Navigating Life with a Learning Disability
Did you know that in the United States, seven million students receive Special Education services each year? Of those seven million, 34 percent are diagnosed with specific learning disabilities. Learning disabilities such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, apraxia of speech, central auditory processing disorders, and nonverbal learning disorders are actually quite common. Having a learning disability does not mean you are unintelligent or that you cannot learn, nor does it mean that you cannot be successful. You can find ways to navigate life with a learning disability.
How Are Learning Disabilities Different From Other Disabilities?
Learning disabilities are caused by differences in brain functions, or sometimes in the structure itself. These differences impact how information is processed in your brain. They impact how you learn in so many ways, such as reading, writing, speaking, and mathematics. You can even have more than one learning disability.
There are other disabilities which impact learning, including intellectual and developmental disabilities or emotional, vision, hearing, or motor skills issues. These types of disabilities often involve physiological symptoms or side effects, whereas learning disabilities are considered “invisible disabilities.” This can make it harder to detect a learning disability.
How Do I Know If I Have a Learning Disability?
Most people with learning disabilities really struggle in school. For example, if you had dyslexia, you might see letters upside down, backwards, moving all over the page, out of order, or more. Sometimes, you might not be able to remember what you read or simply have problems writing and spelling. Or, you could have none of those symptoms, but still struggle with similar problems. One of the biggest red flags for a learning disability is your ability to function well in school. If you are working really hard, and still doing poorly in subjects where there is more reading, writing, or math, yet doing really well in other classes, you might have one or more learning disabilities.
How to Get Help
Learning disabilities should be diagnosed by a psychologist or other trained professional. Typically, in public schools, this happens through the school. Teachers, the school psychologist, and others, such as a speech pathologist or reading specialist, can work together and assess your needs based on specific testing, and determine whether you need more intensive testing or if there are services that the school can provide right away to support your learning.
Federal law requires public schools to provide services to support the learning for people with any type of disability. With most learning disabilities, you can qualify for an Individual Education Program (IEP). This is developed in cooperation with you, your parents, your teachers, the school counselor and psychologist, and possibly others. Together, you create a plan to help support your learning and provide strategies and services as well as create goals for your success. This plan is updated at least once a year to be sure that your needs are being met.
How to Be Successful
Getting the tools and support you need from school is important to your success. Even more important is that you continue to work hard. Having a learning disability is not an excuse for underperforming. You have the opportunity to stand a little taller, run a little farther, and clear hurdles that are just a little higher than others. By accepting the challenge, you raise the bar for everyone else and blaze the trails for others who come behind you.
You can use the tools and skills from school and incorporate them into your daily life. Find other coping mechanisms and techniques that help you function better. You can ask for ways to help you cope outside of school as well. Make schedules for studying and hold yourself to them, or find a friend or family member to be accountable to in order for you to stay on track. You may need to be a little more creative in your learning and in life, but your success will be that much sweeter knowing what you have overcome to be there.
Taking Charge of Your Learning
You don’t have to wait for parents or teachers to help you. You can initiate an IEP and ask for testing on your own if you are 14 years of age or older. You can work with teachers and make them aware of your challenges and show them your desire to work hard and succeed. This is your education; this is your life. Other people are there to support you, but ultimately, you can be in charge of your own learning and progress. After all, only you know what it is like to be you. That makes you the expert on you, and the best person to advocate for what you need.
If you have a learning disability, the map of your life can seem jumbled or difficult to understand. You have the power to decipher your own abilities and find your road to success. You can access skills and support to help you become confident in your abilities both in school and in life. You can ask for what you need in school and beyond, and look for ways to problem-solve on your own. When you look at your learning disability as a challenge instead of a roadblock, you open your life up to endless possibilities.
Seek the support you need with a learning disability. Call Embark Behavioral Health at 1-855-809-0409 today.
Unleash your power in school and in life.