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Reading and Language

Home » Articles » Growing Up with a Learning Disability: A Child's Story »

A Struggle for Success


I am a teacher working with high school students with learning disabilities. I love my job, though it is often a challenge. Recently, one of my students turned to me with an accusing look in his eyes. "You just don't know what's it's like to have a learning disability," he said. "What do you mean?" I asked him. "I'm living it right now."

The Beginning

For a long time, I didn't know I had a learning disability. When I was a kid, I didn't even know what a learning disability was. But I did know that some things were hard for me. I couldn't follow directions. Learning to read was a struggle. And no matter how hard my teachers tried, I could never learn cursive handwriting. I'll always remember the day Miss Shelty made me stay in during recess so I could practice. I was the only kid who couldn't go out, the only one who didn't get it.

I think I was in second grade when my mom started taking me to Barbara's house twice a week for tutoring. Going to Barbara was like going to Sunday School or the Boy Scouts—it was just something I did. We played games together. We talked about words and books and ideas. She helped me become a reader, though it took a while.

Finally, in fourth grade it happened—I became a reader. I had always seen kids carrying all these books around, and now I could, too. I read books that the other kids talked about like Encyclopedia Brown and A Wrinkle in Time and The Box Car Children. But the books I really loved were non-fiction—books about Jackie Robinson and D-Day and Davy Crockett and Evil Knievel. To me, these people and events were bigger than life, but they were life. And I loved to read about how they could succeed against impossible odds.

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