How to Accept Learning Disabilities

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A person with learning disabilities has difficulty processing certain types of information. The most common learning disabilities are dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia. Learning disabilities can interfere with everything from basic learning to higher level skills such as organization, time management, reasoning, and memory. Children and adults can have learning disabilities, which may affect their lives beyond school and work. Individuals with learning disabilities may be embarrassed and experience social stigmas about their disorder, making the disorder hard to accept. You can learn to accept your learning disability by acknowledging it, dealing with it in a positive and proactive way, and getting support.

Acknowledging Your Disability

  1. Identify the signs of a learning disability. You may not be sure that you have a learning disability. You may also not know typical symptoms if you do have one. Figuring out if you have specific signs allows you to actively and positively address them. It can also help you more easily accept any learning disability. Some of the most common symptoms of learning difficulties in adults and children are:
    • Short attention span
    • Poor memory
    • Difficulty following directions
    • Inability to differentiate between or among letters or reversing letters
    • Poor reading and/ or writing
    • Poor coordination
    • Disorganization
    • Restless or easily distracted
    • Difficulty understanding words or concepts
  2. Recognize that learning disabilities are common. If you have a learning disability or suspect one, you may feel alone or even embarrassed. You’re neither alone nor do you have anything about which to be embarrassed. In fact, learning disabilities are very common: up to 20% of Americans have one. Understanding how normal it is to have a learning disability can help you more readily accept your learning disability.
    • Look around a room in which you’re sitting. Count ten people and say, “Two of those people have learning disabilities.” Then expand this to the whole room. This can help you realize that many of the people sitting with you—some you may know—have learning disabilities like you.
    • Focus on others if you’re feeling down about your disability. For example, say, “I don’t get these instructions. Actually, Kate said she was having a hard time with them, too. Maybe she also has a learning disability. We could figure this out together!”
  3. See an education specialist. Education specialists or psychologists can identify learning disabilities. Scheduling an appointment with either can identify your specific learning disabilities and ways to navigate them. This may help you overcome your disorder and accept it. The specialist or psychologist may:
    • Monitor your progress
    • Establish benchmarks for learning
    • Explore developmental, social and school or work performance
    • Discuss family history
    • Test for academic achievement
    • Assess your psychological state
  4. Talk to your doctor. If you suspect or have a learning disability, schedule an appointment with your doctor. A medical examination can identify or rule out possible causes of learning disabilities. This can help you get treatment as well as accept and work with your learning disability.
    • Give your doctor any relevant information from your own assessment or professional opinions. This can help your doctor identify possible underlying causes of your disability.
    • Recognize that your visit may include a neurological and/ or psychiatric exam. These test for brain diseases or dysfunctions and emotional disorders.

Navigating Your Learning Disability in a Positive Way

  1. Keep in mind that learning is different for everyone. There are many different learning styles and people have to adjust to accommodate their styles. However, this does not mean that one style is better than another style. They are just different.
    • For example, some people learn best by using their hands and others learn best by seeing visual representations of an idea, such as diagrams, pictures, and other images.
    • Remind yourself that you have a different learning style from other people and that is okay.
  2. Embrace your learning disability. Learning disabilities are often present for life. Even if you work with your disability, it may stay a part of your life. Learning to embrace this can help you accept your disability.
    • Recognize that your learning disability doesn’t define you. It can even make you stronger. You can have a full, active, and rewarding life with a learning disability. Keeping this in mind may help you more easily accept your learning disorder.
    • Think about some of the coping mechanisms you’ve developed to deal with your symptoms. This may help you realize that you’ve done a great job with the challenges you have had.
    • Have faith in yourself, your abilities, and the ability to work constructively with your disorder can help you accept it.
  3. Focus on your accomplishments. Your learning disability doesn’t define you. Every person has traits and accomplishments that are positive. Think about what makes you wonderful and how much you’ve done in your life. This can help you realize that you are not your disability and accept that it’s a part of what makes you a wonderful person.
    • Make a list of everything you do well. This shows you that your learning disability is one small part of what you do and who you are.
    • Compose a list of special accomplishments that make you proud. For example, “I got the prize for getting the highest math scores this year,” or “I won a regional running competition.”
    • Remember that even something like, “I got a higher score than I expect,” is an accomplishment.
  4. Give yourself positive affirmations. Tell yourself something positive every day to build yourself up and boost your confidence. This can help you embrace and accept your disability. Some things you might say to yourself include:
    • “I might have a learning disability, but I am awesome at writing essays.”
    • “I may not have a knack for chemistry, but I am a talented dancer.”
    • “Sometimes my learning disability makes school difficult, but it doesn't hinder my relationships. I am a loyal friend and a kind person.”
  5. Avoid judging yourself. You may find that you judge or get upset with yourself if your disability affects something in your life. Instead of judging yourself for a perceived failure, acknowledge the problem and move forward. Realizing that one episode doesn’t define you can help you accept your learning disability.
  6. Steer clear of overgeneralizations or negative comments. Instead of stating, “I failed that task, I’m so stupid and can’t do anything,” say, “I had a hard time with this because of my learning disorder. I did get some things right, though. I’m going to use this as a learning experience on how I can navigate away repeating the issue.”
    • See the positive in any situation. This can help you put the disability in perspective and show how capable you are. For example, tell yourself, “I keep having trouble crunching these numbers, but Sasha said she could see that I’m improving. Plus, she complimented me on my oral presentation skills.”
  7. Ignore social stigmas. There are many myths and misinformation about learning disabilities. Social stigmas may make you feel shame, stress, or anxiety. Some people may even make stupid comments to you because they don’t understand learning disability. Ignoring social stigmas and negative feedback can help you move on and accept your disability.
    • Counter negative comments with information such as, “You know, people with learning disabilities have average to above average intelligence,” or, “Learning disabilities don’t mean I’m irresponsible, lazy, or unmotivated. They are caused by neurological impairments I can’t control.”
    • Tell yourself, “What other people think about me is none of my business” to help you cope with social stigmas and accept your disorder. Reinforce this with self-acceptance and self-love. For example, say, “I may have a learning disability, but it doesn’t have me. I have a lot to contribute to this world.”
  8. Be proud of your hard work. Navigating a disability may require you to work harder to obtain certain information or to learn a skill. When you do this, make sure that you allow yourself to be proud of what you accomplished.
    • Try saying something out loud to yourself, such as, “I spent hours making flashcards for the big math exam and I am really proud of my effort!”

Getting Support

  1. Inform yourself and loved ones. The statement that knowledge is power can be valuable for accepting your learning disability and getting support. Educating yourself and those around can help you accept your disability. It can help others give you any support you may need.
    • Use the resources provided by your medical or educational professionals. You can also use online resources to supplement your knowledge on learning disabilities. For example, the Center for Parent Information and Resources and the National Center for Learning Disabilities offers information a wide variety of information about learning disabilities. Many of these resources can give you added support to accept your disability.
  2. Communicate with people about your disability. People may be unaware that you have a learning disability. This may lead to misunderstandings. Letting people know that you have a learning disability can prevent uncomfortable situations, questions, or even looks. Seeing that people are considerate of and support your disability can also help you accept it.
    • Acknowledging your disability to others can help them and you accept it. A simple, “Hey Jack, I’m really looking forward to working on this together. I wanted to let you know that I often reverse numbers but that I am a great writer. If I make a mistake, don’t worry. We can catch it together and present our best work.”
    • Make sure your teachers, professors, bosses or others in authority know about your disability. They can help you work to your strengths and tackle any areas where you may need extra help.
  3. Talk to a counselor. Learning disabilities are common, but people often avoid talking about them. No matter the cause or type of your learning disability, you may feel embarrassed or ashamed. You are perfect just the way you are, but you may want more help accepting your disability. Talking to a mental health professional can help overcome and accept learning disabilities.
    • See a psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker. These professionals can talk through your feelings about your disability. This can help you cope with and accept your disorder in a positive and constructive way.
    • Be honest with your counselor. Remember the person is there to help you without judgment.
  4. Join a support group. The effects of learning disabilities can be lifelong, especially if you are having a hard time accepting them. A support group can provide you unconditional support from other people who understand how you’re feeling. Members of the group can also offer tips on coping with and accepting your disability.
    • Be willing to openly discuss your feelings or ask questions about your disability.
    • Meet with general support groups for learning disabilities or one for individuals specific disabilities such as ADHD or dyslexia.
    • Locate local affiliates of organizations that promote the wellbeing of individuals with learning disabilities. For example, the Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDAA) offers a location service at Search for online support groups from groups such as LDAA or the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCDD).
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