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Turning Frustration Into Triumph

special-needs-stories-girl-outside-portraitFor my entire life, as early as I can remember, I have had a learning disability. It has been described as a language disability, speech disability, learning disability, reading disability, and finally dyslexia. The truth is, the disability I have is specific to language and reading. It has also affected my speech development, and I attended speech class until I was in the ninth grade. I have never been able to read phonetically. Phonics may as well have been a foreign language. So, it only goes to reason that if I never learned to read phonetically then I certainly could not spell phonetically. Decoding new words for me is almost an impossible feat. My spelling abilities are limited to those words I have memorized or the words that people around me can spell. In describing my learning disability, I guess it would be easy to imagine that it would be my biggest frustration. However, in my life it has been my greatest triumph.

Over the years, I have learned to adapt to different learning situations. The adaptations have ranged from classroom accommodations, assistive technology and learning strategies created by teachers, friends and family members who have supported me and occasionally pushed me to achieve my goals. These learning adaptations have served me well. I have one of the highest GPA’s in my class, and I scored 650 on my SAT math scores the first time I tested! I have finished 7 college credits in Trigonometry and Calculus 1. This semester I am taking Writing 101, which I tested into without any special accommodations and Calculus 2. I am also taking AP Physics and AP Computer Science. All of these strategies have made me an outstanding student capable of excellence regardless of my learning disabilities.


Michelle Lintner’s story focuses on how she uses her LD to reach her goals instead of letting them hold her back. As the 2006 Anne Ford Scholar, she is not only a fantastic student but a tutor and leader for students with LD.

I suppose in a way, my greatest frustrations are also my greatest triumphs. I learned how to self-advocate, giving me a great deal of confidence for my college career. I developed close relationships with teachers and faculty at my school because of my need to discuss my educational plan and advocate for my needs. In turn, they inspired me to share my experience with other students, mentoring and tutoring whenever possible. Because of this, I discovered that I love mentoring children, and I am currently the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Lego League Club Advisor. I can’t believe I’m getting paid to do what I love. Additionally, I regularly tutor fellow students in all subjects. I try to focus on the students with learning disabilities because I know how frustrating it can be. I continue to strive to be the best role model I can be for all students.

My disability has also allowed some of my greatest talents to shine through. I am an excellent mathematician and engineer. I am a FIRST robotics team member. Our activities include designing, building and programming robots throughout the year. Additionally, our team has a great outreach program and we give presentations and demonstrations to high school and junior high students around our community to hone our public-speaking skills. I always relate a story about being able to achieve goals by referring back to my own learning disabilities as an example of what anyone can do when they are motivated. Finally, I have developed tons of confidence. Understanding that I can rise to the challenge and work hard to achieve my goals will forever motivate me to continue to strive for excellence in all aspects of my life! I work hard to pass this on to all of those around me.

The biggest goal I have in my life is to earn my degree in engineering. This is a lofty goal for anyone but especially for someone whose instructional reading is at the sixth grade level! I will accomplish my goal not in spite of my disability but because of my disability. I understand how hard it will be. I understand that at times it will feel like an impossible goal, but when I look back over my life experiences I will know that I have overcome bigger obstacles in the past. I know that I can surely find a way over or around or even under the obstacle if I have to! The personal satisfaction I will gain by accomplishing a major life goal will be worth the struggle.

I am so fortunate to have discovered in high school what my life’s goal is. Being involved in a FIRST robotics team has given me the opportunity to explore robotics. I absolutely know that I will design and built robots as a career. I plan on serving the greater good and to create robots and robotic apparatus that will enhance the quality of people’s lives. Receiving a scholarship will make the realization of that goal that much easier by easing some of the financial burdens. This scholarship will give me the ability to choose the college I wish to attend rather than attending the college I can afford. I am a little reluctant to admit, but I would love to attend MIT or Stanford. (Probably unrealistic given my learning disability, but nonetheless, a personal aspiration.) The Anne Ford Scholarship gives me more options.