In our second class, Dr. Gerber provided us the opportunity to participate in a learning disability simulation. The opportunity was designed to help the class see the issue from the inside out. We defined learning disabilities in our first class, but the opportunity to experience it firsthand greatly contributed to my knowledge and understanding of individuals with a learning disability. In To Kill A Mockingbird (1960), Atticus Finch tells Scout, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it..” (Lee, pg. 85-87). The learning disability simulation allowed me to better understand the emotional insecurity and self-doubt that often accompanies adults with LD. The first activity involved us looking at an image and raising our hands when we’ve figured out what it says. When I saw hands fly up in class, I panicked because I didn’t want to be the last one to raise my hand. I didn’t want to be called out in public. I didn’t want to feel different. Feelings of uncertainty instantly crept into my head. The second activity involved us reading a paragraph that was written backwards. The entire time Dr. Gerber kept pressuring us to let him know when we’ve finished. Again, I stressed about the time it took me to grasp each word. The simulation allowed me to empathize with the 5-20% of the country’s population who are affected by learning disabilities and heightened my awareness of the emotional toll it can have on an adult (LD Online, 2005).
Afterwards, when Dr. Gerber asked us questions about the passage we read, the comprehension piece was difficult because I spent so much time deciphering each word. The simulation reinforced the notion that comprehension and analysis are only possible after each word is decoded and understood. However, I consider myself to have average intelligence, which is similar to those who are learning disabled. I realized that I had the ability to comprehend the passage, but I simply needed more time. Sometimes, that can be all that’s needed for an adult with a specific type of learning disability. Other accommodations exist depending upon the type of disability. The most important way to strengthen self-esteem for adults with LD is to understand the disability and advocate legal rights and services that may apply under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (LD Online, 2005).
We live in a highly competitive society where our success is marked by achievements (i.e. degrees, certifications, academic awards). What kind of a world does this present to someone with a learning disability, especially in the employment sector? I especially enjoyed the reading on successful adjustment for adults with LD. Success means “reframing” the disability in a productive and positive way by “confronting one’s strengths and weakenesses and making adjustments” (LD Online, 2005). Shouldn’t everyone be doing this during each phase of their life? It sounds more like a universal principle instead of one restricted to adults with LD. Nevertheless, the researchers make an excellent point that it’s a continuous process and managing a disability means appropriate assessment and strategy (LD Online, 2005).