I’ve recently come across thisarticle highlighting one of the most prevalent stigmas faced by students with a learning disability. Many people tend to dismiss this subject as being irrelevant or over exaggerated, but you’re faced with these stereotypes every day, it’s a big problem.
The very first step in dealing with this issue is to learn what the most common stigmas are and what causes them.
There’s nothing wrong; they’re just lazy.
|Oh, yes. I love my desk. I love my hubby even more
for putting it together for me.
The stigma I constantly come across is that learning disabled people are lazy. Of course, in most real world situations, there’s a strict deadline to reach. If you can’t get the work done quickly and accurately enough, you’re seen as a slacker. I’ve seen this personally both in school and the working world.
In reality, most people with specific learning disabilities simply perceive the world differently. They just need more time to sort out what’s being asked of them before they can work on a solution. Once the solutions are reached, they’re often very unique and offer layers of information which may not have been evident if reached otherwise.
The following scenario is a good example of what the situation feels like.
You’ve just brought home what will be an amazing desk for your home office. Unfortunately, the box is full of pieces you need to figure out how to put together correctly.
Even when you use the instructions, the slots A, B and C don’t line up with their assigned pegs. In fact, the directions just don’t match up with the pieces. It doesn’t help when what’s written on the page seems to be in another language, although it claims to be in English. How are you supposed to know which screw is #2 and where it’s supposed to go? Everything looks the same.
Now, while you’re trying to put the monster together, and wondering where that STUPID (explanative deleted) SCREW went, your phone rings – repeatedly. Then your kids or spouse needs you for something as soon as you get back to the task. You finish with whatever they want, try to get to the construction at hand and – oh! Look at that. It’s dinner time.
Now, this task should only take you about half an hour, tops, but between the impossible directions, confusing pieces and interruptions, it takes you over an hour. The fraying nerves probably don’t help, either.
That’s assuming you don’t mind not being able to use the drawer that refuses to close. And now you know where screw #2 goes.
That frustration is what a child with learning disabilities faces every single day. Tack on constant shaming from being called lazy, the feeling of worthlessness that evokes plus the fact that your failures are always public and you’ll have an inkling of the suffering these students endure.
SLDs make a child stupid.
Reading, math and scholastic achievement are the scale on which a person’s intelligence is generally measured in today’s world. That means failure automatically equates that person with being “just a bit slow”, as one woman had called me.
Unfortunately, because the grading system in schools is still heavily dependant on traditional tests, students with SLDs are already at a disadvantage before they enter the classroom.
Let’s take a look at a math problem from an SAT exam found on Wikimedia.
For someone with dyscalculia and dyslexia, that question is a complete nightmare.
First, the student would need to decipher what the question is asking. The words themselves can be difficult to work out. “Sequence”, for example, can easily be seen as “segucnce”, “seuqence” or “5egucnee”, before it’s seen properly. Once the words themselves are sorted out, the student then needs to comprehend the entire sentences. In this case, the sentences are wordy, which puts a strain on working memory.
Once the words are sorted, the math needs to be taken care of. When numbers reverse themselves, or seem to vanish altogether from the page, figuring what X and Y are can be almost impossible. However, if the student is able to figure X and Y out, they need to remember that final request.
Add the two together, and you’ll have the final answer.
Since I didn’t feel like giving myself a migraine, I just found the answer on Wikimedia: 14. X was 3 and Y was 11.
Hm. Should I have put “spoiler alert” for those who were trying to figure it out?
When a student with a learning disability is given proper compensation, like extra time, a quiet room in which to test or scratch paper and a pencil, they can complete a test full of these sorts of questions perfectly well. However, when under pressure of a timed test and trying to cope with background noise, these tests are horrible to endure.
What constantly falls between the cracks is the fact that the majority of these tests measure skillstaught in schools. They don’t measure the overall intelligence of the child. Although when people are evaluated for learning disabilities like dyslexia, they’re given modified IQ exams to measure their intelligence levels, most of their peers and teachers only see the results of past testing and tend to judge off of that alone.
Everyone’s a comedian.
Let’s face it – everyone loves to laugh. It makes us feel good to do it and to make other people do it. That’s part of what makes it such an attractive coping mechanism.
Kids who are trapped into reading aloud or doing problems on the blackboard may find it easier to turn their mistakes into jokes rather than endure the cruelty of teasing. Their clowning can also help get them out of the task itself, even if being punished with a trip to the principle’s office is the price. Plus, it can be a way of avoiding bullying from other kids. If you’re well liked, you’re probably not going to get picked on.
Although joking can lighten the mood, and the humor can allow true whit to shine through, the child’s efforts are usually a source of frustration for teachers and parents because the work that needs to get done isn’t completed. Because of this, the coping mechanism will eventually back-fire, and it can be a cover for deeper emotional problems.
This is why the causes behind this behavior must be examined, instead of just punishing the child for causing trouble. Look at it as a symptom at first, and once the underlying cause is found, figure out how to utilize that humor positively.
This is one of those rare stigmas that can be turned into a good thing. Humor can be an extremely effective coping mechanism when applied appropriately.
Disabled People Are Dangerous
This attitude is a throwback to days before modern science existed. Before germs were discovered, illness was usually thought to be caused by demons or evil spirits. The same thing went for mental issues and unexplained disabilities.
Your average Joe didn’t know if the demon would latch onto him if he got too close to someone who wasn’t “normal”, so these unfortunate people were isolated and treated horribly.
In a way, isolation made sense, since most of the illnesses we can recover from now could have been deadly on a wide scale back then. When they didn’t know why someone was volatile, people couldn’t have known it was because of stress, chemical imbalance or a difference in the brain’s wiring. If you could catch the plague from being close to a sick person, who was to say you couldn’t catch mania, too?
Things have changed for the most part now, but the stigma still exists, and people act on it. Because learning disabilities cause so much emotional turmoil in children and adults, they may act out in anger or frustration once the load gets to be too heavy. Because of those outbursts, peers may simply stay away from them since they don’t understand what’s going on.
Unfortunately, this combination of misunderstanding and avoidance does nothing to help the students who are suffering. Nor does it help the overall problem be solved.
The Parents Did Something Wrong
Society has a tendency to blame parents for anything their child does wrong. Most children aren’t learning disabled because their parents are neglectful or abusive. The majority of these kids come from very loving homes, and although there’s always a degree of conflict, it’s not the root cause of the disability itself.
Learning disabilities can be traced back to the student’s neurology. The child can’t help the way they’re born any more than the parents can. There’s no one to blame for being born different, and there’s really no reason to see it as a negative thing.
However, what parents can do is control how they handle the situation they find themselves in. Those kids look to mom and dad (or mom and mom, or dad and dad, or whatever else there is) for guidance and support.
In many ways, caring for a learning disabled child is just as hard as being
the learning disabled child. On the other hand, the rewards of creativity and unique ideas are made more enjoyable when contrasted with difficulty in school.
Only through becoming aware of stigmas and what causes them can we figure out how to stop them from continuing to cause the damage they do now.