I first found out about my Learning Disability in grade 5, it was then where I received training on how to use the equipment I was given in order to succeed in school. The equipment I was given was a laptop, printer, and scanner. I received training on how to use the programs like Kurzweil 3000 and Dragon Naturally Speaking. However, these programs were left behind, and not used because even though it was deemed essential for my success my teacher did not see it that way… so my laptop was left to sit there and gather dust. As a result my grades suffered and as they suffered so did my self esteem I felt like I could not do anything, no matter how much work I did I was never able to do as well as my peers. I strived for a “B,” the mark that showed my work was worth it. But sadly it never came and I thought I was never going to reach it.
Going into grade 6 I was ashamed believing I was “stupid” and never going to be able to do anything. That soon started to change when my grade 6 teacher came up to me and asked me to set up all my equipment in the class. He made me feel part of a group, he made me realize that I may be different but I do not need to be ashamed of it. I should allow it to become who I am and embrace my differences. He started me on the road to change. With my equipment in the classroom I was able to pull my grades up to match that of my peers, though some grades still suffered.
I am now in grade 11 and my accommodations have never become unnecessary. They are something I need to express my full knowledge to someone. I may still forget that from time to time but my mom and my teachers are always there to help reinforce this. Having had a Learning Disability for most of my educational career I have learned how to cope with it. I use all my technology and accommodations to get the marks I want so I can feel good about myself. I feel that it is the role of teachers, parents and students to make sure the student is reaching their academic best. This means giving the student what they need to succeed.
– Matthew, Grade 11 High School Student
Embrace your Learning Disability because it’s not going anywhere and it is a part of who you are and when you embrace it and take ownership of your own learning new and unthinkable possibilities open up before you. I hope that you can champion yourself and be a champion for those with Learning disabilities as it’s only by raising awareness and talking about it that we feel we can be comfortable with who we are and the struggles we face. I am currently in my third year at Trent University as an English Major something any of my teachers past or present could tell you is shocking because I got horrible grades in English all throughout my time in public school.
Near the end of Grade 12 I truly embraced myself and this allowed me to find passion in something that was once a obstacle in my life. I still struggle and use all my assistive devices because they allow me to show my teachers just how much I am capable of. I hope you too can embrace who you are and show the world just how capable you are.
My son Matthew has a Learning Disability. He has difficulty with reading, writing, organization and time management. He has true grit and has learned early about perseverance and advocating for himself. He embodies great qualities that will serve him well as he continues to develop. It has often been difficult as his mom to watch him struggle and to ensure that he is reaching his true potential.
I have learned over the years how to help my son and this has been a process of discovery for me. Did you know that I had to learn to be his mom first and not his teacher or his tutor? I hired tutors, extended timelines and listened. I learned that the best thing I could do was to listen to him. I listened as he talked about his frustrations and concerns. I listened while he cried because he was not getting the accommodations he needed. I listened when he yelled because his SEA equipment was not working.
Having a Learning Disability is frustrating and while at school it consumes a lot of energy. It involves trying to show that you do know what is going on but you just cannot demonstrate it and the teacher has quickly moved on to the next concept just as you were ready to answer the first one. I am not sure we completely understand the processing and restraint that our children feel while in the classroom. The vast amount of information that is thrown at them, the speed that we expect them to make transitions and the underlying assumption that everyone should just learn the same.
As a mom besides listening is was important to help my son become an advocate for himself, to teach him that the process was just as important if not more important than the grade, and to work hand in hand with the teachers to ensure he was getting all the accommodations/modifications that he needed to ensure success.
Tips for Parents:
- Be their champion
- Praise them
- Love them.
– Parent of Matthew
What is the difference in support from an elementary school to a secondary school?
That is a great question because it does look quite different. When you are in elementary schools all your teachers know who you are and your Special Education teacher is your best friend. You cannot hide from her. They are aware of your classes and your strengths and needs and usually speak on your behalf to your other teachers. They try hard to ensure your computer is working, let your parents know when you are struggling, communicate with them about upcoming assignments and missing homework. Basically you have a hard time getting away with anything. However, when you transition to high school all this changes you are know a small fish in a big pond. You don’t have the same familiarity with your teachers and quite honestly it is kind of nice for a little while just to blend in. At high school you are responsible for ensuring your accommodations are in place and speaking up when they are not. You are responsible for talking to your Special Education teacher to ensure your textbooks are put on your computer so that you can use your assistive technology. The biggest shift is from having an adult who knows you so well, as they have probably worked with you for many years to an environment where you have to speak up. What I have learned is the importance of learning to self-advocate. Elementary schools are the perfect environments to practice this skill and to learn who you are as a learner so that you can transfer this knowledge and skill to your high school years.
As an 18 year old with a learning disability I have come to realize that transitions are not always going to be easy, and that sometime in life you can be dealt the short hand. More importantly I learned that even though things don’t look easy, with hard work and determination the results will show. My transition from high school to university was when I can finally reflect and look back and say that even though I struggled in high school and in elementary school the results were worth it.
Over the past couple of months I have been adjusting to life on residence at Trent University and it has been an amazing experience for me. The skills I learned by struggling in high schools are skills I see my peers around me learning today and I am thankful that when I went through the struggles I did I was surrounded by people willing to help me grow.
I was lucky to not have people in my schools to tease or make fun of me for having a learning disability, but it was still hard to go through school when I knew I was different. I saw other kids getting better marks for trying half as hard, and people being upset when they got and 88% on a test. This is what made it hard for me. I had high expectations all around me in school. Those expectations are what caused me to struggle. To learn skills like, perseverance, learn it is ok to fail, that sometimes things take a little more work to get right. But the most important skill I learned is about myself as a learner, was able to learn how to study, what my strengths were and what my weaknesses were. And honestly it has helped me so much now that I am at university. The students of my residence are learning things about themselves that I had to learn to get through my secondary education. For once I am able to say that I am ahead of my peers.
If I was to leave you with one piece of advice, don’t let anyone “Dis-your-ability.” Someday I promise things will turn around and you will be the one flourishing. From my experience I can tell you things will get better, so hold your head up high and remember you are the best you that you can be.
When Matthew came in he taught us many important things about our Learning Disabilities which helped us a lot. One of the many things he taught us is to accept and embrace our disability, and understand that it’s okay. Matthew taught us more than just accepting our disability but also not to take it as a bad ability. Matthew is a young man who we look up to and he has inspired many of us students to not just accept our disabilities but to think of it as a great opportunity. Matthew is very educated and he has learned a lot throughout his education. He told us that the best thing we can ever do for ourselves is to learn how to advocate. Learning to self-advocate will empower us to ask for what we need to be successful. We will be able to speak up for ourselves and get to know ourselves as learners, which will put us in control our lives and allow us to control where we want to go and how we will get there. Matthew shared that if you are organized, set goals and put your best work into everything, it is possible to achieve success. We feel that it has been such a benefit having a university student come into our classroom and tell us that anything is possible with hard work, perseverance, and determination. Having a Learning Disability might require us to work harder than others, but we are beginning to understand that we will appreciate the results of our hard work a lot more.
Our time with Matthew truly inspired our class. One of the reasons we think that he is inspiring is because he has a Learning Disability but still achieved success and was accepted into a spectacular university. We think the main message of his presentation was that if we work hard, we can do whatever we want in life. Matthew told us that if we need something in school, home, or anywhere, we should always advocate for ourselves. Opportunities, and future careers won’t come to us, we have to go out and get them. Sometimes, we feel like people are too embarrassed to get extra help because it makes you look different. Some people don’t realise that if you want to be successful, you need to get extra help so you can understand your work and move forward.
The day Matthew came in was very helpful. He said that we should never put ourselves down. Even though we have heard from teachers that it’s okay that we learn differently and we can achieve anything we want if we ask for help, persevere and self-advocate, it’s beginning to make more sense to us now that we have spent time with and spoken to a student who has gone through the same thing as us. We sincerely appreciated the opportunity to learn from a graduate and LDAYR Champion as we now have a different perspective of our disability. We hope to learn more from Matthew in the future and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts,
The Student Support Centre of Rick Hansen P.S.