I am who I am and you are you, we are different and that is okay.
I have a learning disability and the best way I can explain it to people is that my mind works different than others and sometimes I need things to help me keep up. This post is a talk about all things I’ve used and the frustration that comes along with it. Read to find out more.
I was in my economics class having to wait for the test to be passed out before I could leave. Usually I would come in and the teacher would hand me the test and I would go down to the room, no hassle. This time I had to awkwardly wait and then get embarrassed when I got up to leave, after the teacher nodded at me. The guy behind me tapped me on the shoulder as I got my bag ready, “why do you get to leave?” I told him “I need a quiet place, I get easily distracted, also I get my test read to me.” His answer was “I get distracted, why can’t I leave?” I was 11th grade, 17 years old, and knew exactly why and how I got those things said, “I have an IEP and I got tested, did you?” and walked right out.
This moment has stayed with me and re-plays in my mind when I come across similar situations. Like, fidget spinners; they are a popular thing that everyone’s selling, marketing, and treating like a toy, when fidget spinners are to help kids, like myself, to focus. It gives kids something to play with. It upsets me; so naturally, I’m going to write about it. And instead of going on a RANT I’m going to inform you about what I used to accommodate myself to succeed in school and in life.
- Fidget ball: I got a fidget ball to play with in 1st grade. I remember sitting in reading time, legs folded up, ball in the middle. Playing with and being told I wasn’t supposed to show anyone or it would be taken away. I made sure of it. This helped me “fidget” around, get my nervous energy, or my energy somewhere while I could listen to the teacher. Even when I wasn’t looking or doodling in my notebook I still was listening. Being able to have that ball helped me; it wasn’t a toy.
- Taking tests in a different room: I already mentioned the story about how I was asked by a student why I got to take my test in a different room than him. And I will say I never used it to my advantage, I always played by the rules. And even when taking a test in a different room it didn’t guarantee I passed the exam. I would love to show you my English syntax test. Taking a test in a room by myself helps me focus because there are no distractions I am able to feel a little at ease and read the exam out loud and talk out loud to myself.
- Books on tape and/or having the test read to me: There were a couple of times in middle school that I would have the test read to me. Plus, I would get books on tape, or I would have my computer talk to me; I still do. Because I can easily misread or write the wrong word. I’m sure you have noticed that I will use the word “there” when I meant to type “their.” I just can’t see it or hear the difference. And sometimes I could read a word but it would be spelled wrong. And I WON”T SEE IT!
- Notetaker/recorder/copy of notes: In college the one thing that was offered to me was a note taker, someone who would take the notes for me and/or I would get a copy of their notes so I wouldn’t miss anything. In high school, the teacher would give me their PowerPoint before class, or give me their notes, which was really handy. This was more for me to catch if I wrote down the wrong word and also for my comprehension.
- Extra time on a test: I got either 20-30 minutes extra for tests so I wouldn’t feel rushed and could take my time. I know others can easily get test anxiety so I never took this for granted. Sometimes just having the extra time made me take my time. I did the extra things I needed to do to pass the test, like reading it out loud. I always felt guilt if I ended the exam early because I had the extra time.
- Spellcheckers: Spelling is not my best, and yes I see the irony. But because I have dealt with this my whole life I work hard on my spelling. Checking it over and over; thank God for spell check. Yet, it isn’t enough. I use programs like Grammery or I have a handheld device where I type a word and it finds similar words I might want to use. And I create a cheat sheet of common words I misspell and how they really are spelled.
- Smartpen: I had a few smartpens to write my notes and record what the teacher said. It was handy because the words I wrote down in the moment can play what was said at the time so if I missed something it was recorded. Also could put it on my computer.
And a lot more little things as well…
If people, like the kid behind me in my economics class, thinks having these things is a privilege they are 100% wrong. I needed these things, they weren’t something I took for granted, I used them to help me succeed. And even when I got to take my test in a different room I still had to know the stuff. I still failed some tests. The frustration is real, the hurt is real, and the unfairness or backlash I get is so unbelievable.
Having a learning disability means I just work differently than you and while learning I needed a few things to help me in the education system. I’m glad I get to talk about having a learning disability on here, so please let me know if you have any comments. I was inspired to write this because of the fab with fidget spinners.