The Gift of a Learning Disability
We often hear about a child or an adult who has ADHD or dyslexia or one of the many other learning disabilities (LDs) and feel sorry for them. Many people are embarrassed and ashamed that they are different than others and have had to struggle in school or at a job. Many parents avoid getting their children evaluated because they don't want them labeled. A person's self-esteem can be significantly impacted by this struggle and it can effect them for the rest of their life.
My experience was different. I struggled in elementary school with reading. Although I did very well in my math classes, I couldn't do well in English class no matter how hard I worked. I couldn't read until 3rd grade and even when I started reading, I had a hard time keeping up with the rest of my class.
My mother was never the type to give up on anything, especially her children, so she took me to doctors and specialists. I was diagnosed with dyslexia and my mother completely changed my diet. She brought me to a center in New York City every week to get eye exercises. She gave me carrot juice (which tasted awful to a 9 year old) and took me to health food stores and alternative doctors before it was the thing to do.
During this time, she never gave me the impression that I was lazy or stupid. Instead, she told me that I was very smart and capable. She had faith in me that with the right help, I would be able to succeed. Although I never became a top student in my English class, I did succeed. I went to Cornell University and completed a masters degree. And getting through my earlier struggles has made me the person that I am - hardworking, creative, efficient, empathic.
People with LDs are gifted - we are unique, special, different. But being different in this society can be very difficult. We look at our friends and neighbors and see what looks like a perfect life. We compare ourselves or our children and feel that we don't measure up. But if we look at our differences as strengths instead of weaknesses, we can help our children feel good about who they are and we can feel good about who we are. We can help parents appreciate and nurture their children's unique gifts - just like my mom did. And if you didn't have a mom or dad who did that, every day you can nurture yourself and surround yourself with people who appreciate and celebrate the unique and special person you are.
Jill Barnett Kaufman, MSW, LCSW and Certified Parent Educator is an experienced clinician who helps clients discover new ways to resolve a variety of challenges and bring more happiness and peace into their lives.