By Cutler Andrews , Jodie Dawson, Psy.D.
SchwabLearning.org recently talked with Cutler Andrews, a young man who shared his thoughts, feelings, and experiences about growing up with a learning disability (LD). He discusses the strategies that helped him succeed, and he offers words of wisdom to other kids with LD - and their parents.
SchwabLearning.org asks: When did you first notice you were having problems in school?
A: I was identified with a learning disability (LD) around first grade, but it didn't fully click for me until much later. My Montessori teachers never made me feel I was different or had a problem. They always focused on what I was good at.
It wasn't until 4th grade, when I transferred to a Catholic school, that I felt extremely different. My spelling was terrible. I was in the lowest reading group. I had to leave class several times a week to get extra help with my reading.
Q: What type of learning disability do you have?
A: It's called a cognitive processing disorder in reading. I can read a whole chapter and not remember anything. I see the words, but they don't have any meaning.
Q: How did other kids treat you?
A: I always had to get up in front of the class and leave to get extra help. Being different was the last thing I wanted to be when I was younger. Kids always asked where I was going. I would make so many excuses to avoid the questions. Every week was a different excuse.
I remember sitting with my reading teacher and being terrified that another student would walk in and see me. I would listen to jokes about LD from other students and even teachers and I just had to laugh along with everyone else because I didn't want to stick out and have people discover my secret.
Q: How was your learning disability explained to you when you were younger?
A: No one really explained it to me, but, even if they did, I don't think I would have listened because I really hated it. The psychologist and teacher just talked to my parents, not to me. Then they told me what I needed to do.
Q: What did you find frustrating about having an LD?
A: Being in the low reading group made me feel I wasn't as intelligent as the kids in the top reading group. There was no movement between groups. It took me 2 years and a lot of self-advocacy to move to the next group.
My teachers didn't expect as much from me because they assumed I couldn't do as well as other students. I wasn't encouraged as much as other kids.
Also, my parents didn't expect as much from me as from my sister who was a straight A student. If she got a B, they would be disappointed but, if I came home with a B, no one said a word. My parents are great but they didn't have a manual on how to raise a kid with a LD. They did the best they could.
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