Students Who Are Impaired But Brilliant
As a child, I grew up having some learning disabilities. The terms that we have today for learning disabilities did not exist back then. Using today's terms, I grew up with a sequential learning disability, Attention Deficit Disorder, Dysgraphia, along with hearing issues. I struggled with anything mathematical or sequential, including verbal procedures. Having a lack of attention, I found myself unable to follow directions in entirety. I would daydream while staring at the second hand on the school clock just hoping that the class would soon end. I would also pass the daunting time by trying to act as the class clown, often disengaging from the rest of the class. It was difficult for me to retain anything I read. My hand would write ahead of myself, which would result in disordered letters. It wasn’t that I couldn’t spell. My brain was processing faster than my motor skills would permit, and I would become overwhelmed. Slowing down instruction was not a solution. I had to learn how to sort it all out and control it.
Back then, we knew very little of what we know today as far as behavioral disorders and learning disabilities. In order to deal with me, the school and counselors recommended to put me on Ritalin. My mother decided not to do that. Instead, she endured by nurturing me with patience, love, and support despite the backlash that she received for not following their lead. I still live with some of these struggles today, but learned to overcome through perseverance and clinging to my bible.
“Don’t let your struggle become your identity” – Toby Mac
How true that statement is. When people see that you are different, have struggles, or don’t quite fit in with the commonality of the classroom, it’s alright. These Lone Rangers are the very ones who become CEOs of large companies, develop rockets for NASA, and find a cure for cancer. These are the very students that will make great things happen, because they use parts of their brain that others don’t. If everyone was to be like everyone else, then we would have a really big problem.
I found that hands-on was one of the best things in education that could have happened to me, as it opened a whole new world of opportunity and learning that helped me work through my learning disabilities. Without hands-on exploration to see how things actually worked, there was a disconnect in learning. Many educators center learning limited to the book-smart theory and application. It is amazing when a different approach or angle is taken, how a light switch turns on. A student who struggled can fully understand, by simply reversing the order of learning: hands-on, application, then theory. Surprisingly, I have met engineers who could not even start a small engine. I believe without hands-on, one will always be limited and won't reach their full potential. That is why students who are usually cast aside for their struggles or differences are the very ones that need a different approach in teaching.
As a society, we need diverse thinking and differences in people from all backgrounds in order to advance. Inventors think of things that others have not. Innovators make things better where others could not. No two chefs cook exactly the same. It’s okay to be different, and we are not to be defined by what others think of us or how the system tries to categorize us. The school system definitely needs to do a better job in recognizing and supporting, without prejudice, gifted and talented students throughout the community - some which are hidden diamonds in the rough. I will write a future article on this topic, which will include some ideas and solutions on how the school systems can address some of these challenges. Even if a student's gifted and talented abilities are not recognized while going through grade school, that doesn't mean that the student doesn't possess them. That specialty will be used later for something great.
As parents and educators, we need to do all that we can to make sure that the school system maximizes the grant funding for the purpose it was received. School accountability for the equal opportunity and quality of advanced specialized education, including STEM programs and IEPs are a must. These funds have been taken advantage of far too long at the expense of our children. We need to do much better, and our future depends on it.
By the grace of God, I turned out to be an IT consultant, solution provider, software developer, establish procedures for businesses, analyze statistical data, and do a lot of reading and writing. As a child, I would have never seen that coming, as these were all of the things that I absolutely despised. Ironically, I now find myself doing the very things that once plagued me for a living. As a parent, I encourage parents, students, and teachers to never lose heart. Invest your all in that child who's different, and hold the course no matter the challenge.
Fellow Editor at the DelmarvaPTC.org
July 24, 2020