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Thinking "Outside the Box" with a Learning Disability

Special Needs Stories - Special Education StoriesWhile many define life as black or white, it is the multiple shades of grey that are found between those two extremes that truly define me. Throughout my life I have faced and conquered many obstacles which include a severe auditory processing disorder, a speech impediment and Bell’s Palsy. The road was never easy but my determination never once failed. My goals for myself academically, socially, physically, and athletically have always been set way above the bar others set for me. I am proud to say that I have surpassed all their expectations. Children with disabilities are now offered numerous wonderful services offered by the school districts. However, the stigma of being “different” has not changed for those of us “labeled.” Labels are for the ignorant. My academic achievements include an Advanced Regent’s Diploma, being chosen for the Leader Corps class, acquiring twelve college credits in high school, making honor roll and earning the reputation as one of the hardest working students my teachers know. I smile because they said I could not do it.

2011 Anne Ford & Allegra Ford Scholarship Finalist Casey Naab realized the importance of setting high goals at a young age. Even when others doubted her because of her learning disability and other challenges, Casey's determination led her to achieve at the highest levels as a high school student and athlete.

Athletically I have achieved far more than even I could have possibly dreamed at Floral Park Memorial High School. After making the varsity teams for soccer and lacrosse in my freshman year, I have found that through sports I have grown into the woman I am today. As a sophomore I fought and won the right to play two varsity sports in the same season and joined the varsity Florette kick line team. I am the team captain for the varsity soccer team and the varsity lacrosse team and have received all-conference, all-star, and all-county recognitions for both sports. I am also captain of the varsity kick line team and a member of the Step By Step Dance Team where I teach hip-hop dance and perform in many productions throughout the year.

I volunteered my summers as a counselor at Camp Anchor in Lido Beach, New York, which is a day camp for individuals with varied handicaps and disabilities. I learned patience, respect, and an open mind and heart are the only way to interact with others. It was those extraordinary campers that taught me about trust, tolerance, and understanding. Their physical and emotional limitations far exceeded any learning barrier I had or will ever face. I vowed after that first summer, I would never be ashamed of my disability again.

The beginning of my sophomore year I began to admit to my peers that I attended my school’s resource room and that I needed the testing room to take my exams. I became aware of how I felt when segregated from the rest of the class and fought for changes to be made in seating in classrooms. While everyone was seated in alphabetical order, the students with IEPs were left standing at the end and then placed in a specific row that I dubbed the “slow row.” I watched as the other students whispered and then I noticed the embarrassed looks on the students in my row. It was then that I went to the Special Education office along with my parents and explained that this segregation impeded the learning process and that it actually negated the whole idea of the inclusion classroom. The very next day, the seats were changed.

Life is simple. Live for today, aim high, and never let anyone discourage you. I challenge others to look beyond my disability and see the total person I am. I am in resource room, I take longer to complete my tests and often I have to ask for help to understand a concept. However, the only difference between me and the other students is that people have told me repeatedly “I can’t” so therefore “I will” and “I do.”

I grasp each day with hope, faith, and love and the desire to achieve greatness. I have been offered acceptance at my first-choice school, The State University of New York Maritime College, where I was offered a starting position on their women’s soccer team and women’s lacrosse team. I will study Marine Transportation, participate in the regiment, and hopefully obtain my United States Coast Guard License. The extraordinary opportunity I have been offered at Maritime College will prepare me for my life. Many have tried to deter me from college. They offer other alternatives, but I stand firm that I will achieve my Bachelor’s Degree. Although there have been great obstacles in my way, I have persevered and will continue to do so. My life is not about living within the constraints of the lines but rather living “outside the box” where all the remarkable things happen.