You Can’t Buy A Learning Disability

This picture is from an article I wrote for my high school newspaper about how incredibly hard the college admissions process was for me. So knowing now that people were out there totally cheating the system really angers me.

By now you’ve probably heard about the high-profile college admissions scandal that came out recently, in which parents paid to get their children into universities through bribing faculty, hefty donations or arranging for their children to cheat on the SATs. Paying off a college to get your kid in is obviously terrible. But the fact that some of the parents “bought” their kids a learning disability to get SAT accommodations makes me absolutely furious.

My learning disabilities have affected me in almost every class I’ve ever taken. They often force me to work much harder than my peers to get the same results. They have been a constant source of anger and frustration for years because I can’t do things that come easily to other students. My accommodations are what helps bridge this gap and without them, I would have completely floundered in school. To think of someone taking advantage of the resources I need to overcome a genuine significant struggle is incredibly upsetting.

Thankfully, I have become very good at advocating for myself and my needs in the classroom. But before I developed the confidence to stand up for myself, there were teachers who completely blew me off. Some called me a distraction to the rest of the class and some said it wasn’t fair to give me “special treatment.” Freshman year, one teacher even blatantly denied me my university mandated accommodations and I was felt too embarrassed and ashamed to fight back.

So what makes me so angry about this whole college admissions scheme is that the kind of people involved in it are the reason that teachers don’t always take me seriously. They are why a teacher once told me that I was “obviously trying to take advantage of the system” so his goal would be “to accommodate me as little as possible.”

It is important for the world to understand that learning disabilities are a huge burden for those who really suffer from them. They are not a sneaky way to get extra time on tests or use of a laptop in class. They are the only way to level the playing field so that I can thrive alongside my peers.

This scandal is unfortunate, frustrating and disappointing. But I hope it creates an opportunity for dialogue on these issues so that people can better understand how hard a learning disability really is.

Has anyone ever questioned your learning disability? Let me know in the comments or send me an email.

Learning Disabilities: When Nobody Notices

What would you do if it suddenly felt like your brain stopped short and your eyes blurred over in the middle of class?

For most people, the video editing class I am in was no problem once they learned the software basics. However, for someone like me with visual processing issues, the class felt nearly impossible. Visually overwhelming material like a complicated computer program just doesn’t seem to register in my brain, no matter how hard I try.

At first, the beginner editing skills were manageable and I got off to a good start in the class. But when I tried to open the tab for more advanced editing and suddenly hundreds of options appeared before me, I completely froze up. It felt like my eyes had disconnected from my brain and I just sat there for a minute unable to readjust. I didn’t know how to fix it or make the new options go away — all I knew was that the program had become too visually overwhelming for me to even interact with it.

But my peers all kept working happily. The new features didn’t affect them in the slightest, so they didn’t notice what a hard time I was having. And why would they? Since they never struggled with the seemingly simple ability to process what’s in front of them, there was no reason they would guess how much I was suddenly floundering.

So I swallowed my pride and I asked for help.

I’ll admit that asking for help can be incredibly tough sometimes. Owning up to needing assistance with an “easy” task can feel embarrassing or demeaning. It can make my differences feel unsettlingly public and occasionally make me feel stupid. But I try to remember that my learning disabilities are part of what make me me and there’s no use in being ashamed of them. Everybody needs help sometimes, you just happen to need it in the classroom and that’s okay.

What do you do when you need help in class? Let me know in the comments!