I’ve always loved the social aspect of school. Talking to people and getting to know them I find enjoyable. But the learning part…not so much.
I first realized I was different in second grade. I was never able to score close to my peers on math or spelling tests. Papers were returned to me with red marks all over them, and I tried to hide them because I was embarrassed. I watched as all the other kids flew through their classwork. I ended up hiding in the bathroom for long periods to avoid being in the classroom.
Fear & Self-Loathing
Although I was working as best I could, school began to feel impossible. Soon I was not completing my homework because it was too hard, and even if I did do it, I was certain all the answers would be wrong.
Even though I was just eight years old I regularly cried myself to sleep, wishing the next morning I’d wake up smart like everybody else.
My mom eventually contacted the school to tell them something was not right. At that time my parents were getting a divorce and the school believed that was the cause of my erratic behavior and low test scores. But my mom knew me better than that.
Knowledge Is Power
After much back and forth, I saw a learning disability specialist who explained to me dyslexia and dysgraphia. Finally, I understood that I wasn’t stupid and that I did know what I was doing, but needed more time and a different way to learn.
At the start of fourth grade, adjustments in my education were made through an IEP and I was placed in the resource room for reading and math. At first I was ashamed of being pulled out of class and having to go to what I called the “little room,” but I was relieved when I got there because I could finally do my schoolwork without everyone watching me and me watching everyone else.
I coasted through the next few years. I was no longer struggling, but I wasn’t really striving either. That is until I attended a workshop on self-advocacy for special education students entering high school. It was there that I learned what my learning style and strengths were.
The “Aha!” Moment
But nothing impacted me more than this bizarre video called Wear Sunscreen. It was about taking advantage of every situation you encounter and not worrying about things; that everything that is meant to be will be.
That really connected with me because my whole life I had been hesitant to try out for things or speak up in class because I was worried that people would make fun of me. After that video, I vowed to do the best that I could, try new things, and push myself to become a better me.
Armed with self-advocacy techniques and a better understanding of myself, I entered high school, where I truly strived and became who I am today. By my senior year I was taking AP World History and honors English. I’m no longer embarrassed about having a learning disability. I now realize how it has affected my life and that without it I would not be the passionate and hard-working person that I am.
My journey has inspired me to take action. During past summers I’ve traveled to Kenya and Ghana building schools for children who do not have access to education. Being given the tools and opportunity to learn is close to my heart because that is what I needed.
Growing up with LD has not been easy. There have been tears, anger, and frustration. However, nothing has given me greater joy than accomplishing things that had once been difficult, or being able to help others, especially in educational situations.
I know that I can achieve anything I set my mind to. Overcoming the challenges of LD has taught me the importance of hard work and to never give up.
Megan Villone of Rivervale, NJ was a finalist in Smart Kids’ 2014 Fred J. Epstein Youth Achievement Award contest.