I have been thinking about learning disabilities [LD] recently because I am working with my son on a new business model It envisions collaborating with and assisting high school graduates in presenting themselves in a personalized manner to college admissions people. [details in a later blog]. He had [has] LD himself and fully appreciates the frustration that many students experience during their educational experience.
The problem, in a nutshell, is that traditional education requires that there are standards of learning and achievement which must be measured and quantified. Grades in a broad range of courses and standardized tests are utilized.
Individuals with LD have brains that do not function in the usual manner. Whether or not they have "abnormal" cognitive pathways, they are usually diagnosed when their achievement levels do not match their aptitude levels. In other words, they are 'smarter' than their level of achievement testing would demonstrate.
In the past such individuals would be considered lazy or psychologically unable to fulfill standard requirements. Higher education was often out of the question despite their high IQs and genuine desire to learn. Frustration and lack of self-worth were frequent accompaniments.
There are specific stories of those with LD who rose above their conditions and became super-successful–in business, the arts, sports. Some overcame difficulties in the world of academics as well. Yet the stories of scores of others, the untold tales are far more bleak. One highly successful CEO of a large corporation was told by a high school guidance person that he had 'J.I.T' potential. He found out it meant 'janitor in training'. Though devastated he persevered. How many others didn't.
Ironically, many with LD reach their highest potential when the course material is more complex and challenging–in college. It was during their primary and secondary levels of education that they found the most difficulty. Perhaps their brain development in certain areas was delayed or even diminished. Someone with math, reading, or foreign language difficulties would clearly not have great Gaps. They would 'have' to take classes in which they would clearly struggle.
When they could finally focus on what they enjoyed and excelled in–in college–they did extremely well. And, in truth, in life one only needs to find ONE area of interest and excel in it to be 'successful'. The challenge for many is just getting into this higher level of education.
So why do we have 'so many' students and adults with LD and ADHD these days? Is it merely better recognition or are we 'evolving' as a species?
It may be that some of us are changing. LD individuals may ultimately be more creative than others. Not "fitting in" is often liberating. Such students are required to develop other cerebral pathways in order to 'find' themselves. Therefore, perhaps the more traditional modes of teaching and evaluation need to be broadened.
Perhaps we need to embrace these 'different' individuals and encourage them to follow the path which will lead to their personal fulfillment. Perhaps " learning disabled" is not the correct terminology anyway. " Alternative learners" may be better. Who knows. What is important is to treat every child as an individual. Encourage them to find their own path and to follow it. Encourage them to reach their highest destiny.
It might just help us all.