Sophomore year of college, I called my sister and I told her I wanted to quit college and go home. Up to that point, I thought I was good enough to be in that league. I'd put in the work, the time, and the energy to get there. You see, days before I was diagnosed with several learning disabilities and my world came crashing down. I felt like I wasn't good enough. My college work suffered, my friends noticed, and one of professors intervened. I was recommended to the school psychologist; unfortunately, the psychologist wasn't very good and I actually figured out a solution on my own. I chose the most extreme solution I could think of – a year study abroad program in Scotland. Away from the comforts of home, a new curricular challenge, a different culture, and endless possibilities. To quote the little know artist, Frank Sinatra, "If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere."
Scotland was by far the best choice I have ever made. Even now, I have fond memories of living and studying there. Being abroad made me a better writer because I had to pay close attention to American English versus British English grammar (I had to keep note of adding extra letters...colour, centre, recognise, etc.). I had to be more attentive than the average person and yes, I still make mistakes but I'm no longer ashamed. I accept and I adjust. One of my advisers said it best when describing how I functioned with learning disabilities, "It's like your brain works faster than your pen can follow." I had the ultimate challenge during my Master's program but that's another story for a different day.
Learning Disabilities at Work
In the beginning of my career, I dealt with a lot of self-doubt. I was insecure about my abilities and questioned whether learning disabilities would affect my work performance. I felt stress just thinking about people seeing right through me. But what I feared the most was failure. Oh and I failed. I made mistakes because I was not confident in myself.
At some point, I felt like I was being ridiculed at work by my boss. I knew how to do an assignment but my brain just wouldn't connect the dots. I was pressured into delivering content and when I did, it wasn't good enough. Even though I had put in the hours, the research, the drafts, and the content – it all fell short.
I know it's cliche to say but in all honesty, time has given me confidence. I am much more secure in my abilities and cherish the knowledge experience has taught me. I usually don't like to even admit that I have learning disabilities but I feel that talking about it will hopefully help someone else cope. Yes, there are more of us adults with learning disabilities out there. I've never let dyslexia or short term memory impede me from any of my goals, you shouldn't either. I've definitely come a long way from that sophomore year in college.
For those dealing with learning disabilities, here are 3 things that have helped me.
Useful Tips to Deal with Learning Disabilities
Identify your learning strengths. Everyone has their own learning style(s), recognize it and exploit it. I myself learn a lot by taking time to write things down on pen and paper. Then I re-write the important information in a notepad with more thorough thoughts. I also read my work aloud.
Ask for help. If you're in college, chances are your school has a resource center. Find out what they can provide for you, sometimes its a free evaluation (or some accommodation) if you suspect you have learning disabilities. If you're employed and are having a difficult time adapting, speak up.
Don't let it stop you from your reaching you goals. "Learning disabilities is what I have, not what I am."
Don't be ashamed and don't let it define you. Learning disabilities don't define me.
Resources for Adults with Learning Disabilities