Don’t DIS my ABILITY!

October is Learning Disabilities Awareness Month

The theme for this year’s Learning Disabilities Awareness Month is, “Don’t DIS my ABILITY!: Imagine the difference it could make if we focused on the strengths of people with learning disabilities instead of their weaknesses?”  Here’s some basic facts about learning disabilities (LDs):

  • It is generally accepted that 10% of the general population has LD
  • By definition, someone with LD has average to above average intelligence
  • LDs impact certain skills, most of which can be improved with the appropriate supports
  • When individuals with LD do not receive timely appropriate supports, they have a higher than average rate of school dropout, unemployment, and poverty

Don't Dis my Ability

Why a Person’s Abilities Matter

“People too often define the life of someone living with LDs by the areas where their LDs impact directly, such as math, reading, writing, or organizational skills.  The goal of this campaign is for people to see beyond that to their multiple areas of strength.  LDs didn’t stop Richard Branson, Jamie Oliver, or John Lennon.  A person with LDs just needs the right supports to achieve success.” – Lawrence Barns, President and CEO of LDAO

Our goal is to see that every person living with LD in Windsor-Essex County is given the support, opportunity, and understanding they need to succeed, by seeing their true ability!  Please help us accomplish our goal by:

  • donating to LDAWE,
  • following our social media feeds (see the links below),
  • encouraging your friends, family, and colleagues to follow our social media feeds,
  • sharing our various LD Awareness Month posts, tweets, and images on your own social media feeds, and
  • using the hashtags #LDMonth and #LD on your own posts, tweets, and images.

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The Advantages of AD(H)D

During my studies at the Faculty of Education (formerly, teachers’ college,) I watched a video about AD(H)D that stuck with me.  It wasn’t a very interesting video, no special CGIs, nor any fun music.  This was a video that, much like many other “educational films,” was likely produced in the 80s or 90s.  The picture was old, the sound muffled, and the clothing out of style; how anyone else would remember this video from the other hoards of brain-eating educational monsters is beyond me –but I did.  It was a simple spoken sentence that made me think.  A straight-edged, take-no-nonesense suit, with dark, moosed hair parted on the side, looked at the camera and explained that people with attention deficit do not have a deficit of attention at all, but rather too much attention to everything.

It’s true.  I can’t remember how many times I’ve had my mind on a million things at once.  My mind then started to focus on that one sentence and what it meant to me.  I started to think of all the times that I’ve multi-tasked, or have seen things others don’t notice.  I remembered the times when I became overly focused, almost obsessed with one thing.  I was looking at AD(H)D wrong the whole time.  I can pay attention, I just struggle with focusing my attention.  Why didn’t they coin it FD(H)D?

With just that one class, I began to reinvent how I approached my AD(H)D.  I saw it more as a super power than a limitation.  I began to notice how my mind has been using it all along.  When I drive, I’m never just watching the car in front of me.  I’ve got an eye on the car slowing down in front of him, the speeding passer approaching from my left, the pedestrian about to jaywalk, the blinking hand telling me that my green light is about to turn, and train that is about to cross in the distance.  I see my path clearly and quickly.  I hit the gas to get out before the car on my left passes me, honk my horn at the pedestrian to stop their would be jaywalking, make it through the light, signal to pass the slowing car, and make my right turn so that I may cross the trains path on the overpass as to avoid the delay.  After having got myself out of a would-be jam, I’m now upset because I heard over the radio that my team just gave up a goal as I was passing that slow car.

In basketball I used my mind to drive the ball.  I’d dribble up the court, weaving around my opponents until the moment where I see a trap being set under the hoop, so I drop a no-look pass to my teammate as they cut in from behind me.  My mind allows me to track all the players on the court with ease.

AD(H)D and many other disabilities do not need to be seen as a disadvantage.  If we look at each disability with an open mind, we can begin to see how we can use our abilities instead of limiting ourselves and others.  Now knowing the abilities (or super powers, if you will) of someone with AD(H)D, I know just how I want to use them.  Maybe I should feature them in a play, as acting requires attention to the entire scene, not just the person they are speaking to.  Maybe I should teach them to conduct an orchestra so that they may focus on every part being played.  Maybe I need to give them roles as supervisors, able to monitor large groups to ensure that everyone is on task.

I grew up in an educational system that was just starting to evolve.  Teachers were still handing me books, and forcing me to read rather than allowing me to explore my text book.  I would often read ahead to the more interesting parts of my history text book.  This drove my teacher mad.  She would insist that I learn what everyone else is learning, despite how horribly boring it may be.  I would fail her class; years later I would, however, go back and learn what she wanted me to after learning about how it related to more interesting parts of history.

I encourage my students to work at their own pace.  I tell the students what they are responsible for learning, and let them chose which chapter to start on.  Sometimes I let students share work; one student studies chapter 1, the other chapter 2, then they give each other the answers to the chapter questions.  Many students (and teachers) would consider this cheating, I find that it actually encourages students to ask questions about clarification and understanding; questions that lead to a deeper understanding.

In my work as a supply teacher, I was called in one day to teach an English class.  This class was reading Percy Jackson and the lightning thief on computers.  Each were at different parts, some were even reading just the paper book itself.  I opened one of the paper books, and read a part of the final battle, which I leave you with:

My senses were working overtime. I now understood what Annabeth had said about ADHD keeping you alive in battle. I was wide awake, noticing every little detail.

I could see where Ares was tensing. I could tell which way he would strike. At the same time, I was aware of Annabeth and Grover, thirty feet to my left. I saw a second cop car pulling up, siren wailing.
Spectators, people who had been wandering the streets because of the earthquake, were starting to gather. Among the crowd, I thought I saw a few who were walking with the strange, trotting gait of
disguised satyrs. There were shimmering forms of spirits, too, as if the dead had risen from Hades to watch the battle. I heard the flap of leathery wings circling somewhere above.