I’ve always been aware of my learning disabilities. In second grade I started attending the “Disability Resource Center” (DRC) for tutoring. During grade school, leaving class for DRC was fun. That changed in middle school. Any kid attending DRC was an easy target for bullying.
As a result of my disabilities compounded by the bullying, my self esteem was less than great. However, I was always quick minded and sharp. So, like most of the kids of my ilk, I developed great coping skills.
In high school, it seemed my records from the previous DRC didn’t transfer, and none of the school faculty approached me about services. Since being labeled LD was a stigma, I wasn’t going to approach them. This was a chance to be a “normal” kid. I got by with passing grades, graduated and attended college.
In college I continued to ignore/deny my learning situation. Yeah, that didn’t work out so great.
All the distractions and additional stimulation caught up with me. That first semester my GPA was a dismal 0.9 – A ZERO POINT NINE!
I was dismissed from college. Though, being blessed with a fair share of chutzpah, I contacted the dean and explained the situation. He would put me on probation and let me return with two conditions. That I get a proper diagnosis, and that I take advantage of the college’s DRC. So, I did. My second semester grades improved, but still not enough to be off probation. My self doubt came flooding back; perhaps I wasn’t smart enough for college.
The next few years, I secured lower-level office jobs. It wasn’t long before I got bored on the bottom of the corporate ladder, and enrolled in an evening college course. Taking one class a semester allowed me to focus my studying efforts, which made it possible to improve my grades. Slowly, my confidence increased, and I decided to become a full time student again. Yet, I still refused to accept my “disabilities” or get the help I needed.
I’ll never forget that first exam as a returned full time student. After hours of study and preparation for the exam, I left the class believing that I failed miserably. Completely defeated, overwhelmed and in tears, I walked into the campus DRC. I spoke with a counselor, and finally admitted the truth. The DRC services at this college was fantastic. I got the attention, support, and services I needed to succeed. Oh, and boy did I succeed!
You know what happened? College became easy because I learned how to learn! The funny thing was that it seemed like I was learning how to live with my disabilities by “beating the system”. I found that it was the simplest thing to get straight A’s. All I needed to do was:
Research the classes, and professors prior to registering for classes.*
Register early for classes to assure placement with professors that worked with students with disabilities.*
Communicate with the professor about my learning disabilities.*
Sit in the front row of every class.
Take good notes.
Record the lectures (even though I was taking good notes).*
Re-listen to the lecture, and re-write my notes directly after class.*
Re-read my notes 10 minutes prior to the next class.
Apply for assistive technology. (I applied for books on tape, and a special recorder that adjusts voice speed to the speed of the reader.)*
Apply for extended time for tests.*
Not procrastinate about assignments. Complete the work directly, then re-work until I was confident with the outcome.*
Yup, it was a piece of cake, and, soon, I was making Dean’s List. Sure, it took a while for me to graduate (*cough, cough* ten years), but I did it. Not only that, I was surprised to learn that I would graduate cum laude. I was GOBSMACKED to say the least.
Long story short, once I finally dropped the ego and, accepted my disabilities, I was able to start working with myself instead of against myself. When I opened myself up to possibilities, saying “YES AND”, instead of “NO BUT!”, everything got much easier.
Yes, I have learning disabilities. Well, at the time of my original diagnosis it was simply called “learning disabilities”, but the names have gotten more specific over the years. Now it’s ; Dyslexia, ADD, ADHD. Frankly, I’m not sure which new term describes what I have. Here’s what I do know. Instead of disabilities, I have learning ABILITIES. I was ABLE to find ways that work for me, and that makes me different and unique, but not disabled. My ADD has only ADDED to my life. It’s made me, and many people like me, very resilient, flexible, and able to bounce back. And I like that just fine!
*Services encouraged or provided by the college DSC.
Christine Walters is the founder of ComedySportz Improv Theatre RVA. For 22 years, she’s been teaching, performing, and sharing improvisation, and the many benefits; helping others laugh, learn, communicate, and accept offers and themselves through the power of “Yes And”. Collaboration, inspiration, gratitude and fun, are the qualities Christine hopes to bring to her life every day.