Thursday, January 21, 2010
DISABILITIES, OR DIFFERENT ABILITIES? (Part 2)
As I suggested in yesterday’s post, I heartily support the work our learning specialists do in helping out-of-the-ordinary (sometimes called “disabled”) learners develop new skills that will help them find success in our highly standardized system of education. This doesn’t mean these unique learners should be ashamed of their in-born ways of learning (one of these ways is called dyslexia, another is known as ADHD), or that they should try to totally replace them (which is probably impossible anyway.) On the contrary, they should accept the way they naturally learn as a rare and useful gift they were born with. The fact that these gifts are not generally recognized as such, but are more commonly thought of as defects, deficiencies, weaknesses, or flaws, should not discourage these unusual learners from accepting, and even celebrating, their extraordinary (literally “outside of the ordinary”) learning styles. Lest that sound like a facetious remark, it’s now widely known that an unusual percentage of people with atypical learning styles (like dyslexia, ADD, etc.) have exceptionally high IQs. For some reason that science does not yet understand, one of the endowments that often come with advanced intelligence is some type of odd and uncommon way of learning, like ADHD. In fact, innumerable successful people have had the distinction of having one of these learning dissimilarities, and it may be that their success stemmed, in part, from the quirky and eccentric way in which they learned. This, of course, is nothing new. Over the past 20 years, many articles and books have been published advocating the idea that what we call disabilities should rightly be called gifts. Not surprisingly, there is a large group on Facebook called “The Gift of Invisible Disability”, on which I found this quote: “I am only different because I do not see, hear, focus, or connect the way you do - because I have a different way of learning. Yes I am different but only because I have a gift that you do not.” The point is that conditions like dyslexia do not have to be thought of as weaknesses, disadvantages, or drawbacks, just as being 6’10” doesn’t. Dyslexia and tallness (or being 68 and bald) are just the way things are for some of us. Whether we decide it’s a disability or a gift is entirely up to us.