Growing up with an NVLD I watched so many students living with similar challenges not challenging themselves and honestly I didn’t get it. In my eyes, being challenged leads to greater results both academically and personally. Therefore, I believe more IEP teams and parents need to understand that being challenged leads students to seeing their true potential and not being afraid to encourage students to take on challenges. As I look back I feel I learned so much from always being challenged.
For example, in 9th grade I said no to the less challenging “C” classes in English and Social Studies which were just for resource room students while also choosing to take regents level Biology and Math rather than the pre courses. This was a decision so few could understand as I didn’t take the typical path for students with a similar disability as me. Personally, I strongly believe going after challenges is how you learn more about your own strengths and weaknesses. I experienced this in Biology and in Math with very different outcomes. For example in Math I learned how severe my math disability was and how, even with my determination, I needed to be at the lowest level. However I took great pride by just passing the course that year as I knew I gave it my all and I developed a clearer picture of my weaknesses. For biology, on the other hand, I was one of three Learning Disabled students who passed the regents the first time.
Through successful outcomes decisions like this continued. As time went on my college prep Social Studies and English courses became more challenging as my slow processing speed became more of an issue because the courses were faster paced. In addition there were several writing assignments and my writing and typing speeds were much slower than most students. However as I continued to work hard my grades were above average and I continued to see I could do the work. Whereas other students with similar challenges finished their work at a much faster pace from choosing the lower level courses but missed out on seeing their maximum potential from not going after challenges.
When it hit me the most was my junior year as I was one of the few learning disabled students who chose to take a full academic program. To me this didn’t make sense as this is the year that traditionally prepares you the most for graduation and beyond. This decision led to many late nights spent on homework and at times I was questioned by those around me why I was putting myself through this. I didn’t need to take these courses. However for my self worth I took on these challenges and I ended up getting the second highest regents grade on my US History regents out of all the learning disabled students while also passing the math regents. My 11th grade teachers also saw that my biggest strength was not being afraid to take on challenges. In my eyes, by not taking on challenges others missed not being able to see how much they could have achieved.
Besides academics once I got to high school I stayed with sports and it was clear I was one of the few with a NVLD and similar disabilities that did. To me this too didn’t make sense as involvement is so important for overall growth. Years later I still say I learned through the wonderful guidance of my coaches Jim and Penny the race isn’t over until you cross the finish line. This inspired me to go after each challenge whether it is being able to run an extra two miles at Cross-Country practice or earn a C rather than C- in classes like Math. Other individuals like me didn’t have this experience because they chose to give up sports or decided to be a team manager. Staying in sports resulted in me having more personal experiences where I was able to overcome obstacles and being challenged is a great thing.
Overall, while I understand this can be hard, the truth is that you never know how much you can achieve if you don’t try. While it may not always be a successful outcome you can take great pride in yourself for giving it a try as this helps you develop a better understanding of your weaknesses. For me personally, I know by playing it safe I wouldn’t have succeeded in academics and sports. Gaining the required endurance to run distances required just as much determination as passing my math regents did. It certainly is not easy but in the end I know you will have such a better understanding of your strengths and weaknesses and be proud for giving it your all.
Eileen is a Project Social Ambassador and blogger for The NVLD Project. She loves helping others understand they can achieve their goals and dreams through hard work and dedication.Share your own story