Monday, May 30, 2016

7 Things NOT to say to Someone with a Learning Disability

The Inclusive Class is so pleased to post this article submitted by Lachrista Greco. Lachrista was a guest on The Inclusive Class Podcast several years ago, sharing her experience growing up as a student in special education. Today, we welcome her back with this very insightful blog about learning disabilites!

As someone with two learning disabilities, I have experienced firsthand some pretty ridiculous questions and statements regarding my disabilities. In third grade, after much testing, I was diagnosed with Dyscalculia (the math version of Dyslexia), and Language-Processing Disorder (a disability which makes it difficult for me to process information I receive and to then regurgitate this information either on paper or verbally. It also makes it difficult for me
to retain information).

Learning Disabilities are commonly misunderstood, even though 4.6 million Americans report having one. This type of disability is treated as “less than” physical disabilities. According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, “seven out of ten parents, educators, and members of the general public incorrectly link learning disabilities with intellectual disability” (NCLD, 2014). Because learning disabilities are invisible, those of us with them are treated poorly, and often not believed.

Without further ado, I give you 7 Things Not to Say to Someone With a Learning Disability:

1. “You don’t look like you have a disability.”
I have legit been told this before. Yes, much of this is ignorance, but please refrain from saying this to someone. There are many types of disabilities, and not all disabilities are visible ones.

2. “What happened?”
Most of us are born with them. For whatever reason, our brains are wired differently. It doesn’t mean we experienced some form of trauma in the womb or as young children.

3. “I would never think YOU had a learning disability!”
Newsflash: all types of people have learning disabilities. These disabilities don’t discriminate based on age, race, gender, etc. This is rude, because it’s incredibly judgmental. It really shows a person’s ignorance. Saying this to someone with a learning disability can really invalidate our experience and our diagnosis.

4. “Oh, do you have Dyslexia? I’ve heard of that.”
We don’t all have Dyslexia. There are many different types of learning disabilities. Please don’t assume that we all have the same one.

5. “Are you sure you’re not just using this as a crutch?”
One of my middle school science teachers asked me this. It was extremely hurtful, but I didn’t have the language at the time to articulate why. Saying this to someone with a learning disability is completely inappropriate. Asking this assumes we are lying about our disability and our need for accommodations. I’m not using it as a “crutch.” It’s all I know.

6. “Why are you allowed extra time on a test/project/etc? That’s unfair!”
Actually, it’s not unfair. All through school, part of my IEP (Individualized Education Plan) was to be given extra time for tests. Because tests are created in a one-size-fits-all way, giving a person with a learning disability extra time allows for somewhat of a level playing field. It takes many of us longer to process information, and then to show that information in the form of a test, so the extra time is necessary. Having extra time on a test never gave me a leg up--trust me--I did poorly on several tests even WITH extra time.

7. “I can help you overcome this!”
No. You can’t. This statement assumes a) you think you know what we’re dealing with, and b) that we must obviously want to be “fixed.” Learning disabilities don’t get better with time. Those of us with them just learn how to work with them more, and not against them. There is no “overcoming” our disability. And honestly, I wouldn’t want to. It’s a part of my identity. It’s a part of who I am, and how I think.

Lachrista Greco is a writer, speaker, activist, and Trauma-Informed/Adaptive yoga instructor. She is also the founder and CEO of Guerrilla Feminism, a global feminist resource network for activists. Lachrista has spoken at colleges, universities, and nonprofits about digital activism, learning disabilities, ItalianitĂ , domestic and sexual violence, and yoga. She has published two books. Lachrista lives in Madison, Wisconsin (with pieces of her heart in Rome), and plays BeyoncĂ© songs on her ukulele. Follow her on Twitter or check out her  website @

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