By Ruthie Kolton-Shaffer
Stupid. For a long time, that’s what I thought of myself. I thought that my brain was wasted space. Concentration was always a problem and so was sitting still. I couldn’t answer questions because I was either too shy or didn’t pay attention and missed the answer. My parents had me tested and found out that I have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder), which is not uncommon, but to me, it felt like I had some kind of disease.
Soon enough, my parents signed me up for an IEP (Individualized Education Program) which, despite helping me academically, made me feel inferior to my classmates. I became even more shy when I raised my hand in class because I had a reason to think the answer was wrong. Blaming the disorder became an easy default. I would always think that I didn’t need to know the answer to a math or English question because I had ADHD as an excuse. But that wasn’t the case. Sometimes I would burst into tears when I couldn’t figure out a question on an assignment or got a low grade on a test. I would constantly enter that dark place where my mind would always say to me, “you’re stupid” or “you can’t get anything right.” It took me a while to come to terms with my disorder.
When I first toured Beacon, I knew it was different from other schools. I felt like I had found a place where people wouldn’t look at me strangely if I had to take a test in another room, a minute matter yet one that greatly affects me and many other students. For example, one IEP student at Beacon reports, “I get a lot of support from a lot of teachers. Some of my teachers don’t really care that I have an IEP and they just treat me like I’m another kid, which kind of sucks, [but] our study skills class helps a lot.” The students finds the system for IEP students at Beacon to be, on the whole, “really supportive.”
Another IEP student agreed that most teachers are accommodating of learning disabilities: “They understand that it is sometimes hard for me to pay attention in class.” When asked about dealing with teachers who are less understanding, the student explained that class becomes “kind of difficult because it’s harder to get help.”
It’s hard having an IEP if your teachers don’t acknowledge the extra help you require. Having an IEP doesn’t mean you’re stupid or antisocial. It means that you need some support in school and, as I can say from personal experience, there is nothing wrong with that. Having an IEP at Beacon has actually helped me understand something very important: everyone’s brain is unique and different.
There is no shame in having an IEP.