Have I used it as a crutch?

I’ve been accused recently of talking about disabilities too much and that I might possibly be using my own disability as a crutch. This really hurt me.
I decided I had to discuss this on my blog, about why I write about what I do.
I have learning disabilities. Through the last seven years of graduate school, God has worked on my perceptions of disabilities and of myself. I can now say, with all honesty, I am NOT ashamed of my learning problems. I learn differently. I do not follow the rules that fit in a pre-programmed list of how students are supposed to learn. This was a hard won view of myself and I refuse to go back to the time when I was ashamed of who I was.
God has given me some wonderful teachers over the years that have given me certain tricks to pass the classes I needed to, but he has also allowed me to struggle through some disappointing ones as well. I was told by one high school teacher that I was a horrible writer and wouldn’t be able to make it through graduate school, due to my atrocious spelling and grammar. I worked hard to prove her wrong.
My third grade teacher had a nervous breakdown, but still taught for most of the year. Nothing educational stuck, except how to make a loaded paste and glitter sandwich with paper. My fourth grade teacher basically had to teach me all over again. It was due to her and eight months of living in a travel trailer without tv, that I got past my difficulties with reading. Auto-correct for the most part helps clear up some of the misspelling and grammar issues (though occasionally I swear the computer is saying: “yep, nope, got nothing for you on that word! what is that word?!”) now days. I am an avid reader to the point that I go through at least three books a week now. I praise God for that.
It wasn’t until I was in community college that I finally got a name for my difficulties with math. Dyscalculia. Dyslexia in math. I have the superpower of taking a math problem from the book, inputting it into the calculator one way, and then writing it out a whole other way.  Before that time, I was told I just wasn’t working hard enough and that I was being difficult. For me to finally have a title in regards to what I struggled with, gave me a release that it wasn’t that I was ‘stupid,’ I just had a different way of looking at things. I only had one teacher who really worked with me on my math. Even then I barely passed his class. Due to the difficulties, I don’t much care for math.
(I recently said I hated math and I hurt a dear friend’s feelings because math is her passion. This was not my intention. I have years of resentment over never being helped to find a way to succeed in a subject that to my young eyes was my arch-nemesis. Math is all around us, I use it when I sew and when I shop. I admire any person who can do math without pausing. I am not one of them. Math will always be a struggle with me. I have accepted it and plan on making sure my children have every possibility of embracing it as a friend.)
I have never allowed my difficulties to stop me from doing something I wanted to do. I resent people accusing me of using my learning disabilities as a crutch. If I was using it as a crutch, I would not have gone on to graduate from a Master‘s program with a 3.8 GPA. I would never have gone on to pass high school, perhaps I would have dropped out half way through because it was just to difficult for me and I didn’t want to try to succeed. I would be living off of my parents and the government instead of looking for a job. I would say “I can’t do it, I’m not smart enough because I have a disability.” Instead I say, “Ok, I can’t do it the way most people do it, work with me to find a better way to do it. I’m willing.”
(There are people who disable themselves more than they are, these are people who use their disability as a crutch. I am glad that there is government help for those who are medically, physically, or intellectually unable to live or work on their own. But, I also believe that if we change our attitudes there is a possibility of respectable work for most people. I am glad that there are programs in schools that give scholarships to those with disabilities, because without those many would not have the opportunities to enter into school.)
My learning disabilities are real. They are not a crutch. I dance because of them. They have shaped me into someone who is in awe of the God who guides and helps my steps.
It took me seven years of intensive work by God, to get to the point of telling people that I have disabilities and I am proud of what I have accomplished because of them. I did it under the power of God, but I did not have to rely on ‘extra’ help (just my ADA accommodation for reasonable time to complete my tests) nor was I ever given anything that I didn’t work hard to accomplish.
God has given me a passion to to speak about difficulties and how these ‘difficulties’ might affect the church and how the church needs to step up to create ministry opportunities for those with disabilities.
I am 28 years old. It has only been for the last seven years that I have stopped being ashamed of who I am and what I have struggled with. I will speak, I will write, and I will plan to tell more people of my struggles so less children need to suffer through what I have had go through. I know my story isn’t the worse out there, but it is one story. If I make you uncomfortable, I am sorry, but not sorry enough to stop. God has brought me to this place at this time and he has finally allowed me to see myself the way he does. Not broken, but unique.
My invisible disabilities are just as important as the unavoidable ones.
It’s not a crutch. It’s my life.


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