Having a Learning Disability can sometimes feel like I move between an island of disability and one between people who are neurotypical. Having a disability that is invisible, I am able to blend in with people of opposite islands. When people find out I have a Learning Disability, most people don’t understand what life on this island is like.
I was transported on the island when I was a young child. I have few memories of life before being diagnosed with a Learning Disability. I didn’t realize the impact it would have on my life. My peers seemed to be having an easy time on a luxury ship. They were enjoying each other’s company and learning came easy to them. I was dropped off at a place that I didn’t want to be. Thankfully it wasn’t a dump, and had a simple sense of beauty. I found that things on this island moved slower and were often more difficult to achieve. When I visited a neurotypical island, people thought it was a paradise where we didn’t have to work. Some of them wished they were on my island! All I wished for was to be able to stay on a more typical island.
My peers saw the coconut trees and thought we sat underneath and ate coconuts all day. What my peers didn’t understand is that we were responsible for climbing the tree too. The learning support students were required to learn as well. The tree required different strategies. People don’t understand how rough the climb can be. Nothing is more frustrating than putting so much work into reaching the top of the tree and falling down again. I can remember working hard on assignments and doing poorly on them.
The heat from the sun and pressure to perform in the same way as neurotypical burned us. Our skin became tougher as we endured bullying from others and the misunderstandings of our condition. The island offered little shade or protection from the sun and other types of weather. There were few places to hide on the island. I can remember the small close-knit community I grew up in was small.
When others rejected me because of my disability it felt like a deserted island. I had difficulty relating to Learning Support peers because they struggled more with reading and behavior issues. I didn’t feel like I belonged.
Thankfully I didn’t have to do the island alone. I have a loving family that didn’t give up on me and encouraged me. I had teachers who helped to give me ways to learn and live on each island. I enjoyed looking for sea shells and finding my strengths. I also learned how to dance and swim in the water. I see few of the people I grew up with on either island. I have since moved onto another islands.
I still travel between the island of having a disability and a neurotypical island. Through sharing my story and gaining peer support, I have been able to meet others who live on a similar island. I have learned to adapt to the community made up of mainly neurotypical people. Belonging to each community has many turns. Slowly I have began to appreciate the uniqueness of being a part of each place. My experience with a disability has caused me to be more empathic and understanding of others differences. I have also learned that neurotypical people have struggles and problems too.
People with and without disabilities are far more alike than different. All of us want to be loved, accepted, and feel like we belong. Perhaps one day everyone can live on one island where ability or disability status will not be an issue. Until that day comes, I will live between an island of disability and the neurotypical.