(this is an edited re-post of a diary I originally wrote way back in 2007)
But I have a somewhat different perspective, and I'd like to share it. I'm learning disabled; I also have a PhD, am married, have two kids, a good job, and so on. Plus a degree in special ed (although I don't teach). AND I'm writing a book (if I can make myself stop BLOGGING so much!)(and I am STILL writing this book. Who knows? Maybe it will be published one day).
KosAbility is a community diary series posted at 5 PM ET every Sunday by volunteer diarists. This is a gathering place for people who are living with disabilities, who love someone with a disability, or who want to know more about the issues surrounding this topic. There are two parts to each diary. First, a volunteer diarist will offer their specific knowledge and insight about a topic they know intimately. Then, readers are invited to comment on what they've read and/or ask general questions about disabilities, share something they've learned, tell bad jokes, post photos, or rage about the unfairness of their situation. Our only rule is to be kind; trolls will be spayed or neutered.
I have nonverbal learning disability, and I am disabled. There are things that most people can do that I am not able to do. OK, everyone has SOME things they can't do. But I have more, and they are more unusual. I get lost a lot. I fail to recognize people (I mean REALLY - it once took 30 seconds to recognize my father!). I have a lot of spatial problems. I misplace things. I have trouble with directions.
And I have a diagnosis (although never formally given) - Nonverbal Learning Disability. It's a label. It's a box. It's very, very useful. It helps me find resources that can help me, it helps me know I am not alone, it allows me to know that I am not lazy, crazy, or stupid. Although people have repeatedly called me all those things....including professionals (although they used SLIGHTLY different language for 'stupid'). To euphemize this to 'learning difference' to me, does a disservice to ALL involved. A difference makes it sound minor, or like a choice I might make. It lumps me with all the neurotypical folk (neurtypical - or NT - is 'normal people'. It's an acronym for people who don't have one). EVERYONE has learning differences. That leads to me (or a kid with LD) thinking: Since I have so many problems, I must be LAZY, CRAZY or STUPID. Nope. Disabled. Done right, it's an empowering word.
At the same time, though, a diagnosis is a box. I have symptoms of NLD (but I am good at math and have a sense of humor - which we are not supposed to have); I have symptoms of Asperger's syndrome (but not the obsessive interests); I have symptoms of high functioning autism; I even (ahem) have areas of giftedness. The only diagnosis that REALLY fits me is being Peter. THAT'S me.
At the same time, my disability, while it is quite real and somewhat disabling, does not fully define me. I have many traits utterly unrelated to it....I'm an atheist who was raised as a Jew. I'm a liberal. I'm a statistician. I'm a husband. I'm a father. I'm a New Yorker.
People do NOT fit into boxes, but the idea of the box can still be useful. Even empowering. And just because I am DISabled, doesn't mean that I am not also ABLED.
Some resources for people with problems like mine:
My web site I Am Learning Disabled
The Yahoo group: NLD in common
A talk (warning: PDF) I gave at a conference.
and if anyone wants to see the current draft of my book (to be titled "Screwed up somehow, but not stupid") just e-mail me.
thanks for reading