‘Could you repeat that again?’ My brain was just not making the connections. I couldn’t stand it.’: Woman with learning disability openly shares her journey

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“When I was younger, back in elementary school, my first grade teacher noticed I was having a hard time keeping up with the class, and this included my reading, writing, and speech abilities.

As a child, reading and writing were hard for me. At the end of each assessment, my teacher asked me if I could tell her what happened at the end of the story, and I wouldn’t remember anything because the words would just go over my head. I’d have to re-read everything all over again. I knew I was definitely a little behind from my peers because I would be completing a task a lot slower than them. I would feel anxious, defeated, and upset that I couldn’t take the quiz quickly like everyone else in the class.

It was then that I was diagnosed with a learning disability called RELD (Receptive and Expressive language disorder)

I’m sure you probably don’t know what that is, so let me explain.

RELD affects two distinct areas of language: receptive language and expressive language. Receptive language refers to what we hear and understand from others’ speech, gestures, or written words. Expressive language refers to the words or gestures we use to create messages others will understand. I struggle with both.

Many people would see me but would question if I even had learning disabilities because they often didn’t believe me. My learning disability is known to be a hidden or invisible disability.

After I was diagnosed, I then fully transitioned into Special Education classes for the rest of my life.

When I told my friends I had a learning disability, a few of them were shocked because they all said, ‘You don’t look like you have a learning disability.’ Then I told them my learning disability is invisible, you can’t see it. They didn’t seem to mind that I had a learning disability. They just knew I was learning differently, and that was okay. Hearing that they didn’t think I had a learning disability made me feel good because they didn’t stop being my friends because of it or because I was now in special education classes.

In the classroom or at home, I was constantly having to ask them, ‘Could you repeat that again?’ over and over, and my brain was just not making the connections. I just couldn’t stand it.

When it came to homework, especially with English and math, I always wanted to give up because I would get frustrated altogether.

Woman taking selfie with hand in hair
Courtesy of Olivia Shaieb

When I write and post, I misspell a LOT of words. Sometimes I’ve got the words in my mind, and I’m trying to explain it in the best possible way, but it doesn’t always come out right.

I’m sure you’re wondering, how have I come to terms with a Learning Disability??

By building my self-confidence in myself daily, celebrating the little accomplishments along the way, and staying positive.

Both of my parents helped me come to terms with my learning disability. My mom had to let me know that I would be switching into different classes where I would get more help in class and be more at my own pace. I turned to my mom for support. She’s definitely been my #1 supporter since day 1. She’s always made me feel that I can do anything and never gave up on me. She never compared me differently from my siblings just because I have a learning disability. She treated me with the same love and help.

I would say RELD impacts me daily. When the information is presented in the form of something at home or in school, it can be difficult for me to even understand what was said, let alone have the ability to remember it. That is why I always have to ask someone to repeat it again and again or say ‘I’m sorry I didn’t hear you’ or ‘I don’t understand.’ I at least need to have things said or be able to see them step by step. The lack of ability to understand and remember verbal information or instructions correctly can impact my ability to complete tasks or assignments as expected or even on time. It’s not that it won’t get done, it just must be done at a slower pace. Or sometimes, I completely forget to do it or keep pushing it off till the last minute. I work on reading every day, and I love to read. I could get lost in a book for hours, but sometimes in the books, if there are words that I don’t understand or know, I’ll look them up on Google to see what they mean. Then have someone explain it to me so my brain can comprehend it.

The moral of my story is:

‘It’s okay if you accomplish things more slowly.’

‘It’s okay if you find difficulty in what others consider easy.’

‘It’s okay if you fall behind, you will still reach your destination.’

Just be yourself. You have nothing to lose.”

Woman taking selfie in car with beanie on
Courtesy of Olivia Shaieb

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Olivia Shaieb. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribeto our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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