Patch Eleven: Overcoming Obstacles

Thriving With a Learning Disability

By Kenzie

Did you know that dyslexia affects one in five Canadian students?[1]  And believe it or not, most of these people don’t even know that they have it.  My name is Kenzie and I was diagnosed with dyslexia when I was nine years old.  I was in grade four at the time and I still hadn’t learned to read and write.  My mother had postponed getting me tested because my teachers told her how smart I was and how good my comprehension was. They thought that I would pick up the decoding part of reading ‘soon’.  Well, that didn’t happen.

It turns out that learning how to read had nothing to do with how smart I was.  My intelligence level was above average but I still could not read.  There is something about how my brain works that makes it difficult for me to make the connection between letters and the sound that those letters make.  I also have a hard time recognizing the individual sounds within words.  This is what makes it difficult for people with dyslexia learn to read.  It took me until I was in grade seven to finally learn to read, and by that time I was many, many years behind my peers.

I hated elementary school because I felt like I was dumb.  I could not understand why reading was so difficult for me, yet to easy for my peers.  So, I gave up!  I figured there was nothing that I could do about it and I was never going to be good at school so I stopped trying. It is extremely frustrating to be intelligent but not have the ability to read, especially when you want to.  Giving up, meant that I could live my life without the frustration, misery and embarrassment that had become my everyday life. I was so self-conscious about what other people must be thinking.  I just ‘knew’ that my friends thought that I was stupid.  They were always helping me spell words and whenever we had to do group activities, they always had to do the writing because they knew that I couldn’t.  This made me feel horrible.  I avoided group work because I was afraid that my group members would see how ‘dumb’ I really was.

Remember that one in five people are living with dyslexia, so chances are people in your classroom may possibly be feeling exactly the same way that you feel.  If you are one of those people, don’t beat yourself up about it.  You are not alone!

I found something outside of academics that I was good at – athletics. Even from a young age, my mom could see that I needed something to get out all of my excess energy, so my mom put me into gymnastics and cheerleading when I was young. It turned out that aside from dyslexia, I also was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).  I would train for 4 hours a night after school but I never complained because I loved it.  It was something that I looked forward to all day long.  Once I entered into high school, there were so many different athletic options available to me.  I joined flag football, volleyball, rugby, and rowing teams.  Having something that I was good at really helped my self-esteem.

I accepted that my learning disability did not define me.  There was more to me than that.  By accepting this, I was able to start accessing support to help me with my academic studies. I used technology that would help me to read texts and I used speech-to-text software to help me write assignments.  Suddenly, having a learning disability was not the end of the world and did not mean that I wasn’t capable of succeeding in school.  My grades started to go up and my mood started to improve.  I had a smile on my face again.   I felt valued and appreciated for the things that I could do, instead of judged for the things that I could not.

Despite the fact that I have a learning disability, I have been able to graduate from high school and be accepted into a high demand program in college. If you find yourself getting frustrated with your learning disability, know that you can be successful. First, know that you are not alone! Second, find things that you are good at to build your self-esteem. Third, access the supports at your school and in your community to help you succeed in your academics. Focus on the things that you are good at and seek out support when you need it.  Giving up is not an option.  Figuring out how to move forward and get past what you cannot do, is the greatest gift that you can give to yourself.

[1] Roussy, K. (2016, September 9). Undiagnosed and misunderstood, students with dyslexia face stigma and shame. Retrieved from

image credit:
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *