I was dumb. That had to be it. Why else would I be dragged out of class to go over my multiplication tables while all of my friends enjoyed electives such as music and art? No matter how hard I tried, I could not get this multiplication thing down. I handled the situation as any elementary school kid would. I cried…a lot. I cried because I didn’t want to go to the resource room anymore. I cried because the nines times tables were just so confusing. Mostly, I cried because I thought I was dumb.
Nobody ever anticipated this diagnosis. I was just your average five-year-old kid: I could talk for days, I liked to play sports and had a lot of friends. My parents quickly accepted the learning disability (LD) diagnosis, and saw it as a way to get me the necessary help to allow me to succeed. But I did not share the same outlook as my parents. I assumed that LD was a nicer way of saying “dumb.”
Those years in elementary school were the hardest years of coursework—I’m not joking! But with the help of my special education teachers and my family, I was making great progress in school. I was doing more work at night than my brother, who was four grades ahead of me. I went over flashcards so many times, I could practically recite them in my sleep. When I was done with my homework, I would move on to extra math review books. Whatever I did not understand, I was determined to get the answers. I sought the aid of my teachers, resource room, my parents and brother… pretty much anybody who was able and willing to help.
With my hard work beginning to pay off, I began to understand that I was not dumb. In fact, I was smart! Once I finally understood the material…I was a master at it. With this newfound outlook on my disability, I realized that I could achieve just as much, if not more, than the rest of my peers (as long as I was patient and worked extra hard). I made it my goal to prove to everyone just how smart I truly was!
And in middle school, something incredible happened. I tested out of special education. I was so excited! But I was also unexpectedly nervous. If I did not understand a concept, there would no longer be a resource room teacher looking over my shoulder in class. I felt like I was all on my own. This was an exciting, yet nerve-racking feeling. However, that feeling went away after I saw how well I was doing. And the fact that I was keeping up without any additional help made the whole special education process worth it. Here I was, in an general education classroom, getting A’s all by myself.
However, I could never be “cured” of LD. I continued to get straight A’s, but mainly because I studied more hours than any child should ever be subjected to. I’ve had to sacrifice my fair share of fun extracurricular activities and play dates over the years to get to the place I am today. But, even though I study twice as hard as my peers, I have embraced my LD. Not everybody can be amazing at everything. My LD has made me appreciate my academic accomplishments even more.
I guess you could say that nobody expected the girl in the resource room to grow up to be a straight-A student in the Honors program at the University of Delaware. I still study like crazy, but I always make sure to try to have some fun too! I never thought I would say this but I appreciate my childhood in the resource room, and credit it for getting me where I am today. If you or a loved one have LD, I have a piece of advice for you. Never. Give. Up. Do not limit your goals because of LD. With some sweat and blood (metaphorically, of course), people with LD can achieve beyond expectation!
Jill Smilowitz is a NCLD Regina Cooper Intern from Plainview, New York. She is an undergraduate student at the University of Delaware Honors Program. Jill is a Human Services major with a Spanish minor.