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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 March 14, 2019

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

How it helps you:

If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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How it helps you:

Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

How it helps you:

This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

How it helps you:

One word: hierarchy.

All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

How it helps you:

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Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

6. What do you like about working here?

This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

How it helps you:

You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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How it helps you:

What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

Making Your Interview Work for You

Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

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Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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