Student Life

My experience with learning disabilities

One Concordia student’s experience dealing with dyslexia and learning disabilities

It is without question that the greatest thing dyslexia has taught me is patience.

In elementary school, I didn’t start out on the same even playing field as the rest of the kids when it came to reading.  It was obvious to everyone. As a kid, being dyslexic and having memory problems felt like I was trying to join in on a game that, not only did I not know the rules to, but that I wasn’t allowed to play. It was incredibly alienating.

While my friends were reading Magic Tree House books, I couldn’t even read street signs. I knew I was different. At the time, the only logical conclusion I could come to was that I must not be very smart. When you’re nine years old and you think you’re dumb because you can’t read, spell, do math or really participate in school… well it almost shut me down.

Fortunately, I was lucky.  My parents decided to remove me from the French immersion program I was in at the time, and transferred me to a school with a special education program.  I know this was a delicate and serious decision for my parents to make.  Transferring schools meant uprooting the entire social life of a child who was already dealing with severe emotional anxiety.

Obviously, I think they worried that I had trouble making friends. After all, I was a rash-covered, highly nervous little kid who spent the majority of the day in a separate special education class. I only recently found out that my dad was so worried about me during this time that, after dropping me off at school in the mornings, he would sometimes sit in the car and just cry before driving away to work.

I say that I am incredibly lucky because I had a good support system and hard work on my part eventually made things easier.  Also, lots of educational testing, being given the resources I needed in my special education program and having amazing teachers who were thoughtful, kind, passionate, patient and incredibly dedicated made a huge difference. I was given the time and opportunity to come into my own, in a protected bubble where my results on educational testing didn’t matter.

At Concordia, I am still benefiting from the same kinds of resources I had back in elementary school, thanks in large part to the Access Centre for Students with Disabilities and some of the amazing and accommodating professors I have had during my time at Concordia.

My only piece of advice for those with learning disabilities, or for their family members, is to be patient. It can be a very long road when you have a learning disability, so it’s important to celebrate the small victories and remain determined. This patience and hard work will hopefully bring you closer to your goals and to success in school and life, as it did for me.

Graphic by Thom Bell

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