Learning disabilities present challenges for some students

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Learning disabilities present challenges for some students

Junior  Maggie Watkins struggles with anxiety and balancing the demands of high school.

Junior Maggie Watkins struggles with anxiety and balancing the demands of high school.

Kiki Soto

Junior Maggie Watkins struggles with anxiety and balancing the demands of high school.

Kiki Soto

Kiki Soto

Junior Maggie Watkins struggles with anxiety and balancing the demands of high school.

Helen Moore

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Imagine having a constant stream of random thoughts flipping through your head. At a given moment, you could be thinking about three separate things at once, all unrelated to the schoolwork before you.

Focusing on the idea of focusing then further distracts you from the task at hand. For students with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), this never-ending thought process challenges them every day.

“Sometimes, I will be sitting at a lecture and all I can think about is what I am going to have for dinner or what TV shows I’m going to watch when I get home,” senior Jordan Tucker said.

Tucker was diagnosed with ADHD before eighth grade. She is one of several students silently struggling with ADHD and other conditions that add to the burden of navigating the demands of high school.

“Having ADHD is like having a million thoughts running through your head all at the same time and not being able to pick one to focus on,” senior Zoe Franklin said.

To cope, Franklin has learned to write out lists to boil down what she needs to do. Tucker listens to music or doodles to give her brain a second task to complete coherently.

Some students are prescribed medications to help manage their ADHD. These medications increase alertness and help students process information. Although these drugs help some students focus in the classroom, there are side effects.

“I decided to stop taking the meds because it was really negatively affecting my mental health,” Tucker said. “I really [have now] forced myself to learn how to function in school.”

Students also struggle with a lack of awareness and understanding from their peers.

“Since it’s a more common learning disability, some people tend to not take it seriously or they don’t believe it’s even real,” Franklin said. “ADHD has varying degrees and can affect people differently. People should be more aware of that and take it more seriously.”

The severity of ADHD cases seem to vary on a patient by patient basis.

“I don’t really feel like I personally need any special treatment, so I don’t ask for it,” junior Daniel Poss said. “I don’t think my case is as severe as other people’s, but it’s definitely severe enough to affect me.”

Although ADHD presents its challenges, some students choose to not resent, but to accept their disorder’s benefits.

“I really think it is an advantage to me,” Tucker said. “I think it makes me more curious and observant about what is happening around me.”

Dyslexia

Senior Zoe White squints at the page. She struggles to focus and interpret the words before her.

White, diagnosed with dyslexia, recognizes the words individually, but by the time she reaches the end of the sentence, she struggles to string the meaning of the words together. She rereads the sentence, now underlining the most important terms. Finally, the purpose of the passage is revealed.

“I would say it’s somewhat challenging,” White said. “When I’m reading, I can get overwhelmed with all the letters and they can kind of all blend together.”

Students diagnosed with dyslexia are provided extended time on assignments to compensate for the extra time it takes them to process concepts.

Junior Daniel Poss often becomes frustrated when reading schoolwork. When a teacher asks the class to quickly read a passage, he may only be three-quarters complete by the time everyone else is finished.

“I just take more time on my work,” White said. “I’ll read a passage up to three times to make sure I fully understand it, for example.”

White believes dyslexics are as capable as everyone else.

“I feel like people automatically think dyslexics are dumb or stupid,” White said. “Which is completely not the case. I can always get the answer; it just might take me a little more time.”

Test-taking Anxiety

Students with anxiety, such as junior Maggie Watkins, can take one glance at an exam and forget all the content they had previously memorized.

“All I can focus on is the possibility that I will fail the test,” Watkins said. “I get way too anxious to focus on the material.”

Senior Liah Lawson believes having an anxiety episode during a test is “the worst feeling possible.”

“It’s terrible because you know the information, and just in that instance, everything escapes your mind,” Lawson said. “Your brain just stops functioning; your heart starts pounding, and you feel like you’re going to throw up.”

Although every test supplies a new source of anxiety for these students, in response, they have developed ways to counter this stress.

“I feel like I have to study harder,” Lawson said. “For me, I like speaking things out loud and making things more ‘normal.’ Putting things into simpler contexts helps me not feel as stressed.”

There are also ways to deal with anxiety during an assessment.

“Usually, I try to calm myself by saying how small it will be in a few years,” Watkins said. “For me, it’s all about putting it into perspective.”

Watkins prepares as much as she can for assessments that are too important for her to oversimplify their significance.

“If I know that I prepared all that I could, it calms my nerves,” Watkins said. “There will always be anxiety present, you just have to learn how to accept it and work through it.”

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