This is a very hard subject for me to talk about, considering that this is something that very few people know about me. It's hard to describe a disability that isn't physically visible to someone. Growing up, I had always struggled with math. Eventually my teachers began to take note that I literally could not comprehend a single thing that was going on in class. During class time, I would be sent to a tutor everyday that would work one-on-one with me. At the time, I was too young to fully understand what was going on, so I thought of it as some sort of privilege because I didn't have to sit in class with everyone else.
Once I entered middle school, I began to realize that this wasn't a privilege, and that there was seriously something wrong with me. I had to meet with a counselor once a week, who would show me different pictures, such as ink blots. As I got older, I continued to go to various tutors and counselors outside of school to figure out what was wrong with me. I was assigned at-home activities on top of my school work to "train my brain." In eighth grade, I was finally told that I have dyscalculia.
The scientific definition of dyscalculia is "the severe difficulty in learning or comprehending arithmetic, such as understanding numbers, learning how to manipulate numbers and learning facts related to mathematics." In other words, anything number-related basically turns my brain into mashed potatoes. Dyscalculia is very similar to dyslexia, in the sense that instead of mixing up letters, my brain often mixes up numbers. So instead of reading the number 1234, I might think it says 4231.
Explaining this to other people is extremely difficult because they usually reply with, "Oh, I'm bad at math too. I totally understand!" No. You don't understand. There's a difference between getting a C in your high school trigonometry class, and not even being able to take it in the first place because you don't have the learning capability to take anything higher than algebra (even though I barely passed that). What's even harder is trying to explain your learning disability to college professors. I was forced to take a statistics class even though I clearly didn't have the prerequisites for it, and was told that maybe I should, "rethink my major if I can't handle the classes." Being a culinary major, I purposely tried to avoid ever having to take any math classes, but apparently that's impossible. And when I got a tutor for that class, she told me that it was "impossible to teach me anything because everything she said just went in one ear and out the other."
Yeah, of course math is a hard subject, but it's even harder when no one seems to take your learning disability seriously. Dyscalculia gets in the way of my everyday life, such as not being able to differentiate the numbers on a speedometer without having to stare at it for 30 seconds and figure out what number the line is pointing to. There's nothing more embarrassing than when someone asks what time it is on a walk clock and you have to pull out your cell phone because you have no idea how to read it. Not only does dyscalculia affect how you deal with numbers, but it also affects your sense of direction, your concentration and your memory in general.
If you are struggling with a learning disorder, just know that you're not alone. One in every five people have a learning disability. Many celebrities, such as Justin Timberlake, Daniel Radcliffe and even Barack Obama have admitted to having a learning disability. In third grade, my teacher, Mrs. Brandon, introduced me to a book called "Niagara Falls, Or Does It?" by Henry Winkler (aka Fonzie on "Happy Days"). The book, along with the rest of the series, focused on Henry Winkler's struggles with dyslexia as a kid. It really made me fell connected to him knowing that I wasn't the only one in the world who had a difficult time with learning (Also, he had a dachshund named Cheerio, which is why I still love dachshunds so much to this day).
If you have a learning disorder, or think that you might have one, please don't be afraid to ask for help. This is not only a letter to you, but a letter to myself. If you have a tutor that doesn't understand the way you learn, then keep searching until you find one that is helpful. If you know someone that has a learning disorder, please be kind and patient, because you never know what kinds of battles a person is facing on the inside.