One of the biggest passions in my life is flowers. I love to take pictures of flowers, and visit botanical gardens. I also love to grow my own flowers and plants. Another significant part of my life is having a Learning Disability. Living with this type of disability is like living in a garden. Much like the flowers I grow, I had to tend and care for. All flowers and plants go through the same process to grow.
A plant or a flower begins with a seed. How I enjoy picking out seeds to plant! Much care and thought goes into the types of seeds I wish to plant. I think of the vegetables we like to eat and the types of flowers I like. Unlike the packets of seeds, I plant each spring, I didn’t get to chose the seed of having a disability. I was officially diagnosed with a Learning Disability as a young seedling in kindergarten.
Despite my resistance to having this I was planted into the ground. When you plant a flower it is important to plant in the best soil for it grow. My disability made the soil I was planted in rocky and tough. From the very beginning people thought I wouldn’t flourish because of my learning difficulties. I struggled with math, eye hand coordination, and hand writing. I also struggled socially. My peers seemed to have an easier time in the same ground.
Location is also important for a plant or flower to grow. Some blooms need sunlight, while others thrive in the shade. The small town I grew up in was not the ideal location to be different. Differences were feared not celebrated. My peers knew that I went to the Learning Support room, but knew little of what went on there. Many of my peers thought that I got the answers and did easy work.
Plants and flowers also need water and air to grow. I needed to have specialty instruction and accommodations to learn. I received specially instruction, and had accommodations. I had to have the test read aloud to me and extra time to complete a test. The supports worked in all areas except math and eye hand ordination. To my surprise I began to see the roots and stems began to develop. My grades improved and found things I was good at, such as reading and writing. School got easier for me academically as I progressed. In high school I was in all general education classes except for math and resource room.
Socially school got harder for me. The groups became more defined and I felt like I didn’t fit in any group. I had difficulty relating to my learning support peers. Most of them struggled with reading disabilities, not math. Some of them came from rough backgrounds and had behavior issues. The regular education peers lumped me with the other learning support students and didn’t view me as smart.
My improvement continued and I went through the next step of developing leaves. I knew that I wanted to go to college but was hesitant because of learning difficulties. I had a teacher who encouraged me to go to a vocational training program even though none of the programs offered interested me. Thankfully I found a program that interested me with disability accommodations. When I graduated I had a small bud of hope.
College turned out to be more difficult than I imagined. I had a physiatrist who told me I wouldn’t go beyond community college. I also had a professor who warned that my job choices would be limited, because of my math difficulties. I also didn’t utilize accommodations because of the stigma that was attached to them. I was able to graduate with an Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. I worked in a child care, and was able to move out on my own. Despite my success I always wanted more.
When I had to move back in with my parents due to financial reasons, I decided to go to the university. I found a program that I was interested in with the least amount of math possible. Losing my job to downsizing gave me the opportunity to concentrate on school. I utilized the accommodations of extended test time and a note taker. I had a much easier time, and my grades improved. I made Deans list one semester. I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree and saw that the flower had finally bloomed.
The final step in the process is for a flower to turn to seeds. The seeds spread and help other flowers to grow. I now get to spread the seeds of my success to help others. I work as a teacher’s aide in a school with students with disabilities. I hope that they will be able to bloom to their full potential.
My disability didn’t end when I graduated, got a job, or any other success. I still have to look for different ways to learn and life. I have learned to appreciate the bloom of my disability. Having one may have a life that doesn’t look like the other flowers in the garden. The variety of flowers makes a beautiful display. Each variety has a unique purpose.
The bloom didn’t happen without a process. I didn’t get to chose the seed or flower that I received, but I have learned to love it and wouldn’t trade it for anything.
*Here are a few flower pictures, that I took on my walks. I hope to take many more. Happy Spring! Photography by Michelle Steiner