Home Opinion Learning disabilities: learning to cope

Learning disabilities: learning to cope

Disabilities_LH06

Byron Woodruff plays the drums.
Angela Duran loves to bake.
Hannah Cookson reads more than 10 books every month.
Cesar Ibanez wishes Rexburg was always 90 to 100 degrees.
Besides being students at BYU-Idaho, these four scholars have something in common when it comes to learning.
They have all found ways to cope with learning disabilities and overcome their limitations.
Red Taylor, director of Disabilities Services at BYU-I said learning disabilities come in a variety of forms. It’s unfair to lump everyone with a disability into a generalized gro.
He also said everyone is an individual and should be defined by their intentions and who they are, not by their disabilities.
“If you go around making assumptions about people with disabilities, you are probably going to be wrong. There are so many other variables,” Taylor said.
Taylor said Disability Services makes accommodations for students who have disabilities so they can have the same opportunities as other students.
Sometimes there is a difference between high school and college because there is a shift from “guaranteed success” to “guaranteed access.”
“The accommodations [at BYU-Idaho] are meant to help students with disabilities succeed, not to give them an unfair advantage,” Taylor said.
Woodruff, a sophomore studying exercise physiology, has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). He said he has been challenged by it his entire life, but he wasn’t officially diagnosed until the beginning of this year.
Woodruff said doing his school work generally takes him three times as long as it does other people. Exams usually take the majority of a school day.
He said one way he copes with his disability is to keep a meticulous planner and map out each day so he doesn’t forget homework, meetings or other obligations.
“Being meticulous is not something that comes naturally to me, but planning has been a huge help,” Woodruff said. “I am naturally lazy and messy, but I force myself to be neat and organized.”
He said he has also discovered that he learns better when he combines both audio and visual methods of studying. He uses Kurzweil, a computer program that reads books, documents and assignments aloud for students who learn better audibly rather than visually, according to Taylor.
Woodruff said he meets with tutors on campus about 10 times a week, often multiple times a day. He said learning is discouraging for him because he feels that it is not his strong point.
“All of my weaknesses are brought out at school. … Who likes to do something they aren’t naturally good at? Sometimes I don’t even want to try, but when I do, I sleep better at night,” Woodruff said.
Woodruff said he tries to study in long blocks of time in a quiet room so he doesn’t get distracted. He said that if he didn’t take breaks between those long blocks, he wouldn’t be as successful and productive.
“Sometimes I feel beat from trying to study all day,” Woodruff said, “Doing something fun is the best medication in the world.”
Woodruff’s outlet is playing the drums. He takes breaks and often sits his two-year-old daughter on his lap while he practices his musical talent.
He said another thing that helps him overcome the frustrations associated with his disability is learning to appreciate the good things in life. “There will always be a person out there who has it worse than you, and they will have it better than you in some way too,” Woodruff said, “There are different strengths and different weaknesses in this world; it’s not unfair—just different.”
Duran, a senior studying child development, has auditory processing disorder as well as other learning disabilities. She said the disorder makes it hard for her brain, body and hearing to “catch with each other.”
Duran said the disability makes taking notes and finishing tests difficult.
“I have anxiety,” Duran said, “Sometimes I just sit in the testing center and feel like I am racing with everyone else in the room. Even though I know they are doing different tests for different classes, I don’t want to be the last person there.”
Duran said she has had great experiences with Disability Services on campus. She receives extended, and sometimes unlimited, time on her exams, and someone takes notes or writes things for her when she needs it. She said her professors have also been very understanding and willing to work with her. She said one of the most challenging things to cope with about her disability is the way others treat her.
“When people find out [I have a disability] they act afraid of me,” Duran said, “They talk to me differently, and kind of back off. It is nice when people treat me like a regular person. Love someone for who they are, not for what their disability is.”
Taylor said he is disappointed that people in today’s society continue to treat those with disabilities unkindly.
“In an enlightened society, and a first-world country, there is no excuse to mistreat people with disabilities. Don’t generalize from assumption,” he said.
Cookson, a junior studying elementary education, also has a form of auditory processing disorder — as well as dyslexia. She forces herself to spend 15 hours or more studying for each test in order to get an A or B.
For Cookson, having a learning disability has been a roadblock, but she has found ways to cope and function in her everyday life.
Cookson’s mother, who homeschooled her, noticed that she had a harder time with reading, writing and math than the other children in the family.
“My mom made me go over my words and numbers over and over. [Repetition] … later became one of my greatest coping mechanisms,” Cookson said.
The term “coping mechanism” continues to be an important part of Cookson’s life. She said she has learned that becoming a good student is more about coping with her learning disabilities, rather than fixing them.
Asking questions is another technique Cookson said she finds useful. Sometimes people get frustrated when she asks them to repeat things several times, but her professors on campus have been very patient, she said.
Cookson said one of her greatest coping mechanisms is to realize that her disability is simply a weakness to overcome.
She referenced the Book of Mormon scripture Ether 12:27 that says “I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men … I will make weak things become strong unto them.”
Cookson said the scripture helped encourage her when she was frustrated by her learning disabilities.
“It made me realize that if I am humble and I learn to cope with my disability, God will make my weaknesses become strengths,” Cookson said.
Cookson isn’t the only person with disabilities who finds comfort in this scripture. Ibanez, a sophomore studying biology who has Spinal Muscular Atrophy, (SMA), has also found comfort in it.
“I have been given a weakness, and I have been able turn it into a strength,” Ibanez said, “It has helped me experience more and see more because I have been given these challenges.”
SMA is a genetic disease that attacks the nerve cells in the spinal cord that control the muscles, according to Medline Plus. The condition can cause a significant amount of discomfort or pain due to the stationary status of the muscles.
Though the disease is not defined as a learning disability, it does affect the way Ibanez adapts learning in a college setting.
Though he has full feeling throughout his body, Ibanez lost control of his legs years ago and travels via motorized wheelchair. He said the strength in his arms is slowly fading, making it increasingly difficult for him to perform daily tasks like taking notes and eating lunch.
When Ibanez was young, academics were something that came easily to him. When he first arrived to the United States from Mexico at age 10, the language barrier intimidated him, but four months later he had learned English well enough to communicate.
Ibanez said it was the adaptation of his learning that became the most challenging aspect of SMA. He said as his body weakens, he strives to make his mind stronger.
At age 13, Ibanez was converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in part because one of his LDS mentors explained to him that his ailments would not last forever. She told him that there would be a day when he would be free of his disabilities and that the best thing he could do now was to try to stay positive.
“I like to have a positive attitude and always have a smile on my face; that’s what keeps me going every day,” Ibanez said, “Had I not been introduced to the gospel, I would probably be a very negative person because of some of the emotions I felt when I was first diagnosed.”
Even with accommodations from the university, Ibanez said he has to adapt his learning to keep and cope with the weakening of his body. He has to readapt every time his condition worsens.
“You can’t take perfect notes on a computer, especially for subjects like math,” Ibanez said, “And sometimes my fingers just can’t type and keep that fast. I’ve had to become more of an auditory and visual learner. When I see something, I do everything I can to retain it. I try to not be dependent on notes and go off of memory.”
Ibanez built his own computer to fit his needs; it includes a voice-recognition system as well as other features that cater to his disability.
Ibanez said he doesn’t know of anyone else on campus with SMA, but he thinks there are some similarities in dealing with several different kinds of disabilities.
“The only things that are difficult are the things that I, myself, make difficult,” Ibanez said, “It’s all about the attitude you have. If you think something is going to be difficult, that’s exactly what it will be.”
Ibanez said his positive attitude is what gets him through, even as his body becomes weaker.
“Some see [disabilities] as something that holds them back, but I see them as a serpower,” Ibanez said, “I don’t see [my disability] as something that prevents me from doing things because I am in a wheelchair, but as an opportunity to do things because I am in a wheelchair.”

long blocks of time in a quiet room so he doesn’t get distracted. He said if he didn’t take breaks between those blocks, he wouldn’t be as successful and productive.
“Sometimes I feel beat from trying to study all day,” Woodruff said. “Doing something fun is the best medication in the world.”
Woodruff said his outlet is playing the drums. He takes breaks and often sits his two-year-old daughter on his lap while he practices his musical talent.
He said another thing that helps him overcome the frustrations associated with his disability is learning to appreciate the good things in life.
“There will always be a person out there who has it worse than you, and they will have it better than you in some way too,” Woodruff said. “There are different strengths and different weaknesses in this world; it’s not unfair — just different.”
Duran, a senior studying child development, has auditory processing disorder as well as other learning disabilities. She said the disorder makes it hard for her brain, body and hearing to “catch with each other.”
Duran said the disability makes taking notes and finishing tests difficult.
“I have anxiety,” Duran said, “Sometimes I just sit in the testing center and feel like I am racing with everyone else in the room. Even though I know they are doing different tests for different classes, I don’t want to be the last person there.”
Duran said she has had great experiences with Disability Services on campus. She receives extended, and sometimes unlimited, time on her exams, and someone takes notes or writes things for her when she needs it.
She said her professors have been very understanding and willing to work with her. She said one of the most challenging things to cope with about her disability is the way others treat her.
“When people find out [I have a disability] they act afraid of me,” Duran said. “They talk to me differently, and kind of back off. It is nice when people treat me like a regular person. Love someone for who they are, not for what their disability is.”
Taylor said he is disappointed that people in today’s society continue to treat those with disabilities unkindly.
“In an enlightened society, and a first-world country, there is no excuse to mistreat people with disabilities. Don’t generalize from assumption,” he said.
Cookson, a junior studying elementary education, has a form of auditory processing disorder, as well as dyslexia. She forces herself to spend 15 hours or more studying for each test in order to get an A or B.
Cookson said that having a learning disability has been a roadblock, but she has found ways to cope and function in her everyday life.
Cookson’s mother, who homeschooled her, noticed that she had a harder time with reading, writing and math than the other children in the family.
“My mom made me go over my words and numbers over and over. [Repetition] … later became one of my greatest coping mechanisms,” Cookson said.
The term “coping mechanism” continues to be an important part of Cookson’s life.
She said she has learned that becoming a good student is more about coping with her learning disabilities, rather than fixing them.
Asking questions is another technique Cookson said she finds useful. Sometimes people get frustrated when she asks them to repeat things several times, but her professors on campus have been very patient, she said.
Cookson said one of her greatest coping mechanisms is to realize that her disability is simply a weakness to overcome.
She referenced the Book of Mormon scripture Ether 12:27 that says “I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men … I will make weak things become strong unto them.”
Cookson said the scripture helped encourage her when she was frustrated by her learning disabilities.
“It made me realize that if I am humble and I learn to cope with my disability, God will make my weaknesses become strengths,” Cookson said.
Cookson isn’t the only person with disabilities who finds comfort in this scripture. Ibanez, a sophomore studying biology who has Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), also finds comfort in it.
“I have been given a weakness, and I have been able turn it into a strength,” Ibanez said, “It has helped me experience more and see more because I have been given these challenges.”
According to MedlinePlus, SMA is a genetic disease that attacks the nerve cells in the spinal cord that control the muscles.
The condition can cause a significant amount of discomfort or pain due to the stationary status of the muscles.
Though the disease is not defined as a learning disability, it does affect the way Ibanez adapts his learning in a college setting.
Though he has full feeling throughout his body, Ibanez lost control of his legs years ago and travels via motorized wheelchair. He said the strength in his arms is slowly fading, making it increasingly difficult for him to perform daily tasks like taking notes and eating lunch.
When Ibanez was young, academics were something that came easily to him. When he first arrived to the United States from Mexico at age 10, the language barrier intimidated him, but four months later he had learned English well enough to communicate.
Ibanez said it was the adaptation of his learning that became the most challenging aspect of SMA. He said as his body weakens, he strives to make his mind stronger.
At age 13, Ibanez was converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in part because one of his LDS mentors explained to him that his ailments would not last forever. She told him that there would be a day when he would be free of his disabilities and that the best thing he could do now was to try to stay positive.
“I like to have a positive attitude and always have a smile on my face; that’s what keeps me going every day,” Ibanez said, “Had I not been introduced to the gospel, I would probably be a very negative person because of some of the emotions I felt when I was first diagnosed.”
Even with accommodations from the university, Ibanez said he has to adapt his learning to keep and cope with the weakening of his body. He has to readapt every time his condition worsens.
“You can’t take perfect notes on a computer, especially for subjects like math,” Ibanez said, “And sometimes my fingers just can’t type and keep that fast. I’ve had to become more of an auditory and visual learner. When I see something, I do everything I can to retain it. I try to not be dependent on notes and go off of memory.”
Ibanez built his own computer to fit his needs; it includes a voice-recognition system as well as other features that cater to his disability.
Ibanez said he doesn’t know of anyone else on campus with SMA, but he thinks there are some similarities in dealing with several different kinds of disabilities.
“The only things that are difficult are the things that I, myself, make difficult,” Ibanez said, “It’s all about the attitude you have. If you think something is going to be difficult, that’s exactly what it will be.”
Ibanez said his positive attitude is what gets him through, even as his body becomes weaker.
“Some see [disabilities] as something that holds them back, but I see them as a serpower,” Ibanez said, “I don’t see [my disability] as something that prevents me from doing things because I am in a wheelchair, but as an opportunity to do things because I am in a wheelchair.”

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