- December 14, 2020
My name is Anya, I am 18 and I have been learning about journalism and wanted to write an article about life with a learning disability.
What is a learning disability?
A learning disability is a reduced intellectual ability and difficulty with everyday activities – for example household tasks, socialising or managing money – which affects someone for their whole life.
People with a learning disability tend to take longer to learn and may need support to develop new skills, understand complicated information and interact with other people.
Learning disabilities are caused by something affecting the development of the brain. This may occur before birth (prenatally), during birth, or in early childhood. Learning disabilities can be caused by any one of a variety of factors, or by a combination. Sometimes the specific cause is not known. Possible causes include the following:
- An inherited condition, meaning that certain genes passed from the parents affected the brain development, for example Fragile X.
- Chromosome abnormalities such as Down’s syndrome or Turner syndrome.
- Complications during birth resulting in a lack of oxygen to the brain.
- A very premature birth.
- Mother’s illness during pregnancy.
- The mother drinking during pregnancy, for example Foetal Alcohol Syndrome.
- A debilitating illness or injury in early childhood affecting brain development, for example a road traffic accident or child abuse.
I had a normal birth and I was born with a learning difficulty. You can’t catch it and give it to anyone else. My parents realised that I had a learning difficulty because I struggled with reading and writing.
My school experience
I went to an ordinary primary school, but I really didn’t like it because they took me out of the class and I worked with someone else and I didn’t like that and my parents wanted me to be in class with the other kids. We searched schools and visited Downs Park School, a special needs school and knew that this was the right school for me because they had other kids with difficulties and were supportive. I really liked this school, the best thing I liked was drama and school plays, they gave me lead parts to build my confidence and I was sad to have to leave there, I made lots of friends there too.
The support that works for me best is to show me what to do and then leave me to do it and come back to check on it and see how I’m doing and help me correct mistakes. Start me off with an easy worksheet and then a medium and ask me if I wanted a hard one. They didn’t just give me the worksheet and not explain, they took time to explain and respected me and how I wanted to learn and I could stay in the classroom and work with the other kids.
I left Downs Park when I was 16 and then had an interview at Plumpton College and then got a letter to say that I had got a place, I was really happy and we celebrated. Another college choice was too far away, two trains, Plumpton was one coach and easier.
I did the Rural Pathways course and learnt about plants and animals and still did maths and English, one day a week I had horticultural experience on an allotment. The first year was good and after the big summer holiday I went back and was in a new group which I didn’t know. I didn’t like the change with the new people and my days were different- I found the change really hard and left in the December. I had a little chat and with college and this was my decision, I found it hard to leave and wanted to carry on and thought about staying for a bit but then made up my mind to leave and think about what I wants to do next.
Friendships and social life
At Downs Park I made some good friends, J is really nice and funny and we made friends instantly, then there was a new boy called M and me, J and M were in a group together.
I dated M for a while but we kept breaking up and getting back to together, then we decided to just be friends because we weren’t ready to date. We are still friends to this day.
I made lots of friends at Plumpton and they welcomed me, I saw them in college times, I didn’t hang out with them outside of college because we didn’t live near to each other.
The difficulties of having friendships with a learning difficulty is being asked questions a lot about it. Also when you’re dating it’s hard to read a menu, people won’t help you and it’s really hard.
It can be hard to make arrangements to see friends and work out times and read long texts. It can be tricky to get to places independently with reading the times, knowing the right stops, reading signs and maps. My Mum and Dad would take me and pick me up but encouraged me to become more independent. I am now fairly confident on the bus and Mum and Dad help me prepare for a journey.
Coming into adulthood as a person with a learning disability
I want a job being around people, not being out somewhere where no-one can see me. I’d like to help people, I have been told that I am a really nice person and good at helping people and understanding how they feel. I also like writing. Finding a job is quite hard because there aren’t a lot of choices.
I would need an employer to understand my learning difficulty and what help I need, maybe help with writing and filling in paperwork and ticking the right boxes. I think I would like to work with children who need help, maybe children with a learning difficulty, I could be a role model and let them know that their future is going to be alright.
Achieving independence is quite hard because I get worried that I might get lost, miss my stop or the bus and can’t read the times. It can be tricky to get the balance with not talking to strangers but needing to ask for help, I know that can ask a police officer and bus driver and have the confidence to ask someone at the bus stop.
I am nervous of independent living, I worry about paying all the bills. I cook for my family and can cook healthy meals which my family enjoy. It would be good to have a flat mate who could help me. The hard bit would be to socialise, sometimes I spend time in my room and just sit there for a while, my parents check on me and I say that I’m OK but I’m not really because I feel worried with all the things in my head and feel lonely. The clubs I go to help a lot- Movie club, The Edge and sewing class and having the opportunity to be around people.
The positives of having a learning difficulty
The good bits of having a learning difficult is that sometimes you’re creative with stories or a particular talent that others don’t have. I am good at horse riding. I think that I am a nice and helpful person because I understand what it’s like for others.