HomeLearning DifficultiesLearning Disabilities & ADHDIdentifying a Learning Disability 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.

Comments from readers

" I also want to say my teacher really believes in me and knows that even though I have Partial Trisomy 20 q which causes me to have ADP she thinks I could possibly still drive . and also learn more and go for a GED when my parents underestimate sometimes but they still want me to make my dreams come true . but there is hope my teacher taught me to never give up no matter how difficult life is Sorry I didn't put this comment with the other "
" There is a light at the end of the tunnel. When a student doesn't quit. I was born with a severe learning disability and a near drowning at age six made it worse. I learned how to read at age fourteen, it wasn't until elenth grade a clear picture came through helping me to fully understand what each subject was about. When a student is able to relate to the fact each subject came from somebody's imagination, all they have to do is continue on with what was created a 100, or 1000 years ago. Our educational system is constantly moving forward showing our imagination is looking for new and better ways to do it. Learning is exposing the problem with an open mind to allow a natural ability to come to life. Being patient is the key. I am 50 now and have puzzled psychologists with my success. Nothing is ever done right, when nothing is done at all, for even failure contains knowledge. "
"I am 22 and have ADHD and a LD. My family and I have know that I was disabled since I started school though my mom suspected it when I was starting Pre-K. Growing up school was really hard for me since I struggled with reading and math. I was lucky enough to have a mom who was a teacher and knew what sort of accommodations I was eligible for and made sure I got them. On top of my academic problems I was also a little socially awkward. As I've gotten older I began to excel in school with my classes and became less awkward. I did how ever get experience my peers questioning my intellect because I was "special ed". Let me tell you it's not fun, I would have been eligible for G&T classes but I was disabled and you couldn't be both were I went to school. I have nearly failed classes quite a few times and always feel embarrassed when this happens because I'm smart and that is not supposed to happen to smart people. I am not in college studying to be a teacher. I want to ! be the role-model I never really had when I was in school. I don't like how students with disabilities still have to deal with stigma because they are a little different, so I want to change that by being in the education system. "
"I am a 68 year old male. As my wife reads these comments to me, it brings tears to my eyes and pain in my heart to know that children are still suffering with learning disabilities. I discovered I was dyslexic at the age of 40. Drugs, alcohol & suicide pleagued my life. After being diagnosed I became a motivational speaker & a professional model. And to my amazement I have been mentoring young people in area schools with my own program & my own classroom. I have received numerous awards for my program, called Dare To Be Great that myself & my wife have designed. Presently, we are working on a website that should be up & running by June 1 to be called Dyslexia Our goal is to enlighten society on the everyday challenges of a dyslexic person."
"when i was a kid i didnt know i had a.d.d and my classes were to had for me to do my teachers didnt pay attention and not everbody gets the rights to special education now thats enough about me. now my kids have the same problem i had in school. my son was well treated in different schools and understood the problems (learing disorders) he has and right now i haveing problems with the middle school he goes to.and thats because they call themselfs a blue ribbon school.which the neglect the child which needs help and and they refused to help him and this causes him to get mad due to the fact that his grades are super low now he dont want to go to school anymore."