For anyone that has ever had that moment where they couldn’t do a cross-word puzzle or had a hard time unscrambling words or had no clue which way was up or down on a map, well welcome to my world.
All my life I have had difficulty with spelling and math and graphs, largely in part due to my dyslexia and dysgraphia. But I don’t use my learning disabuility (LD) as a crutch to getting away with not doing the work. I have always been a hard worker trying my best, sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing, but always giving 100%.
I guess in a way I am proud of my parents for being happy with me getting B & C grades knowing how hard it was for me to keep up in school. I was in remedial classes all my life, never honors or special ed (this did not exist when I was in school — that was for the severely retarded kids with handicap issues — and yes, I said retarded, wchich means slow and that was the correct term used during my school years.) If you were considered slow or not up to full potential, you were considered a dumb kid, stuck in a classroom with kids with behavioral problems or with immigrant kids that barely spoke English. I remember being in a special wing set aside just for us in elementary school. It was a rough 2 years and we knew we were different and kept apart form the rest of the school. The other class in the wing had kids in wheel chairs and with extra aides. I graduated but wasn’t nearly as close to my full potential as I should have been.
My parents wanted better for my sister and I. We went to Catholic school, I suffered terribly at first because I could not keep up academically, but a nun diagnosed me properly and I received extra tutoring after shcool. I went on to be a better person, granted high school was not that great, I was expected to pass tests just like everyone else and when I failed I got dropped to remedial classes and by Senior year I was in non-testing classes and did not graduate with a regents degree, which is the high standard test in HS. I have a basic diploma equavalent of a GED. Still I went on to earn full scholarships to four years of college. I graduated with a 3.0 average and went on to become a Manager in fancy hotels and restaurants, then went back for my Masters in Eduaction and graduated top of my class with a 3.8 GPA.
I think when we label children, we forget that they have great potential to become great leaders, and we expect less of them and treat them that way. I do not. I see all children and adults as intelligent beings and when we treat them as smart and give them the tools and self-esteem to do great they will live up to it and succeed.
As an educator, I see this time and time again. Kids that hold a real place in my heart are the ones that are told they are bad or dumb and then I raise my expectations for them, they hate me, fight me and then I make them go for the golden bar. And guess what? They rise to it. Kids live for praise and want discipline and they want to shine. They want to be doctors and nurses and politicians; you have to tell them that they are intelligent and that they have a special skill. My actual threat is if they want to be treated special, I will treat them special and they know this to mean I will be on top of them expecting more from them.
I don’t go around bragging that I am dyslexic or dysgraphic or that I may need 2-3 methods to accomplish what some learn in one shot. I just shut up and get it done. I only tell parents who think their kids can’t succeed and then I let them know my story. It really makes them wake up. Some people find it remarkable. Honestly, it is not remarkable. It is just who I am. More importantly it goes to show how much their own child can achieve and more in life.
Two of my favorite series that feature characters with learning disabilities, who show strength and courage, who are pitted against the odds and triumph are Hank Zipzer and Percy Jackson. I love how these authors never use their LD as a crutch for them to give up, instead it only motivates them to try harder, work harder and do the best they can with what they got. A true inspiration, even if they are fictional characters.
I think a reviewer summed it up the best “What I like about Hank is how realistic he is and how almost all of us have a lil’ bit of Hank in us (some, like me, moreso than others). Hank isn’t a bad kid; he’s not mean or a jerk (that’s a job for Nick “The Tick” McKelty), but he’s so easily distracted and scatterbrained that it’s easy for his imagination and impulses to get completely away from him. Anyone who has learning challenges or has had difficulty concentrating in school or in meetings can certainly identify with Hank.”