Mariah’s Story

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At age 12, Mariah experienced a brain injury that affected her speech, and we are grateful that she decided to share her journey through the education system with The RILEY Project today. Mariah also has Broca’s aphasia, which is the loss of the ability to express speech, specifically leaving one with limited language skills, caused by injury to the brain. To learn more, please read here on NIH or here on the National Aphasia Association’s website.

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?
I think I have a pretty unique perspective on learning differences because I didn’t have a learning difference until I was 12 years old. After I woke up from my brain injury, I quickly realized I couldn’t express myself with speech. I went back to school part-time a year later with an IEP [Individualized Education Program]. I learned what an IEP was, and I learned how it will benefit me before the school year started.

When did you understand/learn that the support you received was beneficial to your learning?
I understood it immediately. I couldn’t write a five paragraph essay for homework like everyone else anymore; I was relearning the alphabet at home with my mom.

How old were you when you received support that made a difference?
Since I didn’t really go to school for about a year after my brain injury, I was 13.

What accommodations have you received over the years? Have you or do you presently use the accommodations?
I went to school part-time, and I didn’t have homework anymore for that year. I was homeschooled for high school, and that worked a lot better for me for my schooling, so I don’t really use the accommodations anymore!

Have you learned to be an advocate for yourself?
I have always been an advocate for myself. At one of my parent-teacher conferences in kindergarten, I told the teacher that the work we were doing in class wasn’t challenging for me. I wanted to push myself further, and I wasn’t afraid to say it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t say anything to stand up or advocate for myself once I got Broca’s aphasia.

In your opinion, do you feel 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?
I don’t think the standardized educational system has provided enough support to students with learning differences. I think homeschooling is the best option for those students. I went to a co-op with great teachers. Homeschool co-ops are made to individualize schooling to your child!

How has your LD strengthened you as a person?
I don’t think that aphasia strengthened me as a person, but going through my brain injury at such a young age has.

Are there any particular tools/websites that you recommend to other students with LD?
I really liked taking classes through Silicon Valley High School because you can go at your own pace. I couldn’t finish math or Spanish because it was too hard, but the history, finance and economics were great for me.

If you could go back, is there one thing that you would do differently?
I wanted to go to many classes during the day. I was so fatigued all the time, and I should’ve taken less classes to rest and focus on my injured brain.

Please consider sharing your story to The RILEY Project to inspire others to share their own personal journeys and educate others about people who learn differently.