I Have a Learning Disability, So What?

by Kelley McCarthy

Everyday tasks many take for granted are hard for me. 
  • I'm sorry, can you repeat that? I didn't get that last part, can you repeat it again? Please? 
  • I seem to have lost that piece of paper that had all the information I needed to know, can you provide me with another copy? 
  • Please remind me where that file is located. 
  • Can you show me that again? And again, once more now. 
  • These are questions I ask or requests I make often. Okay, daily. 
This time of year is always hard for me, but not because of obvious reasons. I’ve written a few blogs about what it's like living with my learning disability, but I've never spoken in depth about how much I struggle on a daily basis. This is mainly because I never want my learning disability to sound like I’m making an excuse. This topic has been brewing in my head for several weeks now, and I’ve been trying to create a post that not only is vulnerable but also brings awareness to this topic. For those student affairs professionals out there who have a learning disability and may be scared to speak up, I hope this blog opens the door for more conversations to be had and to bring awareness to what other colleagues may be struggling with.

Yes, my learning disability is part of who I am, and I'm slowly working on accepting it. Very slowly...very, very, very slowly. Being diagnosed four years ago, I should be okay with this part of me and get over whatever fear is obstructing my way, right? Wrong. It's not that easy. The type of learning disability I have is called “learning disability not otherwise specific,” or NOS for short. Generally, it means that a person has a difficulty in reading, writing, and math and may have deficits in auditory processing, visual processing, speed of processing, or any combination of these.

As a Hall Director, the beginning of the school year is very overwhelming for me. There's so much I have to process. Between Hall Director training, RA training, presenting, and learning new technology our office has purchased or started using this year, I have struggled with keeping up with it all. From afar I may look like I have it together, but honestly deep down I'm paddling like crazy to stay afloat, and I'm running out of energy.

Of course, there are things in place to help me organize and remember the things I need to know (actually, my department has done an excellent job with putting together how-to guides with pictures). So why am I still struggling, you ask? With all these awesome resources, I'm struggling with three things. 1. Taking the information I receive and then getting it to the place it needs to go. 2. Managing/ checking/all of our new programs. 3. Fully learning all of the new programs. 

We all receive information in many different forms; emails, verbal, and written. I wish the world could have one place for everything, I guess the computer is close enough, but I'm not a good organizer. My email is a mess, so is my desktop, heck so are my thoughts. I just think/ operate in a non-organized way. Or scattered. Don’t worry, I'm not putting myself down, it's just how I function and I accept that.

Maybe I'm not taking enough time in the day to sit down and make sure I'm putting the information where it needs to go. Most days I'm running from one place to another in hopes everything is written down in one notebook. Maybe I just need to take a few minutes in the morning to prepare myself for the day placing everything I need on one spot of my desk. I constantly write reminders on my hand, in my phone, on post it notes; anywhere I can find a place to write actually. This is where I get into trouble. I lose things very easily, which then cause more stress and anxiety. I always feel like I am rushing and do not have enough time to prepare. I have been working on this over the last few weeks. I’ve realized the more I've prepared I am the less stressed I feel and the more awesome I perform.

I've also tried to put time into my schedule to check/ manage the new programs. While it has been working there are days where I need to stop in the middle of my work to deal with a situation, which then throws me off when I come back to it because I lost my train of thought. Sometimes I even come in early or stay later to get some peace and quiet. I find I am the most productive when I can have a huge chunk of time with my door closed to focus on these tasks.

I think one of the reasons why I'm having a hard time learning the new programs is because I haven't made time to properly learn them and have been getting by with just knowing the basics. Or, I fear that it will take me longer than expected to navigate through the programs even with the “how to guides” and I don't have the patience. Or, because I may not see the value in the program and how it can help me do my job in the long run. Or maybe I am just stubborn and resistant. I know my boss wouldn't go through the hassle of purchasing/ learning the program herself if it didn't have value to it. I just think learning all of these programs at once overwhelmed me.

With that being said, Yes, I'll fully admit it takes me a longer time to process information or to do anything really, but we all have different learning styles. And that's what I have to remember. I'm not slow, difficult to work with, or special. I'm just human.

Student Affairs - the First Years

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