By Anna Chiaradonna
I used to believe that I would never make it to college. In elementary school, I was diagnosed with Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, and Visual-Spatial Processing Disorder. By the time I was in first grade, I was placed into an intermediate unit within my catholic elementary school. A secluded and discouraging “classroom” in the basement of the school, this space was a constant reminder that I did not belong with the other students. What the educators at my school sadly did not understand was that remedial learning was not what I needed, I needed to be taught differently.
The most discouraging part of my early education was not my difficulty in school, but the mindset of my educators and peers. Teachers called me lazy when in reality, I was working as hard as I could, only not to understand. Peers made jokes, but little did they know that everything they told to me, I had already said to myself. Thankfully, my parents never doubted my abilities and realized that I needed a different learning environment and teaching style.
When I moved schools in third grade, it felt like weights had been lifted off my shoulders. My learning differences no longer defined me, and I gained the understanding that my differences do not hinder my abilities as a student, they enhance them.
Coming to college, I had to reestablish all of these standards I had become so accustomed to throughout the first decade of my education in a neurodiverse institution. I’ve spent the last 10 years in a learning environment where everyone understands that some of the most brilliant people are Dyslexic. Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein, for example, are only two of the highly intelligent people that are known Dyslexics. Moving to college cast me into unfamiliar territory where, in some ways, I had to start all over again. I am slowly learning how to be comfortable telling someone that no, I don’t read words backward, and yes, I’m a Dyslexic student who loves to read and write. If you take one thing away from this piece, I hope it is the understanding that the stigma plaguing neurodiversity could not be more inaccurate. My Dyslexia has brought me to see the world with a different perspective, a profound depth of acceptance for others, and an intensity of tenacity that is imperishable.
Anna Chiaradonna is a freshman at Franklin and Marshall College. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org