By Michelle Steiner
Salad is one of my specialties. I love to make salads with mixed greens, strawberries, cucumbers, red peepers, and carrots. Many view a salad as a hunk of lettuce, tomato, and cucumber. Most people love my salad and ask me bring it to gatherings. Another major part of my life is having a Learning Disability. Similar to views on salads, many people think there is only one type and assume I have Dyslexia. Most people are astonished when I tell them that I struggle with math, hand dexterity, and visual perception. Few have heard of the term Dyscalculia and often in disbelief because they can’t see it. Much like salads Learning Disabilities come in a wide variety of types.One type of Learning Disability is Dyslexia, which most people are familiar with. People with Dyslexia have difficulty with reading. Early signs that can occur before school include talking later, learning new words at a slower pace and forming words correctly. Other early signs include difficulty memorizing nursery rhymes or other rhymes, and recalling or identifying numbers and colors. In school students may read below their grade level and have trouble processing what is heard. Other difficulties in the school years are spelling, summarizing a story, or completing word problems. Many of my peers in ‘learning support’ had Dyslexia and struggled with reading and spelling.Another type of Learning Disabilities is Dyscalculia. Dyscalculia is a math based disability. People with this have trouble understanding how numbers work, and process math differently. The issues with math go beyond a classroom. I confuse my right with my left. I have trouble totaling items in the store, giving a tip at a restaurant, and creating a budget. Simple tasks such as reading the face of an analog clock is impossible. Anytime that I encounter math, it’s going to be a challenge for me. It’s not that I’m not capable of learning math, no one hasn’t found an effective way to teach it to me. Sadly a calculator and tutoring are little help. What has helped has been using cash at the store, because it’s a concrete concept, rather than a debit card that is more abstract. I can visualize the money being spent and am able to get a range on how much I can spend. I also use my fit bit to tell time and count my steps.Dysgraphia is another type of Learning Disability. People who have this struggle with writing. Some people with this may struggle with hand writing and spelling. Other individuals with this may have difficulty with expressing ideas in writing. My handwriting has always been a struggle. People often judged my hand writing as a character flaw, and labeled messy. Learning how to type helped me to be able to share my ideas with the world, without someone trying to make out my penmanship.Auditory processing disorder is another variation of the salad. People who have this have difficulty with processing sounds and can have trouble filtering out where the sound is coming from. It can be hard to figure out if the noise is someone talking or simply background noise. The brain misinterprets information that it is hearing and causes confusion with learning and following directions.Oral Written Language Disorder is another type. People who have this have difficulty understanding and/or expressing oral language. Individuals with this may also struggle to understand words’ order and meaning. If you switch the order it can make a different meaning. For example “The cat is on the mat.” is different than “The mat is on the cat.” Understanding and identifying when something makes sense is crucial to literary success.Non Verbal Learning Disabilities are another type of disabilities that can effect a person. It’s important to note that this is not officially recognized on The DSM. People who have this struggle with things such as reading facial expressions, body language, visual spatial difficulties, and may have difficulties with eye hand coordination. People with this often excel at reading and other verbal skills. I have struggled with my visual perception with not being able to drive and coordinate my body. My eyes flinch whenever any type of object comes in my line of vision. The issue isn’t with my eyes but my brain. I also had a much easier time learning to read and writing stories. I gravitated towards studies that involved more reading and application, rather than numbers and memorization.Learning Disability Salads can also include garnishes of related disorders such as ADHD, Dyspraxia, and Executive Functioning. It’s important to note that these are not Learning Disabilities, but are common with people who have them. Not everyone will have an additional disorder.Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder effects how a person focus and pays attention. Some people with this may always be on the move and have difficulty staying on task. Others who have it may zone out and appear to be day dreaming. Many people think that the person can’t pay attention, but the opposite is true. The person who has this focus on everything and struggles to block out distractions. Not being able to focus can have a impact on school and job performance.Dyspraxia is another type of add on. Dyspraxia is a disorder that creates difficulty coordinating their physical movements, language and speech. I can remember struggling to coordinate my body in gym class and on the playground. I would flinch any time a ball came in my field of vision even if it was soft. I trip on air and people have labeled me as clumsy and unathletic. It can also effect small motor skills such as coloring and using scissors to cut out things. I can remember not being able to stay in the lines when coloring. When I cut things out I don’t make straight even lines.Executive functioning is another topping to the salad, and is the CEO of our brain. When a person struggles with this it affects how they plan, organize, pay attention to details, and manage their time. If someone who struggles with this has a project they may struggle to take initiative to get the project started. Once they do get a start on it they may struggle to prioritize tasks and manage time. Many projects go uncompleted not because of lack of motivation, but because of difficulties in this area.Learning Disability salad comes in a wide variety of forms and variations. Some of the salads may also have an extra garnish that can make it more challenging. Each person will experience this differently, even if they have the same salad. People who have them don’t get to choose the type of dish or any added toppings. Each salad may be different and cannot be treated the same either. Every variety brings beauty and uniqueness. What counts is not the plate one is given but how one chooses to approach it. Thankfully there are many strategies that a person can use to help them manage their lives, including salads.