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Disabilities, learning and otherwise

I have been involved with teaching art to both “normal” and
"special" audiences for over 20 years, have certification in teaching
art to “special” kids, and have a “special” kid, and can assure you
that there are LOTS of folks out there with undiagnosed disabilites!
It is a real shame, as it quite often has major negative
repurcussions. Folks who have learning disabilities that are not
diagnosed may never figure out how to “work around” the way their
brain functions.

I agree with Gerry - you don’t say “I can’t do this”. You say “how
can I do this”. Then you figure out a strategy to make it work for
you. But if you don’t know you have a particular problem, then what
happens is the person winds up feeling stupid, or klutzy, or
inadequate, and quite often angry and aggressive. I know with my
daughter she became extremely angry and antagonistic, started
shutting folks out and quit even trying in school. We finally pulled
her out and started homeschooling, and it took me over a year to undo
the damage and get my sweet, intelligent, intellectually curious
child back. She is now in a college prep as an honor student,
at/below grade level in English where her disability is strongest,
above grade level in math and science where it is weakest. I have
always taught her that she CAN do things, and do them well - we just
have to figure out how. I have insisted that SHE do them, not me do
them for her. BIG difference! There is another girl in her class
with about the same issues, but her parents coddled and protected
her, did FOR her, the result being that while she is a very bright
child, she has no clue how to do much of anything for herself, no
drive, no self-confidence, nothing. They didn’t help her by doing
FOR her, they hurt her!

So if you notice a pattern in what you do, or how you respond, you
may well have an undiagnosed disability - you are NOT stupid!!!

Figure out what works for you, and do it that way - don’t worry if
it isn’t “the” way!

And yes, quite often both folks with learning disabilities and with
learning styles that aren’t used/reached in the school system
gravitate to the arts as it gives them more freedom to do things
their way, and learn things their way, at their speed. It makes me
want to cry when I see a child blossom during a residency, only to
have the teacher say “well, its the FIRST time he (usually, but not
always, he) has EVER done a good job!” GRRRRRRRR! They have
labelled the kid, decided he can’t do, and therefore most of the time
he will live down to their expectations and NOT do! They also don’t
want to be bothered trying a different approach or way of teaching -
god forbid the problem should be in the teacher!

Sorry - sore spot for me, big time! Too many people assume if
someone has a disablitity, physical or learning, then they are
"stupid", not creative, not capable. Absolutely NOT true!

May we all become the best WE can become!

Beth in SC who is ready for spring to come

There is a NLP trainer named Don Blackerby,
who specializes in learning issues. I believe he would be very
supportive of Beth’s comments here. Joel

I am an elemeantary school teacher and I so agree with what you
said. I truely think that people with learning disabilities are
forced to think in new and unusual ways. They are the people who
pull us all out of tight spots by not thinking like everyone else.
They are often compassionate becasue they have learned first hand
how much it hurts to have people laugh at them.

I did not learn to read until 5th grade. I graduated from college
with honors.


Thanks for that insight, Beth. As I close in on 50, I often wonder
what might have been different in my own life if people had thought
about things like ADD when I was a kid. Looking back at my own
school career and seeing the process they have used in assessing my 2
boys, I have to wonder if I would have been diagnosed with something
like that. It certainly fits. And I, too, gravitated towards the
arts rather than the more rigid sciences. My mother was an art
teacher, my father a mechanical engineer. I have never had a problem
at the concept level with his engineering life, a fact which has
served me well in my jewelry, but when I get pushed into the rigid
framework of quantifying things, forget it.

I am now seeing the same things with our younger (9) son. Last
year, he had a teacher that saw him as just another kid who didn’t
fit the mold. He did very poorly, and still struggles with both the
Language Arts and Math. But, he is improving, at least slowly. This
year he has a teacher who sees him as in individual and asks how we
can let him learn rather than trying to force him into a mold. He is
a very creative, bright and motivated child for the most part. He is
also gifted with an incredible sense of balance that lets him do
wonderful things in his athletic endeavors, like snowboarding, roller
blading, etc. Combine that with a youthful lack of fear and he can
be downright dangerous. LOL. But in school, he still struggles.
The big difference this year is that teacher. She doesn’t let him
wallow in the ‘I can’t do it’ self pity, or let him feel like a
failure. She recognizes that he is very successful in his own right,
and is up to the challenge of helping him meet the incredibly narrow
minded state requirements for passing on the the next grade level.

Let’s hope that as we head toward the future, there is more, rather
than less, opportunity for people to succeed in their own right in
this diverse world.


Not all of us march to the same drummer,and it’s a shame that those
who dole out funds to our educational institutions don’t realize
that.Some kids who have awful problems reading and writing have
wonderful musical or artistic talent. This is the way they see the
world and this is how they express themselves. Yet these activities
are the first ones to be cut out when schools run short of funds. So
those dyslexics who would excel in art, music, or gym classes are
relegated to the educational cellar while tone-deaf, klutzy kids who
can’t draw a straight line but read,write and do math well are given
all the breaks. That’s something I could never understand about this
country: Art and music are such a big portion of our popular
culture, yet they are considered frivolities by the ‘readin’,writin’
and ‘rithmetic’ crowd. There’s a place for everyone in this world,
and it’s up to our educational institutions to bring out the best in
every student instead of demeaning some of them for what they are
having difficulty doing.


As I read these communications on learning disabilities, I wonder:
are they really becoming more common, or are we just diagnosing them
better? I opt for both answers. We DO understand better now, but I
can’t help believing that there must be some - many - effects on our
brains and bodies from the bizarre and pervasive chemical soup we
now live in. Hormones, toxic metals, new organic compounds that
develop because some chemicals have been put into proximity for the
first time in geologic history, compounds and even elements that
have never existed before. I tend to skip over the safety threads
in Orchid because I am not now doing metalsmithing, but isolating
oneself from all the dusts, fumes, evaporites, and solutions has GOT
to be a good idea.


  So if you notice a pattern in what you do, or how you respond,
you may well have an undiagnosed disability - you are NOT stupid!!!

I took calculus 1 THREE TIMES before I could pass it: it was a
matter of instructional style. When I finally “got it”, I went back
and took all the rest of the math I’d avoided for years - with the
same instructor. 2 years later: An engineering degree. At age 39.
Don’t give up!!


And some of it may be finer and finer distinctions of what is a
disability. Many things are diagnosed that may or may not be
accurate. If you had the same set of teachers for calculus in an
earlier grade you might have been diagnosed w/ a learning disability
when it was simply a teacher who did not suit your style. And if
you are young and energetic and your teacher bores the crap out of
you and you can’t pay attention suddenly you are ADD/ADHD. Many kids
are taught to read phonetically but the best spellers use a visual
strategy. Joel

There’s a place for everyone in this world,
and it’s up to our educational institutions to bring out the best in
every student instead of demeaning some of them for what they are
having difficulty doing.

Dee - In an ideal world your comments are very much on the money.
However, as one who has lived in many areas of the USA, I can attest
that this isn’t the case in many states and localities. Nor is it
the policy of the Federal government. Our educational system is
designed to produce good workers, good being increasingly defined as
those who quickly adapt to the needs of a big-business driven
economic structure. I dropped out of my PhD program in Education
when I became aware of this focus. The only reason child labor laws
and compulsory education laws were advanced when they were was
public outcry against the negative impact of the factory system; we
now have a different sort of “factory system” which uses the
educational system very effectively for worker preparation. All the
current uproar about No Child Left Behind ultimately comes down to
what the minimum standards for employment require!

Jim Small
Small Wonders Lapidary

I never did get calculus. On at least one occasion, it was
DEFINITELY a case of instructional style. But even in the best of
times, I understood the principles for the most part, but just
couldn’t make the numbers work when it came time to put it into
practice. I was able to take the theories into my geology classes
(the reason I was taking calculus in the first place), and see in my
mind what was going on, but I could never put the formulas to any
practical use and get the numbers I was supposed to get. Oh well,
have long since concluded that I am better suited to using my
engineering and scientific knowledge to improve my creative side


One of the reasons we truly appreciate our son’s teacher this year
is that she sees each of her kids as an individual. This is in sharp
contrast to the one he had last year who saw kids like him as misfits
who needed to be forced into the mold of standardization. Because
his creativity, athletic ability and personality are being accepted,
recognized and even welcomed now, he is beginning to make great
strides in the academic side, too. He still has trouble, but no
longer seems ashamed of his shortcomings. She lets him see that he
is different, not better or worse. He is working harder than ever
for this teacher, and the results are showing. Sadly, in the modern
world of standardization, teachers like her are becoming a rare
blessing. Jim

I haven’t really thought about learning disabilities from the
chemical soup point of view. At least not in this sense.
Obviously, chemicals can effect learning, but I have never thought
about it on the level of ambient levels of chemicals. Maybe.
Another thought, though, is that our modern society has the poor kids
learning too much, too soon and too fast. More and more it seems
that ‘successful’ kids in the academic world have no time to just be
kids anymore. The schools are teaching things earlier and earlier
all the time, and maybe the kids just aren’t ready for some of it.
Everything in the schools today is so performance oriented. One of
the things that disturbs me most these days is the 'standardization’
of education. At least in North Carolina, we have a testing program
and very rigid grade school curriculum that has education
standardized across the entire state. Doesn’t seem to be much
flexibility built in to allow for regional differences, individual
teaching styles or learning abilities. And, the standards measure
only the traditional academic values, make no allowance for music,
art, athletica ability or any of the other ways that a child might
excel and build self esteem. Jim

Hello All,

My 2 daughters and I have much in common with Jim’s story of his and
his children’s history of the school system. The difference is in
the results. We have 2 and waiting to see if it’s 3 dropouts.

I too am an undiagnosed dyslexic (mirror image) and totally visual,
cannot memorize sequences. I struggled with this all through school,
excelled in art and dropped out of 11th grade.

When I had kids I knew what I was looking at in my younger daughter.
I had no problem teaching her alphabet and numbers. We played
games with them like throwing the stack of flash cards in the air
and having her crawl around finding the one I wanted. When she
brought the right one she’d get tickled. My Husband saw that and
made me stop, saying that the school wouldn’t do that so I was
ruining her for school. (He had been a straight A student)

The older daughter has an IQ of 169.

They are now 20 and 18. Here are the results of their schooling

The older one’s IQ was discovered in second grade. Every time she
began to do well in a class they bumped her up a grade in that
course. Consequently they had her always frustrated that she
couldn’t get past a B. Her school record now shows that she was a B
and C student with no mention of the fact that these were all 2
grades ahead classes. She dropped out.

The other daughter has an IQ of 99 and nothing so wrong with her
that a swift kick in the pants wouldn’t have fixed. She learned
early that if she put up a fight when she was challenged they would
hand her the grade. They now have ‘special’ classes for each kind of
’difficult’ student, her’s is called ‘content mastery’ where they
hand her the answers, the grades and push her on through. They call
that ‘social promotion’. She is going to graduate this May.

My theory on these learning disabilities and their growth rate is
that there are no more of them than there were 30 years ago when
they first began coming to light. Few are real and difficult, even
left-handedness used to be considered a problem (and Wrong). I think
that the real problem is trying to ‘box’ and ‘quantify’ to
’standardize’ children and learning. This method promotes only the
kids who happen to learn by rote and relagates all others to
’special’ The truth is that we ALL have different ways of learning
and by differing degrees per sense. ie: Some are more visual, some
are audial, some are kinetic and each by varying degrees therein.
If schools would simply allow for 'creative teaching styles’
employing the sensory experience to it’s fullest and spend more
energy motivating rather than threatening (a BAD grade). I think
the number of ‘special classes’ and medicated students would sharply