By Allie Shyer
I do not know what makes my brain work differently from other people’s brains. They took me to a lot of doctors as a kid to try to figure it out. They determined that I was slower at arranging blocks by size or pattern than other people, and this was somehow an indication of something about me.
Nobody ever told me what, really. I was put in special classrooms for kids who weren’t like the other kids. I just wanted to be good and normal, but the tests said I was not that. Having a learning disability means that people will tell you what you can and cannot do, what you do and do not know, do not listen to them. It is true that lines curve downwards when I try to draw them straight, and columns of numbers jumble themselves in front of my eyes, this does not make me unintelligent. It means that my outlook will always be unique. I spent my entire time within the education system trying to prove to people that I was smart. Because there were tests that said I was different, I had to prove to them that I was worth keeping around. I knew what happened to the kids who were sent to schools for people with LD. They never ended up getting the opportunities or the education that I strived for.
I learned to pass at an early age. This meant acquiring skills and coping mechanisms that I used to hide my learning disability. One if these mechanisms is being able to read and anticipate the desires of others because I am often unable to perform tasks effectively. Instead I read social cues that will allow me to understand to root of motivation behind the task. If I can mimic the attitude that a teacher or boss desires, sometimes it is unimportant if I cannot actually perform the duty that is assigned to me.
The problem with accommodation in a society that has limited models of success is that although we claim not to discriminate, within the current educational model things that set you apart will set you behind. I am lucky that I had the ability to hide my difference to get through a system that was angled against me. Today I embrace the mystery of my own brain. I like to draw and see the wavy lines and collapsed distances. It helps me to think creatively and poetically, to see the middle distance and associative quality of mundane things, to embrace incorrectness and disorder both inside and outside of myself.