Language as Liberation, by Megan

By November 15, 2022 November 17th, 2022 NVLD Bloggers

Language can be an angry beast in the way that it shapes a person’s existence. When a child receives a learning disability label at an early age, the language used already pre-determines a child’s worth and what they can and cannot do. Words and language have significant weight, common ways to describe one’s learning disability may include “low percentile” and “weaknesses”. As a child continues to travel through the educational system, the label travels with them, and outsiders draw their own assumptions based on what they may perceive.

The child then starts to feel the weight of indifference and starts to feel “stupid” and “isolated” due to already feeling segregated due to feeling “different”. How a child with a learning disability is treated, is what they become. Oftentimes, learning disabilities are misunderstood and perceived as a barrier to learning and reflect this limiting belief that a child cannot learn.

However, when we see past the label and see the “abilities” and “strengths” a child with a learning disability has it can shape an entirely new outlook and can empower a child to succeed and do well. Labels carry a significant history, but when we start to really question where those stigmas come from, we can create and foster a more inclusive future where learning-disabled people feel ACCEPTED. While on the other hand, language can also be POWERFUL in the way that it presents an opportunity for perceiving disability through a different lens. When we examine disability from a medical model perspective, we see disability as a problem that needs to be fixed and the deficits associated with it. When we perceive disability from a social model approach, it fosters collective understanding and fosters the gifts and strengths one has.

Having a non-verbal learning disability and having a label gives validation and meaning to my life. It acknowledges that my struggles are fostered by a collective understanding that my differences in learning shape who I am. Although language can be complex in the way it demonstrates words and meanings to describe my non-verbal learning disability, I choose to use language as a voice for my struggles. Writing is one prime example of how I can share my NVLD struggles with others who may be able to better articulate and understand. Words are a form of disability justice as I find liberation deep within the hidden crevices. When I write, the words bring that fiery flame of justice. Psychologists and teachers tried to shape my limitations and existence through the ableist language that they used, but I took it back. I own every single ounce of my NVLD label, and these words are my own to express my internal struggles.


I’m a graduate of the Child & Youth Worker program from Cambrian College and recently graduated with a degree in Disability Studies at Ryerson University along with a certificate in Aboriginal Knowledges & Experiences. I am a Project Social Ambassador for The NVLD Project.

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