I may not win every game and may watch others win. Often times when things don’t work out, I have to remind myself to look for another way to do something. Winning may not come easy to me, but its possible if I learn how to play the hand I was given.