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Overcoming the Shame of My Learning Disability

  • Published: 2015-03-20 (Revised/Updated 2015-03-31) : Author: Kids in the House : Contact:
  • Synopsis: Greene said she always found it emotionally difficult to deal with her learning disability in school.

Dyslexia, also known as Alexia or developmental reading disorder, is characterized by difficulty with learning to read and with differing comprehension of language despite normal or above-average intelligence. This includes difficulty with phonological awareness, phonological decoding, processing speed, orthographic coding, auditory short-term memory, language skills and verbal comprehension, or rapid naming. Internationally, dyslexia is designated as a cognitive disorder, related to reading and speech. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke definition describes it as "difficulty with spelling, phonological processing (the manipulation of sounds), or rapid visual-verbal responding.

Main Document

"The shame of not being able to read out loud without stuttering or misspelling something on the blackboard in front of the class was almost unbearable'"

Leana Greene was six years old when she realized she was different. Despite trying hard every day to read and write, she found it continually difficult to spell words and process letters and later found out she had dyslexia. Now, Greene is the CEO of Kids In The House and shares how she overcame the hardship she faced and became a successful entrepreneur.

Greene said she always found it emotionally difficult to deal with her learning disability in school.

"The shame of not being able to read out loud without stuttering or misspelling something on the blackboard in front of the class was almost unbearable," Greene says. "The fear of being called on by the teacher was paralyzing and made me act out and have panic attacks."

While the diagnosis of a learning disability can be hard for any family, Greene explains that an even bigger challenge for parents may be in addressing the psychological effects of it.

"As a parent it is important to really talk to your child and address what is happening," says Greene.

According to UCLA pediatric neuropsychologist, Sandra Loo, PhD, the first step for any parent who has a child with learning difficulties is to get the right diagnosis. Getting an early diagnosis will help your child get the proper interventions and accommodations, like extra time in school. It's also a good idea to get a complete evaluation because many children have more than one learning disability - around 25 percent of children with Dyslexia also have ADHD.

Greene also shares that another way of addressing what is happening is by discussing your own areas where you feel inadequate in order to make it easier for your child to share his or her problems.

"Sharing my struggles about my disability with my kids has encouraged them to share not only a good grade but also the inevitable challenges of trying to perform in school," says Greene.

Greene explains that she has learned over time that many people with learning disabilities, like Dyslexia, have a hard time doing well in school, but they often are successful post-education.

Dyslexia/ADD specialist and leader of Renaissance Mind learning facility, Angela Gonzales, MD, explains that often the traditional academic environment does not suit a non-traditional learner, but children with learning disabilities have a style of thinking that is a gift later on in life.

"These are highly visual, spatial, and conceptual learners that have the ability to distort perception and perceive it as reality," says Gonzalez. "That's a problem in school, but in the real world, this style of thinking allows you to be a Lego builder extraordinaire. It allows you to be an artist. As you get older, it allows you to be the best architect, movie producer, musician, actor you can be."

Greene also encourages parents to find people who have faced the same struggles as their child because it will give them encouragement as they work through the obstacles they are facing.

"For me, it has been helpful recognizing that there are other Dyslexic entrepreneurs like Ingvar Kamprad, founder of Ikea, Paul Orfala, founder of Kinko's, David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue, Charles Schwab, Tommy Hilfiger, and Ben Foss of Intel," explains Greene. "Having a role model is important, and if your child has the opportunity to know that there are other people out there facing the same challenges, he or she will feel less alone and know they can succeed."

"For years I tried to hide my learning disability because I didn't want it to define me, and maybe I was still ashamed," explains Greene. "Even for those who have learned to embrace their learning disability, it is always difficult and hurtful to be labeled by others.

Psychiatrist Edward Hallowell also explains the importance of framing learning disabilities in a positive way and communicating with your child that he or she is not so much "disabled" as "different." He encourages parents to be sensitive to the fact that kids may not want to defined as different all of the time and give their kids an opportunity to be defined by other achievements.

"A way of doing this is to help your child find at least one other activity in which he or she can excel," says Greene. "That activity may be drawing or music or sports. Whatever it is, helping your child recognize that he or she has both strengths and weaknesses makes life easier. It also gives children the opportunity to see themselves as more than their disability and more than a label."

Greene shares that she found ways to work through her disability and that every parent should know that their child can overcome it as well.

"If we're starting with a base of failure and fear and frustration it's hard to build anything on that foundation," says, Jerome Schultz, PhD, clinical neuropsychologist and faculty of Harvard Medical School. "So we really have to turn this cycle around and it's quite possible to do."

About Kids in the House

Kids in the House is the world's largest parenting video library with over 8,000 videos from 450 experts, including physicians, psychologists, researchers, educators, best-selling authors, and other celebrated voices in our culture. This website contains videos that feature parenting tips from parents who have dealt with particular issues and can share their hard-earned wisdom.

Kids in the House is a place where parents have the opportunity to hear and share different perspectives and get solutions for parenting challenges that range from pregnancy to getting into college. The videos aim to help parents and caregivers become better at parenting by educating, inspiring, and entertaining. The videos are split into the following categories: All Parents, Pregnancy, Adoption, Baby, Toddler, Preschool, Elementary, Teen, and Special Needs.

Leana Greene, founder and CEO of Kids in the House, is a parenting trends expert and one of the top female entrepreneurs in the United States. She aims for this website to be the most comprehensive resource of parenting advice available - one that respects the fact that there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

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