One of my biggest frustrations while growing up with an NVLD was how it wasn’t encouraged to take the harder path and to connect with other students through athletics. Personally, when I looked back I can’t imagine my life without taking the harder path and being a runner. My opportunities would have been so limited. Going to college in the Boston area wouldn’t have been possible had I not done these things because my school’s LD programs focused more on a students determination and ability to overcome obstacles than their overall GPA. Now as I think about each challenge, whether it’s running or taking an extra math course, it made my options more open and I think it’s too bad more students don’t have access to experiences like mine.
My frustrations began when I was signing up for my high school classes and I was recommended for the resource room, but only for English and social studies courses. Thankfully, my parents spoke up and said “absolutely not, this isn’t what inclusion is supposed to be and she belongs in the regular classes.” For me, it would have been the wrong move because I would have missed out on so much and I wish many of my fellow resource room classmates had this same opportunity as I did in these classes. I was challenged and I learned a great deal both academically and socially.
The frustrations continued during my freshman year when I was recommended to take General Science, a prep course for biology. This was the typical class LD students were placed in upon entering high school. However, I enrolled in Biology where only a few 9th graders with disabilities were enrolled and there should have been more of us. Our freshmen year courses weren’t as hard as our 10th grade courses so it was easier to make Biology the main focus. In fact all six LD students who passed the required state exam the first time were freshmen, which showed taking a pre course isn’t always the answer. These results showed that when a student is challenged they will work harder as failing is never a good experience and, personally, I believe more adults need to understand this.
Later on I decided to continue in college prep science and math courses rather than the vocational path or take the easier electives. This led to my support team asking me negative questions like “why are you working so hard for a classes that you don’t need to graduate?” This hurt me emotionally, as I was capable of doing harder classes and my goal was to get ready for college. I gained so many academic skills and built incredible connections with my teachers which helped me get to where I am today. Through this experience, I believe it is extremely important for you to speak up about the different academic challenges that you want to take. Honestly, I believe taking a full academic program can make the most sense for the many NVLD students given their unique profiles. If this is you, your support team needs to understand this.
What bothered me the most was how there was no encouragement for us to join a sports team because some felt our challenges would be too much. This was probably true in a sport like basketball but in a sport like running the focus is more on individual outcomes and being a great teammate.This was the case for me as a three season runner and it made high school more enjoyable for me. I still remember a few students asking my resource room teacher right in front of me how come they liked Eileen so much better than us, which wasn’t the case. The truth was I made a strong impression to many coaches and athletes so I gained their full support and respect and, as a result my self-esteem increased because I wasn’t a target for teasing and the adults involved connected with me on a personal level.
For those who are reading this, I hope you understand how advantageous it is to take the harder path and to be involved in athletics. It allowed me to attend Dean College then transfer to Curry College, both places with excellent academic and social support. As my application demonstrated I could overcome obstacles by taking the harder courses and not only was I a three season runner, but I also won awards too. Yes I understand playing it safe seems like the better choice though in my experience taking challenges increases your options for post-secondary programs.
I will always love my Earth Science and my math teachers and Coach Jim Adams for always supporting the need to go after a challenge!Share your own story