After many years of misdiagnoses and going through many different schools, such as, Catholic, Montessori, Quaker and public school, I finally found the right school for me. A small private school tailored to my learning diagnosis. A private school that consisted of 25 students and 8 staff members; without this small private school I would not be where I am today.
Through the years I was grossly misdiagnosed with dyslexia, ADHD, and autism spectrum disorder. My family decided at the age of 17-years-old, when I refused to go to school, to be tested by a private neuropsychologist. Three days of testing that each lasted eight hours and anxiously awaiting the results for five weeks; we finally found out I had NVLD with generalized anxiety disorder. It felt that then the future started to look brighter and I was on the road to a better path.
It took quite a long time to fight to be put in the proper schooling situation, but it finally happened. At times I became quite angry and irritated at the fact I had NVLD because not much is known about it and many don’t understand what it is or how to help someone with NVLD properly. Many teachers in previous schools said I wasn’t smart and that I would be lucky if I attended a four year college and even luckier if I got accepted to community college, that felt like a huge punch in my gut. I knew I was capable of so much more and I couldn’t understand why educators who took the extra step in their education to help special education students would discourage them from the exact thing they were trained to help us do. Instead they have a perception of special education students as being limited and not being able to do much. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Students were very harsh on me as well because once you were in special education, especially in the public school environment, you were targeted immediately. I was called a “SPED” for special education and told by students how dumb I was, unattractive and they laughed at me constantly.
Once I was placed in my small private school, I started to blossom in ways I couldn’t even imagine and all my dreams started to come true. The path to college was clear and it was even clearer I could handle a four year college and I was ready for college as well. My school never brought me down to anyone else’s level and if I had weaknesses, they started from the bottom and built on them until I understood and found ways to cope with those weaknesses.
In December of 2018, I sat for the ACT with the writing portion because all of the colleges I wanted to attend required the SAT or ACT. I was certain I was going to bomb the ACT because they refused to give me extra time on the test or a private room to help me concentrate better. The reason they refused to give me any of those accommodations was because they said NVLD was not a real learning issue and therefore I was disqualified for any accommodations. As I sat and took the test, I thought to myself “no matter what happens, it will be okay and I’m meant to do something special and will pursue my dreams… no matter how long it takes me.”
On New Year’s Eve, I received an e-mail saying my test scores were available. I was beyond anxious to even login to my ACT account because I was expecting the worst. I opened my account up and saw that I was three points away from a perfect score. I was beyond shocked and even thought they made a mistake. It wasn’t a mistake and just proved that students with NVLD are capable of anything. As I was applying to colleges, I was sure to look at colleges that were willing to help and accept my learning disorder. Once I finally picked the college I wanted to attend, we had many meetings with the department of learning disabilities and my academic advisor and devised a plan.
I’m in a dual degree program. I’m a BSN student (bachelor of science in nursing) and a BA pre-law/history student with a minor in philosophy. I’m on the path to becoming the nurse I’ve always wanted to be and a nurse attorney to help change healthcare laws, work as an expert witness, help in psychiatric nursing and also make sure that NVLD becomes apart of the DSM. When my old teachers found out that I was in a well known four year college and in a dual-degree program with a minor, their jaws dropped and they almost stroked out. The students who picked on me and laughed at me; well they weren’t laughing anymore and were envious that I was where I wanted to be and more and they weren’t close to being where they wanted to be.
As time has gone on, I’ve made it my mission with my mother to fight for equal educational opportunities for NVLD students. There are so many foundations and accommodations for students with dyslexia, ADHD and autism spectrum disorder, but only one foundation for NVLD and limited educators who know how to help students with NVLD. I’m angry that special educators think that NVLD students cannot handle it and aren’t able to do it, but what makes me even more annoyed is that we have a broken special education system and especially in the public school system.
I knew I had to do something about this because other NVLD students are capable of the same success and living at college like me, having fun with friends and are entitled to a proper education. I decided it was time to meet with my district representatives in Pennsylvania and have a talk about equal education opportunities for NVLD students and when educators need to realize they have to back off and let the proper private school help the student succeed in any way they want to and training for all special educators in public schools and regular private schools to recognize NVLD. We’re going to meet with the governor of Pennsylvania to make a change for NVLD students in Pennsylvania and provide funding for NVLD.
I’m speaking for NVLD students and breaking the silence in Pennsylvania, because I know many are staying silent or suffering silently because they aren’t able to access the proper tools to get the help or where they need to be. The change is now and it will happen. We won’t stop. We won’t stop until NVLD is recognized as a real learning disorder and not a disability, because it’s not a “disability”, it’s an “ability” that no one else has and we think outside of the box and add something to the world that no one else will ever be able to add. We have a superpower and it needs to be embraced as well.
I’m currently in a four year college as a BSN student enrolled in a dual degree program for my BA in pre-law/history and a minor in philosophy. Upon graduation from college, I will be able to apply to law school to be a nurse attorney. At the age of 17-years-old, I was finally diagnosed with NVLD after many misdiagnoses. I’m currently fighting for equal education opportunities for NVLD students and raising awareness for NVLD.Share your own story