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Living with a learning disability

Posted on January 9, 2017 at 1:10 AM

Is Attention Deficit Disorder actually a learning disability? How exactly does the disorder involve an inability to learn as quickly as a regular person, or as quickly some of the time depending on the subject matter? Do I speak for everyone when I talk about my experiences with ADD here? Should it warrant reasonable accommodations as outlined by the Americans with Disabilities Act? Does this disorder influence my ability to perform job duties?

I'm sure the list of questions goes on even further. Yes, attention deficit disorder is a legally defined learning disability but not every institution agrees. When these differences of opinion vary I find them to be stubborn and frustrating. After I graduated high school in 2000, when I was eighteen, I sought out the local Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) for financial assistance with college tuition. Even though for a number of years prior I had been seeing a specialist on ADD, the OVR declined my application by sending me - I kid you not - a certificate of ineligibility. As if it wasn't disheartening enough to be turned down then to send a certificate through the mail glorifying their biased decision.

Needless to say that piece of paper didn't last more than sixty seconds before becoming a crumpled ball of wood byproduct. So, how could an institution like the OVR decline to agree with medically documented proof and the law outlining disabilities? They were able to simply because they issued their decision based on their own opinions and guidelines. A loophole basically, and OVR exploited it. In their determination, they claimed I did not have a learning disability. Despite my lawful proof of a medical diagnosis of having ADD and that it is by definition a learning disability, the OVR denied me financial assistance anyway. They further tried to justify their decision based on the fact that, at the time, I still lived at home with my parents.

So, since I lived at home and my parents made a middle class income, according to the OVR I didn't have a learning disability? If mental health progress is to survive then loopholes like this with the OVR should be addressed accordingly. Besides, the fact that I have lived with ADD all my life and had been treated for it since the fourth grade, who are people like them to say whether I have the disorder or not? Of all the nerve is what it felt like back then. Bureaucracy works slowly to straighten things out like this, but I refuse to ever go back to OVR for anything anyway. If contradicting public opinions on learning disabilities continues to exist, this means that loopholes for lawful accommodations and appropriate attitudes towards people with mental disorders will continue to be a problem. Social stigmas will persist as well.

How the learning disability affects my ability to function has more to do with my reading comprehension, also known as reading fluency, than with the difficulty of staying focused. An average person does need to reread written composition several times to absorb what there is to learn. For me, my reading comprehension ability is more difficult of a process than normal because I have trouble absorbing what I read and understanding it. I need to reread information sometimes in excess, depending on what the material is. For a Sandra Brown book, my favorite suspense thriller novelist, and reading for leisure in general I have no trouble at all with comprehension. The early signs while I was in school occurred when I had to do mathematical reading comprehension problems. Hence, part of the reason why I am terrible at math beyond a certain level.

At first, it doesn't seem that having trouble paying attention can affect my ability to understand what I read because obviously I can read. Yet, reading fluency has been proven to be affected by Attention Deficit Disorder because of the lack of focus; therefore ADD inhibits a person from being able to learn at a normal rate. Some critics of ADD/ADHD claim that it is not a learning disability since it affects learning as a whole when compared to specific skills like reading. If learning is affected on any level, then ADD/ADHD both in fact inhibit normal learning and cognitive skills. This is another example of how people in professional fields, as well as the medical field, create conflicting opinions of mental disorders like ADD that hinder efforts to improve treatment and overall acceptance.

Without consistent agreement with the medical facts that support the need for methods of treatment for mental disorders, institutions such as employers and public welfare will continue to perpetuate social stigma and prevent public acceptance of mental health conditions as well.

Categories: To Know Me Better

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