June 25, 2011
One of the best lessons I have learned is if you can make something good come from something bad, the bad was not so bad after all! I have taught that lesson to countless patients over the last 28 years. Today, I want to share my lesson with those readers who have been branded with “learning disabilities” (LD).
Yes, I said “Branded.” Like those individuals with attention deficit disorder (ADD), individuals with LD often feel branded, even cursed. During the formative years of life, patients with LD often struggle in school. LD students receive “accommodations” in the form of special classes, tutors, and attend special testing centers. Accommodations can make an adolescent feel inferior and damaged.
I have a learning disability. When I went to school, there were no special classes, accommodations; you either survived on your own or you failed. I have a form of Dyslexia. Reading has always been agonizing for me. My disability is not readily apparent; I can read aloud to an audience and they will not detect a single problem. I just can’t process what I read! I always failed standardized tests. Not because I didn’t know the answers, but because I could not process the questions.
I have the gift of being able to process and retain everything I hear. Over the years, I have learned many tricks that help me deal with my dyslexia. Modern technology has been a G-dsend. My texts and journal are now available in audio format.
One of the most traumatic events in my life was my failure to get into the University of Virginia Medical School. I was an honors student with a 3.5 something average and medical school was a slam dunk! I was a cocky young man and only applied to three top East Coast schools. Unfortunately, I bombed on my MCATs (entrance exam). Scoring in the 14th percentile in English should not have been a surprise. I can’t read! Ultimately, I moved to Mexico and graduated from La Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara Medical School.
Making something good come from something bad is today’s lesson! Going to a Mexican medical school was an embarrassment. It also was one of the best things to ever happen to me. During my four years in Mexico, I learned a lot about myself and the world I lived in. I learned to talk and think in a different language. I learned that what Americans believed was not what the rest of the world believed. It was a humbling experience and I needed to be humbled.
I also learned that I had a learning disability. I learned that, if you work hard enough, you can learn to live with LD and you can make LD work for you and others. This article is proof positive. I have had a long career helping others and working with many of my patients and their children. I help remove the stigma of ADD and LD by finding the good in the bad.
If you have a reading disability, develop your listening skills. If you have problems with the spoken word, thrive on the written word. All of us are blessed with being unique individuals. Within all of us is a gift. Don’t get bogged down with being labeled LD or ADD. Find your gift and celebrate it. Don’t be ashamed of needing accommodations. Use them as tools the same as I use the CD/DVD player. Most of all, learn to be happy with yourself. Yes, it may be harder for you to succeed but success will come.
If you are having problems coping, see your doctor or counselor. If you are envious of others, recognize that they are unique individuals and have their own problems. If others mock you, feel sorry for them, not for yourself. They mock you out of ignorance and you are not ignorant.