Different way of seeing things
Learning difficulties are the most common disability for children in New Zealand.
Anna-Louise, a 17 year old from a fruit-salad of cultures, enjoys making other people happy. She loves to sing, dance, play the piano and listen to music that brings her joy. She happens to have dyspraxia* and wants you to know that it’s not what you’re unable to do that defines you.
It’s different for everyone but for me it means that sometimes I try to say stuff and I don’t quite know how to say it.
What do you wish people knew about learning disabilities?
A learning disability means there is something special about a person. We all have strengths that make us do things in a certain way.
A learning disability doesn’t make anyone disabled and it doesn’t make them any different because they are still people.
What changes have you made in order to succeed?
At primary school they didn’t really do anything at first, even though I had a diagnosis. The resources I actually needed to help me weren’t available. But with some classes, like math, I went with a tutor and did my lesson with someone else. By the time I was in Year 6 I had all this math knowledge so it was really useful.
When I started at college they gave me a reader/writer for my exams! It’s better because I go to a different room to do the exam by speaking. Sometimes people say that I’m lucky to have a reader/writer but they don’t really understand why or how it helps me. It’s way easier to be able to say what’s in my head rather than trying to translate it into writing.
How do you cope with how others treat you?
If someone tried to put me down or bully me I would say: “I have a disability that makes me have a different level of ability. I am like you. I am human, and that doesn’t mean I am handicapped.”
Do you have any advice for people struggling with learning difficulties?
Don’t be afraid to say what you want to say. Everyone has some sort of issue or other, but some don’t share it.
I tell myself: “Just because it takes me a bit longer to learn something doesn’t mean I can’t learn it,” and when I succeed I have a little party in my head. Then I am happy for the rest of the day.
*Oromotor Dyspraxia, also called verbal apraxia or apraxia of speech, makes it difficult to co-ordinate the muscle movements needed to pronounce words. Children with dyspraxia might speak with difficulty because enunciation is a challenge.