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What Do They Know? (What Difference Does It Make?)

“Knowledge of what is does not open the door directly to what should be.”    Albert Einstein

For the “What do they know?” assignment, I interviewed two individuals to determine what they know about learning disabilities.  At the onset of the interview, neither individual thought they knew much about adults with learning disabilities; interestingly both rated their knowledge a three on a scale of one to ten.  As we proceeded with the conversation, however, they both discovered that they knew more than they thought they did, based on their work and personal experiences. Probably the thing that was most apparent was their struggle with defining a learning disability and identifying individual examples.  While they both took the term ‘learning’ to heart, they both also included more physical traits and even wanted to associated it with lower intellect but thought twice.   I don’t blame them

What do I know now that I didn’t know prior to this class about adults with learning disabilities?  For starters:

  • Learning disabilities do not end with childhood because learning is not something that is ever confined to a classroom – and neither is a learning disability
  • Learning disabilities can define an adult or not – it depends on the level of self determination and self advocacy
  • Understanding everything about your disability – just like understanding any other dimension of yourself – is critical to daily functioning
  • Adults must self disclose to be able to take advantage of accommodations that can make work life more productive – this is a choice

And most recently….The armed forces do not admit you if you disclose that you have a learning disability.

Every day we meet people, and sometimes spend a good deal of time with them, and never even think about asking “are you learning disabled?”  Our dentist, our hair stylist, our co-workers, our bus driver, our doctor, our pharmacist, our dry cleaner, or our favorite waitress.

We ask many other questions in the natural course of getting to know someone:  “Where do you live?”  “Where do you work?”  “What do you like to do?”  Once we get to know them better we might even dare to ask about their religious beliefs or their politics, but we don’t ask them if they are a person with a learning disability.  What difference does it make if we know?


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