Having a disability has caused me to deal with brokenness. When I was first diagnosed with a Learning Disability I felt like I was given a box of broken glass. The glass was beautiful with a rainbow of colors. The pieces also came in a variety of shapes and sizes. I was lucky to have supportive parents and help at school. Despite the supports I received, I had to figure out how to place each broken piece together. Facing brokenness at young age wasn’t easy, often the glass would pierce my tender skin causing me to bleed. Other times the glass of my dreams was shattered into even smaller pieces. Looking at each piece of broken glass has lead to acceptance and healing.
One of the biggest pieces that I had to deal with was that my brain wasn’t wired like a neurotypical person. In order to learn, work, and complete other tasks I have to find different ways to do things. When I was a young child, I simply wanted to be like everyone else. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t learn like my peers could. I felt jealous of the ones who didn’t seem like they had broken pieces. The pieces of glass they did have seemed to be smooth and clear. Little did I know that many of them had broken areas in their lives as well. Some of them were able to disguise it easier.
Along with accepting my brain had a neurodiversity, I had to also accept there wasn’t many hard set rules on how to lay the pieces. I was given general strategies, accommodations, and a service plan to compensate for my difficulties. I wasn’t given a manual that would have all the answers to the many different challenges that I would face. I wasn’t given a set of rules or a sheet of directions. People could guide me, and I had many people give their opinions. It was up to me to set the broken pieces where I thought they should belong, and often had to teach myself how to put them into place.
Learning where to put the pieces wasn’t always easy. Sometimes I would make a plan and it wouldn’t work out how I expected. There were also times when the plan we were following was working, only to have it not work. Regression often happened more in math than any other subject. I can remember having a teacher who’s goal was to have the learning support students on grade level with the regular ed students in math. She commuted with a math teacher who said that we only did easy work, and she wanted to prove her wrong. For a time it worked and I was able to complete simple equations. I can remember the day that things began to regress. We had a student teacher, in our class and she was getting evaluated by her professor. I began to be able to work the math problem. Everyone thought I was simply nervous, and proceeded forward. I tried to explain I wasn’t nervous and knew the professor was observing her student not me. The learning support teacher never evaluated where I needed the clarification. She proudly announced that we were on the same level as the regular ed students in math. I wasn’t on grade level and was falling behind. The teacher also told us that learning support math was not offered at the next level and had me sign up for a basic math class. I had anxiety all summer on how I was going to handle a math course. I struggled in the class and the regular ed teacher didn’t know what to do with me. I found out there was learning support math. How I wished she would have told me the truth, it would have saved so much aggravation.
As I got older I had an easier time putting the pieces together. I realized that having an all or nothing approach didn’t serve me. I could make a mistake or struggle to learn something, without having to break every piece apart and begin again. I could appreciate the small imperfections that gave it character.
I also had to learn that how I designed my glass, would not always be understood or accepted by everyone. I have had people who didn’t think that accommodations or service programs for people with disabilities were fair. Many people could only see what was broke, that they missed the beauty. I’ve been told there were so many things that I couldn’t accomplish. Other people would try to cure my disability, rather than celebrate it. Once I became successful, many people couldn’t see the pieces, but the product.
To my surprise what I once thought was broken, became beautiful. I created the design I wanted. On good days I could even see prisms of color that went through the glass.
Truly it didn’t matter what other people thought of me. I had to do my best to place the broken pieces together, and learn what works best for me. I didn’t ask for the pieces I was given or to have a disability. I can only try to work with what I was given. I can create beauty from what was once broken.