Why I love my Learning Disability

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!

8 thoughts on “Why I love my Learning Disability

  1. Hi Mercedes, I completely understand what you are going through. I also have a learning disability and it’s a struggle. I was tested in elementary school and was told that I had a mild case of ADD and central auditory processing delay. I get distracted easily along with having difficulty filtering out background noise. So the classroom was really difficult for me to pay attention because I wouldn’t hear the teacher talking just the other kids. It’s been a struggle but it does make sense after finding out. I too think that you need to talk about having any disabilities whether learning or not. I am glad that it a more open topic these days then back when we were growing up.

    • It’s nice to know that other people get it. Definitely more of an open topic but still a long ways to go! Thanks for sharing:)

  2. Mercedes, I enjoyed reading your blog. There were no pictures, no video or audio clips, just words. Words from the heart. Excellent writing. You kept me engaged from start to finish. Good luck on the OSAP grant.

  3. Just wanted to chime in to say that I really enjoyed this post. It’s honest and very well written. I can feel how much it meant to you to have an answer and know about your disability. It also broke my heart thinking about other children who go through this and aren’t supported in any way or given the chance to understand what is going on. Thanks for sharing this. I learned something because of it.

    • Thanks! I was definitely lucky to have the support I did and hope in the future these resources are more readily available and talked about for other kids to take advantage of. Means a lot that you’ve taken something away from this:)

  4. When my daughter was seven, I told her that we knew she was very smart and hard working, but we were going to take her to a doctor to find out how she learned. I started consoling her when she burst into tears until I realized that she was so happy. I told her that she could do anything she wanted to, but she was going to have to find a different way to do it.

    When she was preparing for university, she actually asked me if she should cheat on the tests because she was pretty sure she didn’t have the disability anymore. She didn’t cheat and discovered that the disability is definitely there… but now she has strategies that work really well. When she started university, she was amazed at how much better it was than high school! Her disabilities actually became her strength!

    I won’t wish you good luck. You don’t need it because you have learned how to work hard. That’s all you need. So, here I am, cheering you on!

    Swinging back to social media… I sometimes wonder if social media levels the playing field for people with disabilities of many kinds. People can communicate at their own pace, a variety of ways.

  5. Pingback: 6 Things I Learned in 6 Weeks of Blogging – Algonquin College Social Media Certificate Program

  6. Mercedes, very well written. There are so many students out there that are feeling the exact same way and could certainly benefit from an early diagnoses. So many teacher and parents don’t recognize it for what it is or just don’t want to. My wife is a Learning Resource Teacher in the public system and part of her job is to recognize those students and get them the help they need and set on the right track as soon as possible. So, here’s hoping the system is starting to change.

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