The Day I Found Out….
Hello my amazing parents. It’s me, a young adult who managed to make it out on the other side of early intervention and what felt like a lifetime of special education services. From receiving years of multiple different services throughout my childhood, to receiving accommodations in graduate school, to having what was probably thousands of hours of tutoring throughout my entire education, I’ve been through it all. I also managed to receive a Bachelors and Master’s Degree in Education, so I share this information as someone with both personal and professional experience. Although my journey has had many ups and downs, there is one question parents often ask me, that I can always answer due to the vivid memory I have of this particular experience: When did your parents tell you about your learning disability?
Let me just start by saying that there is no right or wrong time to tell your child about their learning disability. However, in sharing my personal experience about the day my parent told me, I will also explain why learning about my diagnosis helped me throughout my journey. I had just turned 9 years old.
Every task and assignment seemed ten times harder for me than my peers
I knew from a young age that I received much more help than most of my peers. This could be due to the fact that I was pulled out for Resource Room, Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, and received two hours at home of one-on-one tutoring with my S.E.I.T. teacher (that I’ve had since the start of my journey). Although my childhood was nothing short of complete bliss, and I was convinced the world was sunshine and rainbows, I still knew that I was…special. I knew this, because every task and assignment seemed ten times harder for me than my peers, and it became more noticeable as I grew older.
My mom reminded me that it was my job as a hard worker to bring myself back on task
One evening, my mom called me into her room and sat me down on her bed to have a chat. My mom told me that I have something called “ADHD: Attention Deficit Non-Hyperactivity Disorder.” My mom also explained to me where my journey began, and how much progress I had made since my original cross-diagnosis on the spectrum at two and a half years old. My mom explained to me that this meant I had a learning disability, which is why I have such a hard time focusing and have received a variety of services both in and out of school. Being a sensitive child that always wanted to fit in, I cried. However, my mom reassured me that if I keep working as hard as I had, I could overcome a lot of the struggles I’ve faced. My mom reminded me that it was my job as a hard worker to bring myself back on task whenever I zoned out, and that I could still achieve anything I put my mind to.
After this, my teacher instantly saw an improvement in my ability to focus throughout class. I learned not to be so hard on myself whenever I had a difficult time in school. I realized that it wasn’t because I wasn’t working hard enough, but rather, because these are my areas of weakness that I’m still working on. Once you feel your child has the cognitive development to understand their diagnosis, arming your child with this knowledge can really help them make progress in their journey. After I knew about my learning disabilities, I learned the accommodations I received based on my IEP, and I slowly but surely learned how to advocate my needs to my teachers throughout the rest of my educational career (even up until graduate school!).
This label is not my identity
Truthfully, some days, I would cry out of frustration and ask myself, “Why me? Why did I have to have a learning disability?” but then I learned a few things along the way. First, I’m not alone, and that gave me a lot of comfort knowing that there were other students out there who empathized with my struggles. Second, this is a label, this is not my destiny. I can be anything I want to be! This label is not my identity. My identity is something I can control. And lastly, where you struggle in one area, you thrive in another. I may have struggled in my academics, but I was always a good artist, had great social skills, and a passion for creative writing (shocker). I’m here to tell you that although the future may seem uncertain, I promise you it can get better. Looking back, I can honestly say it’s one of the best decisions my parents ever made. Remember: Arming your child with knowledge is a key ingredient to strong progress. Your delivery can make or break it. I have faith in you, my amazing parents. You got this!
Claudia Rose Addeo is a freelance writer, inspirational speaker, and substitute teacher. Having her Master’s Degree in Literacy Education, Claudia writes and speaks about her personal journey, and shares additional information through her social media platform. You can follow her on Instagram @claudia.addeo or find her on Facebook: claudia.addeo.
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This post originally appeared on our September/October 2020 Magazine