Learning Disabilities Are Not An Excuse to Get a “Free Pass” in Life

When I was nine years old, I was diagnosed with Auditory Processing Disorder, also known as APD. It is a learning disability that affects the way the brain processes auditory information. People with APD cannot process the information they hear in the same way as others do, which leads to difficulties in recognizing and interpreting sounds, especially the sounds composing a speech. With APD along with a form of ADHD, It has hindered and made my learning experience all the more difficult in every single education institution I’ve been to and will go to in the future. It has affected my mental health, relationships with people, and the way I learn entirely.

The recent college admissions cheating scandal where rich, white, famous parents such as Lori Loughlin (Aunt Becky on Full House) paid up to $500,000 to get their uber-privileged kids into college. Leaving kids who actually worked to get a spot into a prestigious institution in the dust--replaced by someone who didn’t even have to work to get there. There were many different sketchy scenarios and tricks these parents used to get their children into these colleges, but one “trick” in particular stood out to me above the rest. 

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“A high school boy eager to enroll at the University of Southern California was falsely deemed to have a learning disability so he could take his standardized test with a complicit proctor who would make sure he got the right score. Cost to his parents: at least $50,000.” according to The New York Times. 

It hits entirely close to home and makes my blood boil of the fact that some rich man was able to weaponize learning disabilities for his advancement. When other kids and myself who genuinely struggle with many different kinds of learning disabilities, have to deal with the actual consequences of trying so hard to learn in institutions that were not built for kids & adults like us. 

I remember feeling embarrassed in grade school for having to go to separate rooms to take big tests and exams, get extra time on it, use a proctor, or not taking the honors level classes at my school due to my APD and ADHD. It made me feel less than and stupid; I always thought there was something wrong with me and that I would never be a “star student” under the school system I attended. I always had the impression that the teachers and faculty always made students with IEP’s (Individualized Education Programs) feel ostracized for not checking off every box of what makes a baseline good “student” under the American education system. Almost as if it was a chore to give special attention and help to those students, when in fact that’s what the American education system should be like. 

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Students with learning disabilities typically have to work two times harder than neurotypical students who can get A’s on assignments who don’t study or act like they don’t even try--when I had to work my ass off to get a B or B+. My fellow peers and I always felt so behind and blamed ourselves for it. As if having a learning disability was my fault when I should be blaming a system that is built around cookie cutter, bubble-in scantrons & standardized testing, rather than working with each individual students' learning styles so that they can succeed. 

Using learning disabilities to cheat your way in does more harm than good. It is incredibly demeaning to kids who indeed have learning disabilities and adds to the stigma that I’m so “lucky” to have a learning disability and that it’s “easy” for me and others. That myth is deeply problematic and toxic because every single kid with a learning disability wish there were a way in which they could learn and process information easier, be able to focus better, and read like “normal” people. 

APD and ADHD have in no way made my life “easier,” in fact it’s made it much harder. No neurotypical person has a right to use accommodations in order to get an “easy A.” Because that is not what it is, at all. It is merely a structure set up for kids with learning disabilities to give them an environment in which they are more likely to succeed. One without the many distractions that could hinder them from performing well at a test or exam. Some kids don’t even have the privilege to afford special tutoring or written diagnosis’ to get accommodations. 

To disabled students, don't beat yourself up for not doing well in a school system that is not built for you. I know I did, and you are in no way stupid or unworthy of getting help for your disability. 

To kids that do think of learning disabilities as a way to cheat, instead of disenfranchising disabled students and students with learning disabilities, even more, help to dismantle a “common core” methods school system that is not set up for most people to succeed. One that cares about individual students, and not about test scores. 

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More Information on the College Cheating Scandal & Learning Disabilities:

Actresses, Business Leaders, and Other Wealthy Parents Charged in U.S. College Entry Fraud - https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/12/us/college-admissions-cheating-scanda...

Is the College Cheating Scandal the 'Final Straw' for Standardized Tests? - https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/14/us/sat-act-cheating-college-admission...

National Center for Learning Disabilities - https://www.ncld.org

Data on Children & Youth with Learning Disabilities - https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/pdf/Indicator_CGG/coe_cgg_2016_05.pdf