Succeeding with a Learning Disability
Just because you have a learning disability, doesnít mean you canít be successful in college. I know that it can be tough when you have a learning disability. There are a lot of obstacles that you have to overcome, and school is the biggest one. But you canít let that stop you from going where you want to go in life. ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† The thought of going back to school was not an easy decision for me. Memories of my struggling back in grade school and high school came back to me, and I didnít want to go through that again. Fifth grade is where it all started. For example, I had a hard time with math; the concept of numbers confused me. I had a great dislike for my teacher, and even though she may have tried to help, she was not that kind. Even my parents tried, but to no avail. I think they just gave up because they thought that I was just lazy. They had no idea that I had a learning disability. With that thought in the back of my mind, school was just a continual thought. I would take the chance, though, to go back to school because I wanted something more in my life. ††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Enrolling in American River College was exciting for me. I was still a little nervous about this whole school thing and found myself struggling once more. I tried the best I could to move ahead. I enrolled in a sociology class, which I shouldíve never taken because I had no real understanding of the concept, and as expected, I found myself not doing so well in this class. The teacher had put a note on my desk, asking if I had ever been tested for a learning disability. I was kind of shocked at this, but after thinking about it, I went to the learning disabilities department and asked to have myself tested. I made the decision to drop the class so that I would receive a withdrawal instead of an F.
†A month later, I was enrolled in a class that helped those with learning disabilities. During this time, I was found to have a learning disability. The biggest obstacle for me is that I have a hard time with understanding concepts. Itís not so much that I canít learn it, but if the concept was taught in a different way, a more basic way, it wouldnít be so difficult. As for the class, which I took twice, I learned about the services that the school had to offer, such as tutoring, a math center and, yes, a writing center as well. They also had counselors that helped students with disabilities, and I can tell you, that helped a lot. We were also told about learning strategies, time management, reading skills, and how to deal with our learning disability. I was also told that I could interview teachers for future classes, and how I would have to inform them of my disability. It was hard for me at that time because I was uncomfortable about telling a teacher or a tutor about my disability. Even though I did have a couple of tutors for math, it was still uncomfortable for me.
Failing two math classes and an English class, I still kept going forward. I was not going to let those failures stand in my way. Having a disability was hard enough, but there were other forces that were blocking my path as well. Deciding to get away from all the pressures that I had in my life, I had to take a break. Coming back to school from that break I feel that my path has been cleared. Now the only challenge I have is my disability, and I will not let it be a hindrance in my life.†††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Do not to let your learning disability stand in your way. If you want to be a success at school, there are some strategies that you must learn. The first thing to remember is that you are not alone. There are many other students with learning disabilities in school for the same reason, to make their life better. Famous people are not immune to LDs either, and there are quite a few of them that have been very successful even though they were not so in college.
One of those is a gentleman by the name of John Horner. His name you may not know, but he is famous in the world of paleontology. He has worked with producer Steven Spielberg on the set of Jurassic Park.††† (The picture to left is Horner w/ Spielberg.) Even though he went to college for six years, he was unable to graduate because of his low GPA. That did not stop him from pursuing his love of dinosaurs. Now heís a professor and has written nine books, as well as more than 100 scientific papers. This just goes to show you, that your disability should not stand in your way. He stated to me that ďpassion and persistence are the keys to success.Ē What I found funny, was the fact that he was not very good in English, yet he is now teaching a course in literature for honors students at Montana State. All this from a man who is dyslexic and can only read at a third grade level. †††††††††††††††††††††††† The book Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Golman, states; ďWe should spend less time ranking children and more time helping them to identify their natural competencies and gifts, and cultivate those. There are hundreds and hundreds of ways to succeed, and many, many different abilities that will get you there.Ē The reason I chose this quote was because of Mr. Hornerís ability to overcome his dyslexia and go on to become the paleontologist/ professor that he is today.
Go to the learning disabilities office, and sign up to see a counselor. That way, they can help you with your educational plan, or whatever problem you may have. Lori Burgman, LD specialist/ disabilities counselor here at Gavilan College, stated, ďA lot of students with learning disabilities struggle and quite a few of them may find themselves repeating classes.Ē She also states, ďDo not give up, keep going.Ē I know what itís like to repeat classes because I flunked pre-algebra twice and on the third time passed it; I did not give up.
Lack of self-confidence can be hazardous to your success. That may stop you from finding a tutor, as it did with me. Accepting help of any kind was not easy for me. I did see a tutor several times, but it was uncomfortable for me because I was intimidated by them; so I just stopped seeing the tutor. This is something that you donít want to do, as it could mean the difference between passing and failing. It would only benefit you to get the help you need from a tutor. Remember that these students are there for you and not to ridicule you.
Another service that I need to mention are the learning centers that the school has to offer. Whether itís math, writing, reading, or even science, you need to make the time to go. Taking my pre-algebra class for the charmed third time, I made the effort to visit the math center. Since I have no computer at home, and a lot of my homework was on a CD, the math center was my only option. Having these centers really do help, as they helped me to do well in that class. Not only do they have computers for your use, but they have tutors as well. I recommend that you make the time to go to a learning center, because you will not be disappointed.††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Just as there are different ways to learn, there are also different styles in teaching. To have the opportunity to interview a teacher before you take their class is not such a bad idea. The way an instructor teaches could be very helpful in the way that you learn. Informing the teacher that you have a learning disability may be a little uncomfortable, but it may help them to teach in a slightly different way. The plus side to this is you get longer times when it comes to tests and quizzes. Donít get too upset, though, if the instructor doesnít really care if you have a disability or not, and if that be the case donít take his or her class. I think that interviewing the instructor does work to your advantage.†††††††††††††††††††† These are but just a few ways that will lead you on your path to success. One thing that I think I really should mention here is not to overload yourself with a lot of units. For somebody with a learning disability this is not a good idea, as I had a counselor point this out to me at one time. This is where a learning disabilities counselor will come into play. They will help you to minimize you schedule, so that you get the most out of the class, and have time to keep up with your homework. You want to pass, not fail.††††††††††††††††††††††† In short, I hope that this essay will help you in some way to be successful in school. The techniques that I have mentioned are a very important part of that. In the book, Emotional Intelligence,† Daniel Goleman states, ďAbilities such as being able to motivate oneself and persist in the face of frustrations; to control impulse and delay gratification; to regulate ones moods and keep distress from swamping the ability to think; to empathize and to hopeĒ (34). This is something that I found to be true. With a learning disability, motivation is the key to having the success that will bring the gratification when itís time for you to graduate.††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
Burgman, Lori. [LD Specialist/Disabilities Counselor]. Personal interview. Gilroy, CA. 21 Nov. 2008.
Goleman, Daniel. Emotional Intelligence. New York: Bantam Dell, 2006.
Horner, John [Paleontologist/ Professor, Montana State University]. E-mail to the author. 5 Dec. 2008.