Last week I got pretty up close and personal about my struggle with mental illness. So lets just keep this ball rolling… I got the idea for this blog post after having part 1/2 of my second assessment for a learning disability. I had my first assessment done when I was in grade 9. Elementary school and Middle school were tough. I don’t really remember it but I have seen my report cards which tell a pretty convincing story of my struggles. I remember being put in the “slow” math group in grade 5, and I remember my grade 6 teacher having my parents test my hearing because it didn’t seem like I was paying attention. How wasn’t that a red flag for attention deficit disorder? My parents, caring about my future, decided to have me tested for a learning disability in grade 9 since grades start to matter for University. The test involved puzzles, mental math, imagery, language, reading comprehension and many other “games”.
I remember getting the results from my psychologist. He explained that I have a working memory disability and ADD. I remember the analogy he used to explain it (take that memory disability!). A working memory disability is like having a super stuffed and disorganized filing cabinet, and the more you try to stuff in, the more that falls out. With practice and organization, as well as some accommodations, I can do anything someone without this disability can do. It takes a little longer, and I have to learn differently but it’s not the end of the world. After getting my diagnoses my mom asked me how I felt about it and I started to cry. They were tears of joy because for years I thought I was just stupid, unable to keep up because I was an idiot. My learning disability meant I wasn’t stupid and it was a relief to know that I am smart, I just learn differently, and that’s okay.
I’m taking the test again because OSAP won’t accept the results from the one I had 7 years ago and I am trying to apply to grants offered to students with learning disabilities. For several categories of the test you answer questions until you get a certain number of them wrong. For a couple of those categories I made it through all the questions. I was actually getting a little nervous that I may not have a diagnoses anymore. Can you grow out of learning disabilities? Anyways, at the end of part 1 the woman administering the test asked what my diagnoses had been and I told her I have a working memory disability. To which she responded “You know, I could definitely see that.” So I was pretty excited. Because I love my learning disability, it’s a part of who I am and it taught me that I am smart. (Also could really use that OSAP grant…)
After I left I texted my friend the good news, I probably still have a learning disability! He was pretty confused. Why would I want to have one….? And I get where he is coming from. Would school have been easier if I hadn’t had this disability? Probably. But he didn’t get where I was coming from. I genuinely thought I was stupid and my learning disability proved me wrong and gave me the motivation to succeed. And the thing is, a lot of people think the same way he did. But there is nothing wrong with learning differently. If anything it is a testament to how flawed our school systems are.
I think it’s important to talk about this, which is why I wanted to steer away from social media for a second and write a blog post on this. I hope that anyone who takes the time to read this can learn from my experience. There is nothing wrong with having a learning disability, it isn’t a dirty word. And for anyone reading this who has one… Way to go!