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Fulfilling a Vow to Myself: How I Overcame My Learning Disability

special-needs-stories-girl-in-lab“Retard girl, retard girl!”

The chant shot across the playground as a mass of children swarmed around the Special Ed classroom, striking the small girl with the unruly afro she had inherited from her mother. As the mocking voices grew louder, the hateful chant crashed over the little girl’s resilient stance.

I was that little girl. I had just been diagnosed with a severe form of dyslexia, rendering it nearly impossible to read or write. Listening to the bully’s attacks, I promised myself in that moment that no matter what hardships I might face in my life, I would overcome them; nothing was going to stop me from working towards my goals.

Zoe Troxell-Whitman, an Anne Ford & Allegra Ford Scholarship Finalist in 2011, faced multiple challenges as a result of her learning disability (LD). In addition to her academic struggles, she suffered from the pain of being bullied at school. Luckily, at a young age, Zoe decided that she would not let these hardships stop her from accomplishing her goals.

Since then, I have stood by the eight-year-old girl’s vow to herself, learning how to conquer the fears in my life, the largest being my dyslexia and the barrage of doubts and skepticism that comes with it. I have quelled these hardships with the constant support of my mother and my passion for learning. This has driven me to excel academically, regardless of the number of extra hours I have to put in by comparison to other students. It is worth it every time for the sheer happiness I get from overcoming the challenge, and proving to myself that I can do whatever I put my mind to.

As a small child, I struggled both in and out of the classroom. My difficulties with learning made me a social outcast. Once we found out that I had dyslexia, my life seemed to change. People began treating me like I was diseased; I spent my school days in the Special Ed classroom. But most discouragingly, my father was convinced I would never amount to anything. Because my father also suffered from severe dyslexia, he couldn’t finish high school, and never had the opportunity to go on to college. He assumed, and still does, that the same doors that were closed to him would also be closed to me. While I have struggled, and there have definitely been some bumps in the road, I am now completing my senior year as one of the top students in my school, with the goal of studying at University of Puget Sound, pursing a Masters degree in geriatric physical therapy.

A college career has always been a motivator and goal in my life. Envisioning myself in the future as a successful college student helps me to transform this goal into a reality. I have been an avid learner ever since I can remember, and whether in life or in school, my passion for knowledge and driving curiosity make the prospect of college an exciting one. I cannot wait to be amongst other students who are just as driven and motivated as I am to learn.

While my dyslexia continues to challenge me, through hard work, diligence and technology, I’ve taught myself to overcome these challenges. As one example, the essay you are reading was written through DragonSpeak, a computer program that records my speech and converts it into text. I am now fully able to read an assignment, research it, and create a finished project with no difficulties. Even though I’ve been fortunate to conquer many of the hurdles in my path, there are many others like me who need a bit of guidance.

I lived in fear of failure until I reached Blue Heron Middle School, a small school dedicated to teaching students with learning disabilities how to be self-sufficient. In this place I became a young woman who felt she could conquer the world. Since then, I have spent countless hours engaged in discussions with parents of fellow LD students concerning ways to help their children become self-motivated. I’ve also acted as an ambassador for my high school, talking to LD middle school students about how to reach their goals in high school through being independent. Earlier this year, I was approached by the resource teacher at my school about the possibility of giving a lecture next year for the LD students and parents about how to become self-sufficient and independent. This request was a true honor and I sincerely hope I can make a difference in some of my fellow classmates’ lives.

Having a learning disability is a life-long struggle. There is no cure; it will remain with me forever. However daunting this may feel at times, it is not an impossible obstacle, and I am not cursed. It is simply a different way of seeing the world. I work twice as hard as my fellow students, take the same AP classes and get the same grades, however I have learned more about the classwork and more about myself than anyone else my age does. Being dyslexic has been a struggle, but it is one of the things that have defined me as a strong, mature individual, ready to face whatever challenges may cross my path.