This story starts about ten years ago, when I was in third grade. I was ten years old, and struggling somewhat in school – for good reason. While I can’t recall being bullied by my peers much (I can only think of one time when the class bully actually picked on me), I was tortured every day by my teacher. She had begun to notice that while I read books faster than anyone and actually was two grades ahead of the rest of my class, I took the longest to do anything with a pencil. Whether it was writing down the day’s schedule or working on a math test (the bane of my existence at the time), I just couldn’t do it in time.
She thought I was just being stubborn. She tried everything to get me to write faster, probably thinking it was just a problem with motivation. Please tell me what about candy isn’t motivational to a ten year old kid? When that didn’t work, she and the school board took away the one thing I looked forward to during the day: reading time.
That year, I was diagnosed with Mild Cerebral Palsy, and a concurrent writing disability. You would think that this would make this better for me, but it didn’t. I was given infinite amount of time on my math tests, and this made lunch great, since I ate the coveted pizza and ice cream instead of boring old Smuckers sandwiches. However, it also made the person assigned to pick up tests hate me, because they would have to stand and wait for me. I only say this in hindsight, since my Aspergers diagnosis was still a full four years in the future.
By the time school was halfway over, I would no longer read in reading time, but sit with my open journal crying because I had no idea why my teachers hated me so much. My self-esteem took a nosedive, and the piles of unfinished homework waiting for me at home didn’t help. After I did neuropsychological testing, the results showed that I was borderline depressed and, according to the evidence in the report, “uneducatable.”
Now, even the principal knew that this was a completely wrong conception of my ability. However, the school board was more concerned about money, and this poor depiction of my skills would allow them to rescind my accomodations, which cost them money. Fed up with how I was being treated, my mom took me out of the school system and started homeschooling me herself.
Fourth grade was spent watching documentaries and sipping cups of tea with my mom, and leaving the local library with as many books as we could carry, while also working to rebuild my shattered self-worth. Cue a whirl of field trips, the creation of a circle of friends who loved me despite my faults, and a much more understanding teacher.
And over time, I got better. I became my normal, jovial self, and developed an interest in history that lasts to this day. When I started middle school, my father began to give me books from his own shelves for me to read, stories by such names as James Rollins and Dan Brown. Watching old X-Men cartoons and Star Trek: Next Gen left me with an enduring interest in sci-fi and fantasy, and eventually I began my own excursions into creative writing. It helped that I was a proficient typer, and can type as fast as anyone else.
In time, I blacked out most of third and fourth grade. I even took the same test just a few years ago, and the results were a much more accurate representation of my skills. The problem with math that had haunted me for years was finally revealed: I had a processing disability, called disfluency. When we went to Vocational Rehabilitation with a full list of my disabilities, they revealed that I was eligable for a full ride to any state college.
I dual-enrolled the next school year, with accomodations for those disabilities that might affect my schoolwork, and did more than just pass my classes with flying colors – I even got an award from one teacher for advocating my Aspergers.
It was only recently that I realized that over the years since starting to homeschool, I had proven every assumption made about me wrong. The little girl deemed “uneducatable” is now a grown woman who will be starting college this year, coasting in on her academic success. She is willing to work hard to achieve her goals, and in no way a malcontent. She is happy where she is in her life, and more than willing to climb any mountain in her way to reach her dreams.
The best kind of revenge, I see now, is to get on with your life and triumph despite the odds.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.