As I Am

Describe a situation when you overcame a great obstacle.

Most people are surprised to find out that I am dyslexic. Of course, most people don’t know. It’s not that I am ashamed of it, just that I don’t like to tell people about my problems. It is hard to hide, however, when a teacher asks me to read something out loud and I take twice as long as any other student. Or when I have to spend twice as long doing the same homework. Dyslexia is defined as an impaired ability to learn to read, but that definition doesn’t tell of the frequent humiliation or the struggle to fit in. I am not ashamed of it anymore, but it took a long time for me to learn to accept dyslexia as a part of who I am. Ten years ago, I entered the first grade, which is when most “normal” students learn to read. That was when my struggles began. After three years my parents realized that I was dyslexic. They sent me to a private tutor, and so I had to spend much of my time after school continuing to study rather than playing outside with friends. I didn’t understand why I had to do so much extra work just to be average. My frustration was compounded by my second-grade teacher, who saw my dyslexia as a sign of stupidity. She once told my mom over the phone that “Michael is going to end up in a tech school.” My mom was so appalled that she moved me to a different school district. It wasn’t easy to be uprooted, but in retrospect, I think it was the right move. At my new school, my mom found me a new tutor named Pat. She was the fifth tutor we had tried, so I was not optimistic, and I resented being forced to spend two hours a week with her. At the time, two hours seemed like forever. One day I was having a particularly bad session. Pat saw my frustration and asked why I was so upset. “I don’t get why I have to come to tutoring,” I said in protest. “I look at other kids in my grade and see them doing great on the spelling tests. Why can’t I be like them?”Pat replied with a serene tone as if she had heard this complaint before. “We are all special in different ways,” she said. “We all have positive and negative traits that we live with and that make us different from everyone else.” Usually I hate clichés, but there was something in the way she said it that really made it stick with me. Pat’s job wasn’t just to help me learn to read and write, but also to help me understand and begin to accept dyslexia as a part of myself. Both Pat and my parents understood that if I was told I would not succeed because of who I was, then I most likely wouldn’t. I continued to struggle for quite some time after that, but since dyslexia is a permanent part of me, I have continued to learn how to accept it and cope with it. I will probably keep learning my entire life, but that’s okay with me. I believe that is why we exist: to learn about and adjust to our constantly changing internal and external environments.Because of my experience with dyslexia, I have learned that a disability doesn’t prevent someone from doing great things. Dyslexia has helped to shape the way I see the world. In that regard, it could be considered a gift. All of the extra work was worth it. If I were given the chance to go back and live a normal, non-dyslexic life, I don’t think I would. Most people are surprised to find out that I am dyslexic, but I always have been and I always will be. For better or for worse, dyslexia is a part of who I am.

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