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Identified With LD in Grad School: A Struggling Student Reflects

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By Jodie Dawson, Psy.D.

How did your cultural background influence your learning?

In the former Soviet Union, disabilities in general are not accepted. This led to misperceptions about learning disabilities, like equating them with mental retardation.

From my experience, immigrants often want more and constantly struggle to be greater. Being seen as above average is important.

People always told me I wrote like an immigrant. I miss words, don't focus my ideas, and have poor grammar and spelling. This was one excuse for why I wasn't doing well in my writing.

What would have been helpful to you when you were younger?

  • To know it was OK if I didn't succeed or wasn't perfect.
  • To have more hands-on lessons because that's how I learn best.

What strategies help you succeed?

I found it's the little things that really can make a difference. I've been working with my LD/AD/HD Specialist at the University to learn strategies to help me complete graduate school successfully:

  • Estimating how much time is needed for tasks to set realistic expectations and timelines.
  • Breaking down big tasks into smaller pieces of work.
  • Outlining papers and readings, even though it can be a drag.
  • Creating a buddy system to motivate me to study. (It's easier to sit and focus with someone else in the room, called the "body double" for people with AD/HD.)
  • Using accountability and check-ins with other people and monitoring my progress.
  • Taking time to make good decisions instead of decisions on the fly.
  • Using campus and community resources.
  • Coming to terms with using external motivators rather than relying on internal motivators.

What advice do you have for parents?

  • Don't see your kids as stupid; see them for who they really are and know that "smart" comes in a lot of shapes.
  • Don't single your child (with LD or AD/HD) out; pay attention to your other kids, too.
  • Don't put limitations or your own personal expectations on your child.
  • Educate yourself and others about learning differences and make sure to dispel any misconceptions; share information.

What advice do you have for younger students?

  • Try different things to find a better fit.
  • Just because something is easy doesn't mean it's the "easy way out."
  • Accept and value your strengths.
  • Avoid comparing yourself to others and trying to live up to other people's expectations of you.
  • Don't limit yourself, and don't give up.
  • Find other students who can support you so you won't feel lonely.
  • Realize you aren't that different from other kids. You have many strengths, and, in the long run, it doesn't matter that things take you longer. Great thoughts take more time, and yours are worthwhile!