What's It Like to Have a Learning Disability? Part I - In This Moment
This summer in Springer’s Adventures in Summer Learning program, teacher Debbie Elbert repeated a project she had first tried last summer in her writing classes. She asked her students to answer the question, “What is it like to have a learning disability?” The classes attacked the assignment by first brainstorming about the question, “What is a learning disability?” Then Debbie told them not to worry about spelling or punctuation, but just to write about how they feel.
The students applied the strategies they had learned in the program – some used speech-to-text software, some dictated to a scribe, and others typed directly into their laptops. The students’ comments beautifully captured the feelings of disappointment, isolation and frustration experienced by students with learning disabilities.
I think some people don’t know how I learn so it makes it hard for me. Math is hard because I can struggle some times and can’t bring myself back up from out of my hole. ~ Kendall
When it was my turn to go up to the board to do math problems, I walked very slowly because I sometimes cried. ~ Natalina
People think I’m stupid, and it’s REALLY hard to make friends. ~ Tanner
I feel not myself, and I feel like a bad girl because math is hard for me. ~ Gabby
Math is really hard for me. It makes me feel really frustrated. It feels like a just want to crunch it up and throw it away. I hate math so much I could explode. ~ William
It’s so frustrating and hard to focus when people talk to me. I listen to them, and then I don’t know what’s going on. It’s hard to go up to the teacher and ask for help, and it’s awkward because other kids are watching me walk up to the teacher like they are trying to listen to what I’m going to ask the teacher. It’s none of their business, so I walk back to my desk and sit down, and I don’t know what to do, and I’m clueless staring at a blank paper. ~ Caitlin
My learning disability makes me think – how would people take me without it? I wish people knew what I was going through. When people say it is okay, I feel like it is not. ~ Vivian
My leaning disability makes me feel like I’m struggling a lot more than the other kids at my school. Sometimes when I am spelling, I start to cry because I can’t get the words right. ~ Ellie
I wish people would look for what I’m doing right, and not wrong. ~ Roman
It is very hard because I am really struggling with writing. I have never given up, and I will never give up. I hope that someone can help everyone that needs help, so they can get better at their problems. And I hope that I can get better at writing. ~ Jonathan
I wish that people could understand that I try harder than some people, but it does not look like that. I am concentrating, but not doing my best. ~ Nick
Capturing in words their feelings about having a learning disability is an important first step for these students. Their understanding of their own learning challenges and ways to address them will be critical to their future success in school and in life.
Blogger Mary Ann Mulcahey, PhD, shares her expertise in assessment and diagnosis of learning disabilities and ADHD, and the social/emotional adjustment to those issues.