This is a subject that, despite having years to have lived with it and being able to overcome some barriers pertaining to such obstacles, lays a soft and vulnerable spot within me that at times feels like ripping off a scab on a healing wound over again. I’m writing this in the hopes of finding posts and blogs relating to my topic as well as helping those with similar problems find light within their own learning barriers, hence I write about mental health issues.
At the age of three – four-years-old, I was evaluated by school psychologists because I “displayed similar symptoms that her older brother with autism has.” — Another words, one day while my family, including myself, went to see how my brother interacted in his special education class with his peers and studying what he was capable of comprehending, I too was being watched right alongside of him. “She walks on her tip-toes and seems very distant when being talked to,” one school psychologist puts it to my mother as the reason that I should be given an evaluation. Coming from a long line of authoritative figures knowing what’s best for their child, that was the next thing my mother did.
I didn’t develop in the same stage and criteria as those among my peers were at; I was painfully and unreasonably shy to the point of being mute in front of those whom I didn’t know; it took several times being told to do certain tasks that I’d follow through with them by the very same figures I was mute towards; and, among other daily tasks, it took longer than average to develop cognitively that correlated well with the shyness in order to be assumed that I should have been evaluated for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). While not comprehending fully as to why I was being evaluated, the reason for evaluation itself gave a complex deep within that made me more self-conscious than the average five-year-old should have been in a small classroom. There have been distant memories that I swore had made me a bit late in other aspects, such as reading and writing, though my mother insists that it wasn’t the case. So it led to the result of landing in many years’ worth of the public school special education system.
As the years progressed, there were advantages as well as downfalls that didn’t let me advance to the regular coursework that most of my friends were able to do throughout the school day. I was in the regular classroom along with a selected few who had a teacher’s aide assist and water down the work so that we were able to better understand what was taught. An IEP was set up and it wasn’t until the middle of high school that my buttons were pushed to the point I landed in inclusion classes – the next to last of actual special education and on the edge of being equivalent to a dropout, which almost happened within my senior year. Was it because I, according to the education system, held a lower IQ than most peers that led me to nearly dropping out while in those classes? Or did my ‘angst’ teenage depression play a role that made me have zilch motivation and fail courses carelessly, as that never happened until I reached the stage I couldn’t keep track as to what day it was? The best way to describe that period of time was a consistent fog. Nothing mattered and suicide was at the tip of the iceberg that I was finding myself stranded upon. From the earliest suicide attempt at the ripe age of twelve, that’s when my journey of the invisible and unexplained disability began; the disability that, ironically enough, was kept from my professors and psychologist long until I’ve ended up in the psych ward and gave brief descriptions of events that couldn’t pinpoint the ruthless and never-ending depression itself.
It took me a few years after high school to “shape up” and decide as to what I want to do for the rest of my life – which, of course, is yet to be determined to this day. Only a selective few know where they are really going with their life on a day-to-day basis, right? What has changed is the sense of living within the moment that seemed like I was in the middle of a haze and that it wouldn’t have mattered if I were to be around to contribute to the burdens of my loved ones by simply being visible and witnessing that spiritual demise. The sense of motivation has started to kick in while there are still days where I want nothing more to lay on the bed and stare into space and time. This goes to say that, yes, circumstances can change the destiny of the person when given the material to enhance with the problem itself; it can never alter the barriers that make the person choose the destiny they desire without paying the excruciating price that can mentally, emotionally and at times physically pain the individual.
Because of the traditional label of “the feeble brain” that still remains within the education system as well as societal taboos despite the Disabilities Act and laws to not discriminate within the workforce, is it any wonder why some individuals give up before their lives begin and henceforth are subliminally labeled as a lost cause? As a latter question, does the No Child Left Behind do anything to help academically disadvantaged students, or further oust them from the society they are conditioned in? These are questions I will spend my life trying to find the answer so that future generations will not have to endure the humiliation and low-quality that, in the end, makes education itself not worth pursuing for a good handful of potentials not confined to the narrow path of standardized testing.
What I’ve learned while labeled as a Learning Disabled is that it isn’t the learning disability itself that barricaded my access to a higher education, but the mental health conditions often associated that give as a reactionary life-altering decision of giving up. When a system identifies the root problem and ignores the side effects because “it is too much dedication and work” for every individual case, that is a system that needs to be questioned and uprooted just as one should when a person experiences a lifetime physical illness and finds treatment to uplift the symptoms of that illness and overall improved quality of life.
Unfortunately, even many within the mental health profession tend to dismiss the individual and rather associate with their cognitive and psychological weaknesses as their overall confinement, which I will get into further detail in one of my future blogs. This type of toxicity within the field needs to be outdated so that society can produce many more proactive and able-bodied citizens and narrow the gap of those with “invisible disabilities” as well as physical ones. If accommodation comes without further expectation of the person finding their strong suits and capabilities, what betterment does it do than those without the access of accommodation in the first place?
I may have a learning disability, but I am not feeble-minded as it once was labeled within the late nineteenth century.