Growing up with an NVLD has brought disappointments, however the ones that bothered me the most, while they seem minor, are the times I was treated differently. What I mean by this is that I was not being treated like my peers in and outside the classroom. This stigmatized me even more. I have always been a firm believer that if you are going to have an “inclusive” classroom or athletic team you must treat everyone the same and keep the expectations the same for everyone to feel included.
For example, when I was in high school I hit a few low periods and, as a result, my work ethic dropped though it was often acceptable to teachers for students to be lazy and sometimes fail. I remember hearing comments like ‘how come Eileen isn’t getting punished for lack of effort?” or “do her teachers think she is not smart enough to do the work?” Another thing that bothered me was when teachers or coaches got frustrated with me they never lectured me like they did some of my non-disabled teammates. This alienated me even more.
For me personally, the classes I enjoyed the most were the ones where I was held accountable for the same expectations as my classmates. The two classes I loved the most were Mary Kelly’s English 11 and Mark Henry’s US History Classes because these teachers pushed everyone to do their best. If I failed a test or did poorly on a writing assignment they gave me the grade I earned, but first spoke to my resource room teacher rather than assuming I had processing and spatial difficulties and what I turned in was the best I could do. In my other classes, I became discouraged as the teachers in these classes would give me a higher grade than I deserved assuming it was my disability.
In athletics, my coaches could often be too kind to me at times and I liked it for a while. However, when I joined cross-country things were different as my coach, Jim Adams, was tough yet caring, which gave me the perfect balance. A lasting memory for me was when Coach Adams told me I wouldn’t be running at our upcoming meet because I was slacking off at practice and didn’t earn the right to run. At first, I was so shocked even though I knew he made the right choice. I know other adults didn’t agree with this as they thought he was being too tough on me and not being considerate of my disability. But for me, it gave me normalcy. Today I have the utmost respect for him and he is the adult I am closest to.
Understandingly, it can be tricky for teachers and coaches to treat NVLD students in this way as sometimes for others with disabilities lowering expectations works better. This is why it is especially important to communicate with your teachers and coaches ahead of time to tell them you don’t want to be treated in this manner and why it is important to you. The reality is those with an NVLD have a number of strengths, whether it is in the classroom or on a sports team, that need to be noticed. When they are, it will lead to great success and will increase the student’s self-esteem.
Overall, once teachers and coaches begin to see the best in NVLD students a tremendous difference can be made in all ways. For me, it led to stronger relationships and greater success as I felt more included which made me feel less different and allowed me to connect even better with my teachers. The two teachers, Mark Henry and Mary Kelley, who wrote my letters of recommendation for colleges were my toughest yet most caring which just shows how well this works. While it is certainly not easy like most different situations through hard work, success can be achieved. There is often more than meets the eye in all students but especially one with an NVLD.
Jim Adams and Mark Henry are forever my two favorite adults for how they have cared for me but have always pushed me too!Share your own story