Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you read something, the simplest thing maybe, and you just have no idea what it’s even talking about?
Or you read something out loud, just to realize that words you said weren’t the words on the page?
Or you read a sentence you wrote, exactly how you have it in your head and even read out loud to yourself, and post it to social media just to realize that some words never actually made it in the post?
Or you say a word(s) or phrase you believed was right, just to find out the word(s) you said is actually similar to the correct word(s) or phrase?
Welcome to my life.
All my life, I’ve struggled to the point of tears because I couldn’t understand words, sentences and passages. In elementary school I was always placed in the reading groups with the easier books to read but even then, I couldn’t read them. I didn’t understand them. I didn’t know what was happening.
In forth grade, the teacher told my mom that word problems in math were hard for me. I couldn’t understand what was being asked from me. I got a little bit of help but it didn’t help long term. She reassured my mom, as did every teacher I had before, that I’d be fine and would grow out of any reading issues I had.
I struggled really hard. I was behind all my peers. I was being pushed along without any teacher recognizing the signs that I needed help academically.
But here’s where the education system failed me.
In fifth-grade, my mom had a meeting with my teacher. It was after I said for the first time out loud, “I don’t get it.” Sitting at the kitchen table in tears because no matter how much my family tried to help, I just couldn’t get it. My mom told my teacher something wasn’t right, refusing to take the excuse, “She’ll grow out of it,” again.
My mom asked my teacher for help who, eloquently, said no. She did tell my mom that I could get tested for an IEP, individualized education program.
An IEP helps a child in public schools to succeed with personalized plans according to their learning habits and learning disabilities, which are diagnosed by therapists and experts.
But she told my mom I shouldn’t get an one because I would always be labeled as my IEP, that it would follow me all throughout my years in school and that’s what would define me as a student. She advised that I’d be fine and will grow out of it. My teacher said it wouldn’t be a good idea to get tested anyways. “It’s not worth it,” the teacher said.
My mom was furious, and I feel like that is a huge understatement to how she actually felt. Refusing to give up on me and unwilling to let me go on struggling, she took matter into her own hands. She did what a mother had to do.
My mom found a learning center 15 minutes away and my grandparents paid for it completely, no questions asked. I never forget how lucky I am.
I got tested on all levels of reading, writing, math, comprehension and critical thinking. My results were just as we thought. I was in fifth grade reading/thinking/comprehending at a pre-K level, if that.
For two years, I went to the learning center 2-3 times a week to improve on all my skills. It was hard, I got frustrated really quickly, I would be exhausted after my sessions but I gained the skills I didn’t have before.
I began to actually understand what I was reading. I learned how to give a summary to someone else about what I read. I learned how to read between the lines and find those context clues. Understanding what was being asked of me in math problems became way easier.
I couldn’t do all those things before I got the help I needed.
By the time I left, I was reading ahead of my grade level. I knew how to write complete sentences. I wasn’t afraid of books or passages anymore.
Even with the help and support I got, I still struggle every single day at 25 years old.
It takes me 30 minutes to write a simple tweet or Facebook status because I over analyze myself and think it doesn’t structurally sound right. I miss use words that are similar to one another because I think that’s the phrase or word I hear. In college, I would read articles 4-5 times to understand the content. I stick with writing in AP style (not only because that’s what journalists use) but because it’s way easier for me to understand its rules than MLA or Chicago style.
I spent over two months writing this exact post because organizing my thoughts and figuring out where sentences flow best is hard for me to determine.
I’ve never been officially diagnosed with a learning disability but through my own research and talking with family friends who have studied learning disabilities, it all makes sense; the way I think, learn and how I comprehend information. I don’t know what I could have, I know something’s not right. I don’t think or process information like everyone else. And it took me until I was 21/22 to finally understand what works best form.
I’ve learned what works best for me all on my own, a lot of trial and error over the years. None of my teachers or professors could ever understand the extra effort I’ve had to put into my work over the last some-odd years.
I’ve had teachers tell me my essays sound like I wrote them the night before when they don’t know I spent two weeks trying to perfect it. I had my mom read my essays during my first year of college because I never thought they were “college standard.” I take twice as long to read anything. Pop quizzes and tests induce so much anxiety because even though I can study for days on end and can know the information, how tests are worded always confuse me.
My favorite story to tell is when one of my professor’s commented on my rehearsal reports for a show I was working, saying it sounded like I spent all my time on the rehearsal summary than the questions or statements towards the production team throughout my report. If only he knew it took me two+ hours to write my reports each night because I never knew if what I was saying would make sense to someone else or if I meant what I was articulating.
I just finished my first week of nursing school. I love it and it’s a lot of reading and studying and application. It’s more work than I was initially anticipating, and I knew what I was getting myself into. All the work I’ve done thus far, I’ve done double, maybe triple, the amount of work work. Literally.
- I read each page at least twice in my books
- I’ve done chapter summaries for each chapter I’ve read in my book, consisting of at least 8-10 pages, front and back, in my notebook.
- I color-coat the highlighting I do in my textbooks to breakup all the passages, examples, information and definitions.
- I color-coat my notes when I re-write them which differentiates the information I just read so I can understand it.
- I type up my notes even though I just wrote them out
- I make flashcards of all the things
I’m putting in all this effort just to make sure I thoroughly understand the information. I’ve always been insecure about how smart I think I am, mostly because I don’t feel like I’m as smart as my other friends. I have to apply myself more so than anyone I know just to make it. I do more than I even half to. I’m putting my all into my school work, not only because I’m investing in this, but because I want this so badly. I studied hours upon hours for my entrance exam and I passed. I did that on my own.
I’m smart. I’m capable of so many things despite the feeling of not being smart “enough” like all friends. That’s something I continuously work through, reminding myself that I’m enough when it comes to my book smarts. I’m learning to not discredit myself because I sometimes don’t feel up to par with my friends.
I’m enough. I am smart. I’ve worked so hard to finally earn the right to say that about myself, and finally believe it when I say it.