Since I first learned to read and write, I was always slow and careful.
In kindergarten during a parent-teacher conference, my teacher remarked upon my perfectionism and slow pace, noting that it might become an issue later on in school. It didn’t seem to be much of a problem then—I was just thorough and precise. It was a non-issue.
But sure enough, when I reached high school, gone were the days of unlimited time on tests and long project time-frames.
Freshman year, I relied more on my innate abilities, earning high marks while struggling to finish timed assessments. I often stayed up into the late hours of the night finishing homework. Many of my teachers that year assumed that I, like my peers, just needed to adjust to the faster pace and demanding workload of high school. One teacher even tried to tell me that I just needed to work faster and more efficiently.
No matter how hard I tried, I still floundered in all of my classes, rushing on tests in an attempt to finish, and running on just a few hours of sleep. I didn’t need to adjust, my schooling did.
After talking to my guidance counselor, she suggested that I get tested as a first step in the lengthy process of requesting a variation on an individualized education plan (IEP).
She warned that the entire process would most likely take a few months and that I would have to seek the necessary testing on my own. The testing, spread out over two weeks, took a few hours each day. The results showed a significant discrepancy between my intellectual/academic capabilities and my processing speed.
In other words, my brain processes information at a slower speed than average, and I take more time to complete most tasks.
After an hour of meeting with my guidance counselor, vice principal, parents, and all of my teachers, I was granted special accommodations, most notably, extra time on tests.
Since then, my anxiety revolving around timed assessments has diminished. However, while I was able to receive the necessary accommodations to help me succeed in school, many others have not.
My parents and I were able to advocate for my education and we possessed the resources to seek the testing required to begin the process. Not all students are as fortunate as me.
Furthermore, a stigma still surrounds those with learning disabilities. For some it may not seem to be worth the trouble; it may seem easier to struggle in silence, especially if they already appear to be successful in school.
Focusing on providing students with the tools to succeed should not be the anomaly—it should be the standard.
Sophie Barowsky is a senior at Framingham High School in Framingham, Massachusetts. In college, she hopes to study neuroscience or psychology.