When I was at boarding school, I really wanted to make a positive change in how people view learning disabilities—or as I like to call them, learning differences. I went to The Gow School in Buffalo, New York, a school specializing in dyslexia and other language-based learning disabilities. Even though every student there had LD, there was a lot of teasing, and it just didn’t make sense to me. One of the reasons to go to a specialized school is for kids to feel that they are normal and part of a community. However, when I witnessed all the teasing, I realized something had to be done to help the community.
So I wrote a book called A Different Life; Growing Up Learning Disabled and Other Adventures. It was a memoir of my life, and it shared my past experiences of bullying. I thought if I open up about my problems, no matter how embarrassing they might be, other people with learning disabilities might feel free to open up about theirs. I heard from a lot of people that the book helped them feel like they weren’t alone. One person in particular asked me, “Now what do we do?” and with that I realized that this would be my life’s work, to help others like me. I knew that there were a lot of resources out there for kids with LD while they were in school, but what resources were available to these individuals as they grew up? I continued to think that entering the “real world” only presents new challenges: dating, employment, managing finances and more.
I started FriendsOfQuinn.com so there could be a place where young adults with learning disabilities and attention issues could meet each other and know that they are not alone. I truly believe the website fills a real need. And it’s not just for young adults with LD, it’s also for their friends and families, because they need support, too. There are hundreds of thousands of families in the U.S. that are affected by LD. FriendsOfQuinn.com offers resources and an online community. In my biggest dream, it can be a call to action for the LD community, to get connected and get involved. We’ve been bullied and have felt left out, but FriendsOfQuinn.com is a place where we can embrace our differences, laugh at our mistakes and celebrate our triumphs. We have a motto at FriendsOfQuinn: "Own It!"
I don’t really call myself a champion for people with learning disabilities, because I’m just doing what I love to do, helping people. Well I guess that’s what a champion is in my book—someone who loves to help people. Anyone can be a champion, by helping someone to make their lives a little bit better. A champion faces their enemies and learns from the experience. Sometimes in life we’re dealt tough hands to challenge us to turn something bad into something that’s good.
Quinn Bradlee is the founder of Friends of Quinn, an online community and resource center for young adults with learning disabilities and their friends and family. He has dedicated his adult life to helping others with learning disabilities.