I am on a mission to make the invisible, visible. I’ve lived with an undiagnosed learning disability for more than two decades and for the most part, I’ve been through this personal struggle alone.
I was left in the care of the Children’s Aid Society when I was five. After that, I moved from home to home and school to school. I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere. I felt alone and scared growing up. To make matters worse, I had a learning disability.
Although thoughts are clear in my head, I cannot translate those thoughts to paper. It’s like there’s a short circuit from my mind to my hand. Everything that I try to put down on paper is a scrambled mess. Anyone will tell you that if you can’t write it’s a huge setback.
Growing up, people had made up their minds about me. I was pegged as not being as smart as the other kids which made me feel ashamed and insecure. I knew I had greater abilities but I just couldn’t get them out properly. A learning disability is like having a wheelchair with square wheels. And I call it an invisible disability because the barriers I face aren’t as obvious to everyone.
In my 20’s, I had jobs in manual labour and eventually became a church custodian. That’s when my life started to change. A parishioner introduced me to a psychologist who diagnosed me as having a Nonverbal Learning Disorder (NLD). This diagnosis helped me understand that my challenge had nothing to do with my intelligence. Simply put, I learned differently and better yet, there were resources to help me cope.
Following that I enrolled at Fanshawe College in London, Ontario. At first, I was frustrated, discouraged and often felt like giving up. Then, tragedy struck. Jessica, the psychologist who had given me so much hope, died in a car accident. Not wanting her contribution to be in vain, I found the strength to return to school — this time with the support of speech recognition software. I think and it writes! With this support, I earned my Arts and Sciences diploma.
One of the places I turned to for support was the Learning Disabilities Association of London Region, a United Way funded organization. This organization helped me realize the potential I knew I always had and inspired me to give back to others after enduring this challenging journey.
Today, I speak about learning disabilities and the experience has been rewarding. I was recently inducted into the Learning Disabilities Association Hall of Fame! Without the support of the Learning Disabilities Association of London and Region and United Way, this wouldn’t have been possible.
I also have a successful career. As a TD Canada Trust telephone banking specialist, I interact with different people every day. When I started working at TD, I needed a support assistant almost every day. Now I meet with someone once or twice a week for about 30 minutes. I’m really proud of that!
Today, I live by four words: I can do it!
You too can make a difference in someone’s life!