We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

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Photo ofMathew Perrea

 When I was in third grade, I was a pretty average student. The school I was going to at the time was a Catholic school that always wanted to treat everyone the same. Every one of my peers were always given the same assignments, same classes, and even the same lunches if they ate lunch at school. Back then I was normal just like everyone else. One day in class we began learning cursive. All of my peers really enjoyed learning cursive, and some switched to writing cursive entirely in everyday writing. Unlike all of my peers though this was the first time ever that I had struggled in school. I was struggling to even just learn how to read cursive let alone write my own thoughts using it. After seeing how much I was struggling my teacher recommended to my parents that I go to the doctor and find out if I have some sort of disability. When I showed up to the doctor, they did all sorts of tests ranging from grip strength to hearing and a lot of different writing tests. After everything the doctors recommended that I go and do my best while they go through the data they got from the tests. About 2 months after all of the tests they sent back the data and I was diagnosed with dyslexia and dysgraphia. Specifically, I struggle with losing my place while reading and getting ideas down on paper.  When my parents went to share this with the school they were met with an interesting response. Rather than wanting to attempt to help or accommodate these disabilities I was found with, they actually wanted to know how we came across all this and still wanted to teach me the same as everyone else in the school. I wasn’t opposed to this, I just needed to have more time than others to work on certain assignments and they refused to give any extra time, saying that this extra time wasn’t normal. After that we changed to the local public school so that we could attempt to get help. I was too young to really understand what this change meant or why it was happening. I didn’t really even understand what dyslexia or dysgraphia was or how it affected me, I just knew it forced me to feel different from everyone else, so I hated whatever it was. The public school I moved to was really nice to me. They were always willing to help with anything and updated what accommodations they could provide every year depending on what they saw happening in my classes. But despite all that I felt different from everyone since I always had to go to a different room to take tests or had to work through recess to catch up to everyone’s writing. I wanted to just feel normal and be like everyone else. In an attempt to feel normal, I started practicing reading to improve my dyslexia on my own. It was incredibly difficult to get through books like Harry Potter or Percy Jackson for me and it would take months at a time to finish a single book, but I stuck to it. Eventually my reading level started to improve in my own way, I would still get lost easily but I learned how to find my place again. Then I got more serious about school and they stopped telling every teacher I had dyslexia due to how much I improved. Although I hated it, being diagnosed with these writing disabilities was the best thing to ever happen to me. It taught me the importance of sticking through things even when they get tough and although my disabilities will never truly be gone, I know I can work through them now and persevere despite these difficulties. I was finally able to make my new normal.

© Mathew Perrea. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person's teacher.