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The Gift of Learning Differently

Special needs stories-Special education stories
Mackenzie Meyer
2010 Anne Ford and
Allegra Ford Scholar

President Obama has a nation of educators looking for “it.” Steven Jobs of Apple computers wants to unleash “it.” Superpower countries like US, China and India are in the race of their lives for “it.”

As for me…well, I already have “it.” Actually, I was born with “it.” I was born with the gift to create, to invent new ways of doing and being. I am a person who learns differently and therefore, by default, sees differently and will help this planet in ways it has yet to see.

2010 Anne Ford and Allegra Ford Scholar Mackenzie Meyer was identified with dyslexia and as a result told she would not be able to reach her goal of becoming a veterinarian. As a result, she has pursued her dream in full force and is a shining example for any LD student who has been told to lower his or her expectations.

Oh, yeah, I know it sounds like I have it totally together and have long since figured out that having a learning disability is a gift. But in truth, it has been a long journey. Just as it is with anybody with a disability, you have two choices: you can take the easy way out and accept that you will have a life with limits or decide that you are going to fight for the life you want to have and are meant to have. I chose to fight. I chose to tell the world “to help or get out of the way.” It hasn’t always been easy, and it hasn’t always been pretty. But I have made it halfway around the game board, and I don’t intend to stop until I achieve my first major goal of becoming a veterinarian.

My journey is about how a kid who can’t read grade-level textbooks, has difficulty writing sentences understood by others, has poor ability to judge the passage of time or distances traveled, confuses left and right, mixes up numbers, and has short-term memory issues, can achieve a “straight A” report card, get accepted into a pre-veterinarian program at several top-rated colleges, and contribute to her community.

There are six main things I have done in life to help me manage my disability so that I can be free to go about my life and achieve what I want with as much independence as possible.

I started with the end in mind.

Since I attended my first open house at Cornell Veterinary School at the age of 8, I knew I wanted to be a veterinarian. I was fascinated with the surgery center where veterinarian students pulled out various body parts from formaldehyde-scented jars and showed “up close and personal views” of such things like the inside of a disease-ridden cat brain.

I signed up for the Cornell vet school newsletter in sixth grade and have attended seven more open houses since. I knew, from the first information session I went to, what is expected of me from high school and college to get into vet school. I knew the grades I needed, the courses I needed, and the amount of animal experience required. Last summer, I even set up an information session with the head of Cornell vet school to review my undergrad college choices and to share with her how I was tracking on my hours of animal experience and coursework.

So you see, when I am going out of my mind trying to read a textbook or study for a test, I know the “why” behind what I am doing. I know that in just a few years, I will be applying for med school and that every test I take, every book I read, every animal I heal, will be taking me toward my goal.

I set up my life to play to my strengths.

Reading and writing will never be my friends. That’s just a fact. Science and math are my close buddies. They are “black and white” with rules that don’t seem to have a million exceptions. So I have chosen a career path that will play to my natural strengths.

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