Albert Einstein. Thomas Edison. Alexander Graham Bell. Bill Gates. Steve Jobs. What do all of these famous names have in common?
Aside from being some of the most influential people in the fields of science and technology, they were all diagnosed with some type of learning disability. This goes to show that, with the right support, individuals with learning disabilities can not only overcome obstacles but embrace their differences and turn them into a superpower.
Learning Disabilities Awareness Month, which is celebrated every October, aims to increase awareness, understanding, and support for individuals with learning disabilities while celebrating their unique strengths and contributions. In this article, we’ll share a definition of learning disabilities, how Learning Disabilities Awareness Month came to be, and some ways that you can participate in this event.
Learning disabilities are neurological conditions that affect how individuals process, retain, and express information. They can make it difficult for individuals to acquire and use specific academic skills, such as reading, writing, math, or language, despite having average or above-average intelligence. Learning disabilities are not the result of a lack of effort or educational opportunities.
Learning disabilities are very common, and can affect people at any age. The National Center For Learning Disabilities estimates that around 1 in 5 children have learning and attention issues such as dyslexia and ADHD. It’s important to note that learning disabilities persist into adulthood, but there are effective strategies that can help individuals thrive in school, at work, and in everyday life.
In spite of their prevalence, learning disabilities are still widely misunderstood. For instance, around half of parents believe that children will outgrow learning and attention issues, and a third of educators say that what people call a learning disability is sometimes “just laziness.”
As a result of these misconceptions, students with learning disabilities are more than twice as likely to be suspended and three times as likely to drop out of school. In order to educate the public and promote understanding about learning disabilities and attention issues, October was designated as Learning Disabilities Awareness Month in 1985 by President Ronald Reagan.
Today, organizations around the country use this month to hold events and activities to spread information about learning disabilities, break down harmful stereotypes, and help the more than 70 million Americans who have learning differences reach their full potential.
Educating yourself about learning disabilities is an important first step in challenging misconceptions and stereotypes. Start by learning more about learning disabilities, including their types, characteristics, and causes. Not only will this help you to personally gain a better understanding of the challenges people with learning disabilities face, it will also equip you with the language and terminology to discuss learning disabilities sensitively and avoid spreading outdated information.
There are several reliable sources where you can learn more about learning disabilities. Here are a few options:
Understanding the facts about learning disabilities can provide you with valuable insights into the challenges individuals may face in different settings, such as education and employment. But unless you know someone with a learning disability or have one yourself, it’s difficult to fully appreciate what it’s like to have difficulty recognizing words or concentrating on instructions.
PBS’ “Misunderstood Minds” offers a number of online activities that simulate what it’s like to have a learning disability. The activities are grouped by skill area, such as reading, writing, math, and attention.
Another good way to understand the experiences and perspectives of individuals with learning disabilities is to follow disability activists on social media. Activists often share personal stories, informative articles, and resources related to learning disabilities. By following them and engaging with their content, you’ll gain insights that you can then share with your own social media network. This, in turn, helps raise awareness among your followers and amplify the voices of people with learning disabilities.
Some great learning disability activists to follow include:
Self-employment is an attractive option for some people with learning disabilities as it gives them greater control over their schedules and work environment. This means they are able to adapt their work routines to accommodate their learning preferences and needs while pursuing their unique strengths.
By supporting businesses run by individuals with learning disabilities, you can actively contribute to a more inclusive society. Here are some businesses to check out:
Mentoring has proven to be highly beneficial for students with learning disabilities. Having a mentor not only improves academic outcomes, it can also help individuals with learning disabilities build confidence and self-advocacy skills.
To become a mentor for someone with a learning disability, check with local schools, universities, or community organizations to find out if they offer mentoring programs. Online platforms like VolunteerMatch and Idealist can also help you find LD-specific mentoring opportunities. You can also explore online communities focused on disabilities, such as Lime Connect, to connect with individuals or organizations that may be seeking mentors.
While October is recognized as Learning Disability Awareness Month, awareness and advocacy efforts are ongoing throughout the year. For more disability-related events and observances you can participate in all year round, download our free Disability Events Calendar.
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