I will bring an "uninvited guest" along with my repertoire of skills and abilities to college next year. This uninvited guest is the burden brought by my specific learning disabilities and attention problems.
Throughout school, I hid my learning disabilities from my peers, embarrassed to admit to such a vulnerable imperfection, so it is particularly difficult for me to write an essay about my experiences living with these problems. To say that I was challenged and overcame adversity sounds more like a cliché than the real experience, but it is not just an overused saying to describe how life challenges brought by having severe, multiple learning disabilities taught me perseverance and humility. Recognizing my deficits helped me to appreciate my strengths. Coping with learning disabilities taught me to deal with challenge and adversity. I learned these adaptive skills over many years of self-discovery and effort.
Nathan Porter was diagnosed with neurological and developmental disorders at an early age. He discusses his struggles with having to be taken out of class and is a student who thrived best in an inclusive classroom after his school adopted the program.
I was first diagnosed before age three as having neurological and developmental problems that affected my speech, movement, and coordination. I had an Individualized Education Program (IEP) to help me throughout my 12+ years of public school. However, it wasn’t until this year, when I turned 18, that I became self-confident enough to talk about these issues publicly.
The "front line" for my battle with learning problems was not in the health clinic, it was in school and at home. The interventions were educational and behavioral, not pharmaceutical. When I was three years old, my pediatrician referred me to the Child Find Program. Child Find is the early intervention program for preschool special education. I had significant developmental delays in language and motor development that qualified me for these services. I was tested and diagnosed with severe working memory and processing problems in visual, auditory, and motor senses. This affected my ability to learn to read, spell, write, talk, and organize just about everything.
By the time I was in first grade, ssI was removed from the normal classroom and "pulled out" for special services almost all day. I viewed the special services as punitive, boring activities to occupy time. School was miserable for me in those early years. I hated when I was removed from my class; I felt that I was being treated as stupid or lazy, and I was determined to do whatever it took to not be separated from my friends at school.
In third grade, my school adopted a pilot program for inclusion of special services in the "regular" classroom through team teaching, and my experiences at school turned positive. To this day, I fondly remember my third grade teaching team, who understood that teaching in small groups and using different sensory modalities and learning experiences could greatly improve the result in the classroom for all students, not just those who have learning disabilities.