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The 9 Things People With Learning Disabilities Want You to Know

The 9 Things People With Learning Disabilities Want You to Know

Many people with LDs are creative and non conventional, it’s really not uncommon to see them as movie stars, entrepreneurs or athletes. Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, for example, both have learning disabilities.

But the road to success is rarely easy and an LD can add another dimension that can be a struggle. Keira describes her journey through school saying:

“I was called stupid a lot by many lovely kids at school and that makes you pretty determined to learn to read and write and figure out ways around it, so I did.”

Orlando has used his own experience to be very vocal in advocating for children with dyslexia stating:

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“If you have kids who are struggling with dyslexia, the greatest gift you can give them is the sense that nothing is unattainable. With dyslexia comes a very great gift, which is the way that your mind can think creatively.”

Steven Spielberg also spoke out when he was diagnosed with an LD at 60 saying:

“Being called to the front of the class to read was yet another day in a long series of days that were the worst days of my life.”

He goes on to say that finding out he had an LD was ‘the last puzzle part in a tremendous mystery that I’ve kept to myself all these years”

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For over 20 years, I’ve been around or worked with individuals with LDs and I’ve heard what they want others to know. First is that they don’t want your pity. Instead they want you to take the time to become informed and knowledgeable about LDs. Here are some of the other things I’ve heard.

1. “Actually, I’m really smart.”

Individuals with learning disabilities have at least average and often above-average intelligence. In fact, many individuals have the dual diagnosis of being both gifted and LD. Susan Hamilton, a learning disabilities specialist, says “It is a lonely existence to be a child with a disability that no one can see or understand. You exasperate your teacher, you disappoint your parents and worst of all, you know that you are just not stupid.” Being thought of as stupid when you know you are smart is the number one frustration that I have heard. It can leave a person with an LD feeling angry and completely demoralised.

2. “Don’t call me lazy or unmotivated.”

Individuals with LDs don’t work in a linear fashion. Their route between “here and there” can be full of curves. Conventional teaching methods, or even standard expectations in life, may not work for them. Their neurocircuitry can essentially “lock up,” giving the appearance that they just don’t want to do the work, when actually they are in a frozen state of overload.

3. “My brain is just wired differently.”

LDs are a neurological disorder and are brain-based. There continues to be a great deal of study on the topic of LDs, but simply put, the wiring in the brain is different, not wrong. The important bit here is that LDs are physical and as real as diabetes or high blood pressure meaning individuals can’t simply “will” themselves to “get over it” any more than they could will a broken leg to mend. Many individuals have used this different wiring to become hugely successful. Paul Orfalea the CEO of Kinkos, the largest copy shop in the world calls his learning disabilities a “learning opportunity.” In his case, his learning style helped him to see the big picture and not worry about tiny details.

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4. “Don’t lump my LD in with others.”

There are 5 main categories of LDs as described in LD Online. Dyslexia is a language-based disability in which a person has trouble reading and understanding written words. Dyscalculia is a mathematical disability in which a person has a difficult time solving arithmetic problems and grasping math concepts. Dysgraphia is a writing disability that also affects coordination and fine motor, in which a person finds it hard to form letters or write within a defined space.

Auditory and Processing disorders are diagnosed when a person has difficulty understanding language despite normal hearing and vision and Nonverbal Learning Disabilities cause problems with visual-spatial, intuitive, organizational, evaluative and holistic processing functions. If an LD is not properly defined then it can’t be properly accommodated. Giving someone with dysgraphia more time to complete a math problem is not going to help them to ‘get it.’ They need a different method. Daniel Radcliffe, who has dyspraxia and has trouble trying his shoes says, with a laugh, that his biggest lament is that “velcro sneakers never took off in the fashion world.”

5. “Let me do it a different way.”

Ignacio Estrada said “if a child can’t learn the way we teach then maybe we should teach the way they learn.”  Think of this and then try to picture knowing the answer to something in your head and not being able to get it down on paper. Then picture being able to answer the same question lightening fast if you were given an oral test instead. This is a daily frustration for individuals with LDs. Their knowledge is not shown when given a conventional method, like a written exam, to test it. In the end it is not their knowledge being tested, it’s their ability to function according to status quo.

6. “It’s not just between 8:30 – 4:00.”

The idea that LDs start when an individual enters the classroom or the office in wrong. Using money, reading street signs, filling out forms and keeping your room tidy all happen outside of work or school. LDs can affect the input and output of information, a person’s processing speed, organization, memory and social skills. For some individuals ‘out of sight’ is really ‘out of mind’. If this means that clothing need to be visible for them to find their shirt and pants, then they need open shelving for their room and not a dresser or closet where their clothes are hidden away.

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7. “I’m not going to outgrow this.”

LDs are not just a childhood thing. You don’t outgrow them. As defined by the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada “the way in which LDs are expressed may vary over an individual’s lifetime, depending on the interaction between the demands of the environment and the individual’s strengths and needs.” But they don’t go away. Currently there are about a half a million Canadians with LDs and over 4.6 million Americans.

8. “It’s what I have not who I am.”

Having a learning disability doesn’t mean that an individual is learning disabled. It is simply a part of who they are and, with the right accommodations and supports, individuals with LD are perfectly capable of learning, in the same way that someone who is blind can read with the use of braille. Tim Tebow, former NFL quarterback , who has dyslexia says “it has to do with finding out how you learn.” In his case, he made flashcards of the different plays as a way around struggling to try and read the whole playbook.

9. “Your good intentions can smother me.”

Individuals with LDs are often treated with a mix of pity and irritation, when all they really need is the time to figure something out. Having someone hovering to help you doesn’t always work, in fact, it can be really distracting and annoying. Likewise, can you imagine being really, really intelligent and yet being talked to in a demeaning way?

Your chances of knowing someone with an LD are pretty high, so become informed and shift your perspective if you need to. Don’t assume that learning disabilities are always a bad thing…for many individuals, they give them a distinct advantage. As Salma Hayek, who has dyslexia, states “I may take a really long time to read a script, but I only read it once.”

Featured photo credit: Pratham Books via flickr.com

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

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