What follows is an essay sent in by a student named Annabel, who initially reached out to us via Facebook. She has dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, ADD and an auditory processing disorder. We felt the world should hear from her, in her own unedited words.
Recently, my dad asked me why I have been calling my learning differences, disabilities. I replied with "that because recently I feel they have been very disabling." And I meant it.
As someone with learning disabilities, working the school system feels like I'm a minnow being asked to swim up stream. I work as hard as I can and there is still no guarantee I will succeed because that's not what I was made to do. The school system is a stagnant rigid system designed to appeal to the majority. That leaves a minority behind. A minority of people who get told that we are stupid, broken, sick, that we need to be fixed, and that we are disabled.
Not only is the situation academically challenging for people in my position, it has extreme psychological effects.
Many children are told to dream of their success. They could be the ones to cure cancer or be president. Children with learning disabilities are presented with a very different situation.
I was told that I will always find school harder than everyone else. It is amazing if I someday become average. That being different isn't something I should strive for - it is something I need to learn to compensate for. That I need to be separated from the rest of the students because I am different. Because I was a broken watch, that if they at least clean it nobody will know that it is broken.
That is what I was told growing up. And don't get me wrong it's not my parents' fault. They are amazing and supportive and I thank them for that. I couldn't have gotten as far as I have without them. It was the uneducated students and the old fashioned schools who told me this.
But you know what? I just wanted to say that the schools are wrong.
All those kids who laughed at me are wrong. I'm not broken. I'm strong. All my insecurities and anxieties are not because of my learning differences they are because of the school system. There is nothing wrong with me.
I'm not broken. I'm strong.
I believe it is time that the world started to believe that. That learning differences don't make people broken. We are talented, amazing, smart, and deserve an equal chance at success. But nothing is going to change until people start saying something. So here I am saying something. I just want my fair shot.
Learning Ally is a national non-profit that provides services to students with print disabilities like dyslexia, blindness and visual impairment. If you would like more tips on self-advocacy, visit our student services website Explore1in5.org, where you can also find out more about student-to-student online and in-person events.