Tough Stuff

Learning disabilities: The do's and don'ts of letting people know



Maybe you’ve been dealing with a learning disability all your life, or maybe it’s a new thing that’s been developing. Whatever your case, the fact is you have one and as much as you wish you could ignore it at times, it’s there. There comes a time when you really need to face the facts. Whether you’re dealing with OCD, ADHD, Dyslexia, Anxiety Disorder, or any other possible disabilities, it's simple: sometimes you need to include little adjustments in your day-to-day life to make things a bit easier. With school almost back in session, now’s the perfect time to be planning ahead for the upcoming year. Here are some dos and don’ts on tackling the task of letting people help you help yourself. 

Do: Keep your parents involved.

Sure, parents can be a li’l annoying at times. Overprotective? Controlling? Maybe seeming like they are out to kind of ruin your life? Yeah. But at the end of the day, all of it is really out of love and concern. Keep them involved and don’t try to battle them. Combatting learning disabilities is far more efficient when you’re working as a team. Maybe you need to up counseling sessions, get some help from a tutor, or even have been considering taking medication. None of that can really happen without the permission/assistance from a parent or guardian. Tell them what you’re dealing with so they can help you make the adjustments needed.

Don’t: Abuse your parent’s trust.

Yes, it’s cheesy, but seriously. If that bad history grade is a result of you not actually studying instead of the fact that you zoned out halfway through because you couldn’t concentrate? Yeah, tell the truth; don’t lead them on. You may end up blowing money on tutoring and being over-medicated because you weren’t completely honest.

Do: Talk to your teachers.

Yes, it’s scary, but this makes a huge difference. Did you know that most of your teachers actually want you to succeed? Crazy thought, right? Whether it’s your anxiety disorder that prevents you from presenting in front of the class confidently, or your ADHD that makes concentrating on tests borderline impossible, talking to your teachers and coming up with a strategy on how to tackle your work and complete assignments on time can be a huge help, especially if you struggle with something like Dyslexia or ADHD, which can make studying and homework twice as tedious. Remember: Teachers are people too! Plus, if you talk to the administration at your school and apply with the proper paperwork stating your learning disability, you could even be legally granted extended time on exams, including on major standardized tests like the SATs and ACTs. Trust me, speaking from personal experience, it really can make all the difference.

Don’t: Use an LD as an excuse at the last minute.

“Sorry, I couldn’t complete the project that was assigned three weeks ago and present in front of the class today because I have anxiety.” Um, how about no? Learning disabilities shouldn’t be an excuse or a roadblock; they’re more like little speed bumps. Presenting in front of the class gives you full out panic attacks? Talk to your teacher wayyy before the project is due.

Do: Discuss problems with directors and coaches in advance.

You’re no different than anyone else, so don’t let a learning disability control your life. Try out for the team, audition for the play and sing your heart out on stage. However, if there’s something that may prevent you from doing so, let your coaches and directors know ahead of time. Perhaps you can help manage the team instead of going out on the field, or be a major player behind the scenes in a performing arts production. Find your comfort zone and allow yourself to shine, then maybe push some boundaries.

Don’t: Use your disability as an excuse to get out of something.

Again, it’s not an excuse. It’s just part of who you are. Don’t tell people, “I have anxiety/OCD/ADHD/etc. so I can’t...”, tell people “It’s hard for me to…., because I have anxiety/OCD/ADHD/etc.” It’s not an excuse, it’s just who you are, and you have to make some minor adjustments. Don’t become a quitter just because you refused to even give it a try.

Do: Make your friends and peers aware.

If your learning disability causes physical discomfort for you or results in something that you may need help dealing with (such as a panic attack), make close friends or even peers aware in case they have to help you deal with a situation until they can get an adult to help. If you had a severe food allergy, you would coach someone on how to use an EpiPen, if you had a broken leg you would have someone help you carry your books. This is no different. Let them know so they can help you and not react badly if you occasionally have to count your steps or only eat things in threes. 

Don’t: Advertise.

Or do, if you must, but do you really want to be known as the girl who can’t shut up about her ADHD? Not exactly. Let people know, but in moderation.

Remember: Don’t let your disabilities define you. They’re not who you are, they’re just a small part of something you have to deal with. Don’t let a disability limit what you can do or your confidence. Albert Einstein, Walt Disney and Bill Gates are a just a few of the many extremely successful people who battled learning disabilities. And, hey, they turned out pretty OK.


by Kate Radin | 2/1/2016
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