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Adam’s story showcases the strengths of schools designed for students with learning differences. We are grateful for Adam to share his experiences with the education system and how his learning differences have shaped him as a young adult.
Please consider sharing your story to The RILEY Project to help inspire others who learn differently and elevate learning differences to people who may not experience with them. Without further ado, please see Adam’s story below, the responses have been edited for clarity.
Do you remember when you were first diagnosed with a Learning Difference? Were you told what difference is and how it impacts you both in and out of the classroom?
While I wasn’t officially diagnosed with Asperger’s until my junior year of high school, I always suspected there was something different about me. I hated any formal structure in my early childhood which resulted in my attendance of a very free-spirited preschool. Throughout elementary, I much preferred to spend time in the library or computer lab than out on the playground. I then attended a very small and very specialized middle and high school for students with learning differences in which I finally started to think I might be on the autism spectrum due to my social awkwardness and my very keen interest in trains. It came as no surprise when I got my diagnosis and if anything I would say I could breathe a little bit easier not that I finally had something I pin the way I was on.
When did you understand/learn that the support you received was beneficial to your learning?
I always had support throughout my middle and high school, but it wasn’t until high school that I truly took advantage of and understood those resources. Be they the nature of the school itself, small classes, freedom of expression/choice, use of technology etc. or the staff who were always there to help out be they teachers, administration, counselors etc. it is through them, the staff, that I realized my attendance of Sterne truly prepared me for life outside of grade school.
How old were you when you received support that made a difference?
I would say 14 but I’m not entirely certain on that.
What accommodations have you received over the years? Have you or do you presently use the accommodations?
I make frequent use of technology-based accommodations, in high school we all received individual iPads and they did so much to improve things such as writing and reading comprehension. Today I use audiobooks, as well as specialized testing environments.
Have you learned to be an advocate for yourself?
Yes, thanks almost entirely in part to the staff at Sterne. Through them I know when and how to speak up for myself if I need anything.
In your opinion, do you feel that that the educational system has provided enough support for students with LD through the years? Based on your personal experience, do you have recommendations on how students with LD could be more supported? If so, what are they?
When it comes to public schooling, in my personal experience, I have found that special education classes can sometimes serve as a catch-all for students who exhibit challenging behavior or have difficulty in traditional classroom settings. However, I was fortunate to attend a private school that catered specifically to students with learning differences. This type of education was instrumental in my personal growth and development. While I think private education has benefits, I also recognize that there is always room for improvement in any educational system.
How has your LD strengthened you as a person?
Especially after high school, I am no longer afraid to express my hobbies and interests, and my hobby is now to the point where I can make some money off of commission projects.
Are there any particular tools/websites that you recommend to other students with LD?
Audible/YouTube for audiobooks
If you could go back, is there one thing that you would do differently?
Well you know what they say about fate, I don’t think I would have changed anything.
The journey through the education system is individual to all learners but particularly to students and young adults with learning differences. The RILEY Project is honored to share Adam’s story.
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