NOTE: October is Learning Disabilities (LD)/Dyslexia/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Awareness (ADHD) Month.
By Michaela Hearst, an advocate, writer, and a social worker.
I was diagnosed with nonverbal learning disorder (NVLD) and learning disability not otherwise specified (LD-NOS) when I was 14 years old. I share my personal story with the hope it will inspire or help others.
Every experience I’ve undergone in the past has led me to where I am now.
Educators have a responsibility to continuously educate themselves about the needs of their students.
Back in high school, I was convinced there was no future for me in academia because of my learning disability. Today, I have a master’s degree in social work, with the long-term goal of helping others like me by enacting change on a systemic level.
As a student, I inevitably had to learn how to advocate for myself even before I was diagnosed.
There have been times in school, including graduate school, where I didn’t know what accommodations I needed or what would truly help me.
One concrete accommodation I’ve had for years is extra time on exams. I had to apply for extra time for the social work master’s exam and the review board requested past documentation.
In ninth grade, my neuropsychological evaluation recommended that I receive time and a half on exams. However, my later struggles revealed that I would benefit from double time and this was indicated on my IEP.
Despite this recommendation, I was only given time and a half for my exam because the board felt that I did not need double time. This experience continues to frustrate and anger me, particularly with the knowledge that students younger than I am are undergoing similar struggles–and, on top of that, the challenges brought on by COVID-19.
When I first learned that many schools were planning to reopen for the fall, my greatest concern was that students would learn to prioritize school over health.
I hope others will take the time this fall to advocate for what they need in remote learning and be sure that others are equipped with the knowledge and tools to advocate for themselves. That is my commitment to students with LD all across the country.
Michaela Hearst is an advocate, writer, and most recently, a social worker. She recently graduated with a Master of Social Work from the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College. Michaela is a member of the Young Adult Leadership Council organized by the National Center for Learning Disabilities. She is currently a project social ambassador for the NVLD Project and the first guest blogger at Friends of Quinn.
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