SchwabLearning.org Asks: What Is It Like to Have a Learning Disability?
A young man with learning difficulties shares his personal story, in hopes of helping other kids still struggling in school.
By Scott Kellerer
Q: Scott, when did you first notice you were having problems in school?
A: I think the first time I really noticed I was having problems was in 6th or 7th grade, but my parents noticed problems right away when I entered junior high school.
Q: What kinds of problems were you having?
A: My homework was taking longer for me to do, and I was having a harder time concentrating in class. My mind would start to daze into its own world.
Q: Were the problems in any particular classes, with certain types of teachers, or at any special time of day?
A: I noticed it the most after lunch and during my math class. I was easily distracted. It was impossible for me to take in everything the teacher was saying - not because I wasn't trying to pay attention but because other things were going on that took my concentration away from the teacher. I just couldn't process what she was talking about and check out what was going on in the back of the classroom at the same time.
Q: How did the other kids treat you?
A: The kids all treated me the same as everyone else. They didn't know about my learning disability. I kept it to myself; I didn't want them to know. I was scared they might label me as being "dumb" or "retarded." These are the two labels that every kid in America is scared of being called.
Q: How did the teachers act?
A: I didn't pay attention to how the teachers acted towards me until high school. I noticed that they took time to help me one-on-one or in a group after school. If they thought I was having a difficult time with a project, they would ask how I was doing and if I had any questions. I think they were really there to help me.
Q: What did your parents do?
A: My parents went out of their way to make sure the teachers were aware of my learning disability and I got the help I needed. Sometimes I felt they were "in my business", but now I think it was a good thing. It helped me try harder and do my best. I know a lot of parents who would not go through so much to get help for their kids. They would just assume the kids weren't trying hard enough. I was fortunate to have the parents I have.
Q: How did you react when you found out about your learning disability?
A: I must say when I first learned about what I had, I didn't do anything. I wanted it to be my secret that no one else knew about. As I grew older, I started to realize I wasn't going to be able to do it all on my own. There was no way; it just wasn't going to happen. When I reached high school I really noticed I needed help from the teachers and my parents, but I still had this thing about asking for help. But finally when I started asking for help - from friends, teachers, parents, or whoever was available - I noticed I understood things better.
Q: How did you feel about special education?
A: I wasn't in special education. I never really wanted to be in that class. I wanted to be in the classes my friends were in. I didn't really feel a strong need to be in there. I don't know if I would have enjoyed being there.