From the time I was young, I knew that I wanted to have a job helping others. I gravitated towards careers such as child Psychologist and teacher. Another significant part of my life was having a Learning disability. I often wondered if it was possible to have the job I desired, with my struggles with academics, especially math. Through much support and accommodations, I have the jobs of a paraeducator in a school and a disability writer with my blog. Each of these jobs enables me to give back to others.
Empathy for people with disabilities is what fuels my motivation to do my job. I understand what life is like with having one. Each person will experience it differently, but there is common ground that only a person with one can truly understand. I can share my struggles of living in a world that isn’t disability friendly.
Encouragement is another force that drives me to do my job. I can remember when many people thought with my disability I couldn’t learn or handle college. Hearing those words discouraged me and fueled the fears that I already had about my abilities. I also had people who thought I could do anything that I put my mind to and nothing was wrong with me. People would further tell me that I needed to be positive and it would all work out. The toxic positivity approach did little to help me either, and many times caused me to feel worse about myself. I gently encourage my students to pursue their interests and to look for accommodations to use them. If the dream seems unlikely, I don’t crush their spirit by saying it’s impossible, instead I think of a backup plan in case it doesn’t work out as planned.
Education is another component of the work that I do. Many people don’t understand what a Learning disability is. In my writing, I talk about my experience with having a disability. I like to use metaphors using nature and other things to compare life with one. Often people will tell me that they can relate to my writing.
When I’m working with students I educate them on the importance of accommodations such as extended test time and having the test read aloud. Often their responses are “I hate my disability” or “ I wish I didn’t have a disability or an Individual Education plan.” Hearing those responses is like hearing a clip from my past when I was their age. I tell them the importance of using these services and teach them how to advocate for themselves. Many times we have a student who was scared but is now confident and can speak up for themselves appropriately.
The reason I love my work is I get the chance to help others. I know the difficulties of having a disability but I can also share that there is also joy and fulfillment as well. I can also help educate people on what Learning disabilities are and how to advocate for themselves. I may not be able to help every person, but I will continue to work to give back to as many people as possible. I love giving back to others through my work and couldn’t imagine a more rewarding job.