Dyslexia This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Dyslexia

by Anon., Brunswick, ME

I first found out in third grade. I was in shock ... the worst thing that could have happened. I had always had trouble spelling and reading but to be "retarded"? Why me? What did I do to deserve this? The word was so ominous: dyslexia. A word used for "slow," "retarded" people. I didn't want to be different, but I knew I was. I had always been a quiet student and knowing I was dyslexic made me feel inferior to the other kids, and if they found out what I had, I was convinced they would shun me. So I wouldn't have to go through this torture, I closed myself off from other students and lived in my own world, one of sadness and confusion.

After I was diagnosed, I started in a program with the school counselor once a week, and Chapter One tutoring (the federal program that finances these special classes) on another day. I did not know who the counselor was, and in elementary school I had no concept of what this man's responsibility should be. I just knew that I went to talk to a stranger for forty-five minutes, and this person was asking me, a shy withdrawn little girl, to tell him my feelings. I had always been taught not to talk to strangers, and I also came from a family that did not openly express feelings. To have to "spill my guts" to this man (who was a constant reminder that I was different) was nearly impossible.

I never told him how I truly felt about my "handicap," how I feared the judgment, or how I hit my head against the wall to try to get my brains to fall back into place so I wouldn't be "stupid" anymore. In short, I was afraid, afraid of telling him. What if he yelled at me? Or what if he told my parents? What if he misunderstood and told my teachers? Attending the Chapter One program, with the kids I knew to be "slow," only amplified my feelings of being an outsider. I was in the top level math class and the second level reading class, yet I was attending a tutorial session with kids who were not able to make it in the "real" classes. Was I like these people? Was I "dumb"? I would go home from school crying because I was different and I knew there was nothing I could do about it. I made excuses when my classmates asked me where I was going twice a week. But I couldn't tell them I was going to a tutor. What would they think?

When I entered junior high, the school took me out of the mandatory music class so Resource Support could fit into my schedule. I still couldn't tell my slowly increasing number of friends where I was going. I knew I wasn't like the mentally handicapped. I didn't take separate classes from the majority of the other students. Yet I wasn't like the others because I took one special class, Resource Support. When people saw Resource Support as a class, they would ask what it was. "Study hall," I would lie, as I ripped my schedule out of their hands and quickly change the subject. I was very careful not to tell anyone of my condition in the formal language, that I was dyslexic. Partly because I was afraid of judgment and partly because I didn't think I could explain it in a way they could understand. I didn't tell even my best friends. I was no longer afraid they would shun me, but I was afraid they would treat me in a different way. I wanted all my friends to see me as a "normal" person.

The middle of my sophomore year I started to realize I was not so different. Sure, I had a learning disability, but if I just did a little extra work, I could get grades as good as anyone else. I started working harder and gaining confidence. I wasn't making as many excuses about Resource Support. It felt good to take responsibility for solutions rather than problems. I realized I wasn't "dumb" or "retarded," I was special, and special was good. I simply needed to take things more slowly, and by doing so I grew to appreciate them. I do have an advantage, though: unlike many of my peers, once I learn something, because of the rigorous way I have learned to study, I remember it.

I have now dropped Resource Support entirely because I want to prove I can make it on my own. At this point I tell my good friends I am dyslexic, because I realize it is only a word for what before this was a handicap. I also have made it a point to go to all of my teachers, explain my disability, my strengths, my weaknesses, and to ask for suggestions to improve my learning capability in their class. For the most part, teachers have been supportive and helpful.

Although growing up has not been easy, and there have been times when I did not think I would make it, the challenge has made me stronger. It has taught me that I must work harder than others to accomplish the same amount; but I have accepted this and I actually look forward to the opportunity.

After I have finished a project I have a great sense of accomplishment knowing I can make it on my own. In many respects, the difficulties have benefitted my sense of self confidence and have allowed me a chance to see what I am capable of ... anything.


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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Little girl said...
Jan. 17 at 11:04 pm
I am 17 years old. I am right at the brink of trying to find my path of work. Work ! There are so many closed doors to people that are not conventional I.e. Strait A with a love of school and tests. And all the people that can read and spell to there grade. Me I love animals! Ever since I was adopted from Russia I have loved animals. I also love big tools ! But before I go try for my job of choice I want to work at a coffee shop. But oh no I have to learn every drink and price of thoses dri... (more »)
 
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