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What LD Advocacy Taught Me

disabilities-and-education-classroom-chairsI am presently enrolled in Landmark School, a school specializing in the remediation of kids with learning disabilities (LD) and I am fortunate to be publicly funded. I am proud to be one of a few chosen to be in their Student Advocates program, where I help to raise public awareness of LD. When I was in the third grade, I was diagnosed with dyslexia. I was in a public school that could not provide the proper structure to fit my learning needs. The unique environment of Landmark has revamped my life and has had a significant impact on me to thrive academically and socially. The test results showed I had difficulty in word retrieval, both long and short-term memory, auditory processing, language formulation and comprehending lengthy syntactical complex directions.

Before attending Landmark, my LD inhibited my life. Academically, the classes would move too quickly, which prevented me from grasping the basic skills that I would later need in school. Consequently, I would be taken out of class which caused me to fall behind in various subjects. Ultimately, my disability prevailed and isolated me from others. Even though I fell behind in public school, I was later able to remediate my education.

Julia Malynn, a Runner-Up for the 2012 Anne Ford Scholarship, experienced her learning disability (LD) as a great burden until she enrolled in a specialized school for students with LD. There, she was able to succeed academically while gaining self-confidence. Now, Julia is advocating for other students with LD--an experience she credits with helping her develop improved social and communication skills.

At Landmark, my confidence level has been boosted tremendously. I have learned that even with the struggle of my LD, I am able to learn successfully. I was able to determine that communication and expression were my personal weaknesses, and skills such as vocabulary development would help me perform better overall. With perseverance, I was able to make my senior year transition into two college preparatory courses, the most difficult classes in the school.

With the use of sensory teaching techniques, I was able to understand that I am a visual and kinesthetic learner. Knowing this helped me figure out what I needed to do to learn class material. I also learned that I need to self-advocate—to be proactive and ask for assistance when I am struggling or if a teacher’s methods do not meet my learning needs.

Advocacy for myself and others with LD has become an important part of my life in many ways. I was asked to be a member of a student group at Landmark that presents workshops to educators and graduate students about LD. It seemed like a great opportunity to help others with LD but I needed first to overcome a fear or presenting in front of an audience. Confidently conveying my thoughts to a crowd seemed completely terrifying! But I knew I had to overcome my own fear in order to help others. After I reviewed the material of my speech numerous times the overwhelming anxiety dwindled. I am also working on my Gold Award, the highest award granted by the Girl Scouts. My project aims to raise awareness of LD. I will be conducting seminars and panel discussions for parents, teachers and middle school students as well as adding books and materials about LD to my local library.

Becoming an advocate has been a huge step for me because it requires me to have a lot of confidence in social situations. Even as a young child, I was aware that I was different socially. I could not bear the thought of experiencing the humiliation of making a mistake and therefore I was reluctant to verbally express myself. When I was a toddler, doctors told my mother not to give me anything unless I tried to verbally request it. When I refused to answer her, I would waddle away with anger.

In one of my first playground experiences, a group of girls asked me to play a hopscotch game I wasn’t familiar with. The girls explained the rules so quickly I could not process the information and declined to play. I sat back down and watched their movements attentively. (I didn’t know it then, but my visual learning style made this a great way for me to learn the game!) After a few minutes passed, the girl came back and begged me to play. I was able to complete the tasks of the game, with peer approval, and gained her friendship. She is still my best friend today.

My advocacy projects have helped me to overcome this social difficulty I experienced in my past. I have learned to feel comfortable interacting with others. I have developed good communication skills, which I recently put to use as I gathered students to establish Landmark’s first Girls’ Varsity Softball team. Now that I am transitioning from high school, these skills will give me the ability to meet new people and will allow me to comfortably be a part of new social situations.

I am truly grateful to have had the opportunity to be in a nurturing environment where I have acquired the essential skills for future academic and social success. I am determined to cope with my LD and prosper throughout my college career. I hope to continue my LD advocacy and help other students access life-changing environments like the one I experienced at Landmark.