My husband and I love to visit art museums, and look at different art works. Each piece tells a story and everyone has a different view on them. People admire the finished product, but don’t see the long process that it takes to create a masterpiece. Having a Learning Disability is much like creating a piece of art. When I tell others my story, I get a variety of responses. Many people will say “But you have been so successful’ or ‘your so smart.’ Other people are in disbelief because they can’t see the disability or compare me to another person with one. Few people understand the process of creating a masterpiece with an exceptionality.
I began with a canvas marked with the label of having a disability as a young child. No matter how hard I tried to erase the mark, it would not come off. I wanted to trade a blank canvas and start over again, but I had to use the one I was given. I was also given additional tools to help me become successful. I began to receive specialty instruction, extended test time, and having the test read aloud to me. I struggled to use the tools and didn’t like the designs I was making. I wished I could be like my peers who seemed to create with such ease and got praise. All I could see were the problems, not the solutions.
I discovered the techniques that worked for me and had more success when I applied them. When I didn’t use the methods that worked because of the stigma attached, I struggled. I was also able to discover new tools that helped me to learn, work and perform other tasks. I couldn’t get rid of my disability, but I found ways to work with what I had. I have tweaked my technique that many times people can’t see the flaws in my design. I am my worst critic but I am working on embracing the imperfections.
Slowly I began to learn how to use the tools, and found that if I could create things! My designs didn’t always look like everyone else.. I still struggled with having to learn differently and how to use the tools. Sometimes despite my best effort I did poorly in a class or on a test. Other people would look at my picture and make unkind remarks. I also had people who told me that I could do better, and didn’t understand that I was putting forth the effort.
I have also learned to love that my brain is not typical. Having a Neurotypical brain gives me the chance to see the world from a different perspective. It would be dull if everyone thought the same way. I have always had to learn to be comfortable standing out. One of the advantages of not fitting in was I got to discover what I liked and was not easily swayed by group pressure to conform. I recently attended a craft night and I was the only one who chose a blue ribbon for my project. The other participants chose red, green or other traditional Christmas colors. The other projects were beautiful, but I wanted one to match the decor in my dining room. Everyone remarked on how unique my project was with the blue bow. I also struggled to tie the bow and had to have someone help me.
My disability status hasn’t changed, but how I view it has. I now see it as something that is unique and full of character. I may not love every part of the disability and the challenges it brings. I am learning to love the person it has molded and shaped me into. Having a Learning Disability is a life long process. I have to look for different ways to do things and find different ways to create my masterpiece of a disability.