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The LD Journey: A College Student Looks Back

In an interview with his LD coach, a college student describes living with his learning disability from first grade until now. He also offers some sage advice.

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.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

11/6/2009:
"I feel like you alone in high school about LD issue I am in college. I always have anxiety and I do not know how to dealt with it sometimes because people are ignorant. Since my disability is not visible my professor always seem to look at kind of puzzle makes me feel uncomfortalbe"
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