When Alexis was first diagnosed with learning disabilities in grade two, she struggled to understand what a learning disability was and why she learned differently from other students:

“I remember that I didn’t learn like other students did – I felt dumber. Once it started that I went to the other classroom, it became normal.”

Today, Alexis is a student in grade 11 and she has become more comfortable with her learning disabilities; she is familiar with her learning needs and knows how to advocate for herself. Alexis and her resource room teacher, Jenessa Dworet, have volunteered to share information about Alexis’ journey as she struggled with learning disabilities and how she was able to become the bright and capable student that she is today.

Alexis’s Strengths and Needs:

When asked about her areas of needs, Alexis was quick to comment about her struggles with math:

“I have never been good at math. Memorizing math is the hardest part. I’m good at practicing it and doing it. I try hard to work it out but it’s always been a challenge. I think I’ve gotten some anxiety around it too. I put negativity around it, so that’s what it just brings. I say I’m bad at it now, and so I don’t do well.”

Jenessa, Alexis’s resource teacher, has also noticed her struggles with math as well as with writing:

“Writing can sometimes be an issue for her. She really needs to talk through her ideas before committing them to paper. She is starting to recognize how capable she is with her writing.  She still sometimes asks for unnecessary support to get started. However, her significant struggles are around math problem solving and understanding math concepts. It was hard to watch such a confident young woman lose faith in her abilities when it came to math. She got through it though, got the necessary requirements, and now is pretty proud that math is behind her – forever.”

To accommodate for her struggles in math and writing, Alexis has learned to implement a number of strategies that help her complete the task at hand:

“I use extra time and come to the resource room to get extra help. I break down the steps so that the work is easier. I have a quiet place where I study. I have gotten better at asking for help. I know what to ask for and I ask earlier. I ask before it’s due rather than wait until it’s an emergency.”

Although Alexis struggles with math and writing, executive functioning skills are an area of strength, as Jenessa remarks:

“Alexis has a lot of enthusiasm for life and a strong sense of self-worth. She has excellent executive functioning skills – she is able to manage her time wisely and keep her belongings and ideas organized.”

Becoming Her Own Self-Advocate

Throughout her years in school, Alexis learned to become a self-advocate; she feels comfortable to ask for help early on when needed and communicate to her teachers what she needs in order to be successful in the classroom. However, being able to self-advocate isn’t always easy, as Jenessa points out:

“Asking for support is complicated – the student first needs to know what the issues are and how to articulate them. Then, the student needs to find a way to keep asking the teacher until the explanation makes sense. That’s really hard! On top of that, students face some teachers who are not receptive to supporting students.”

Although Jenessa has only known and worked with Alexis for one year, she has watched her develop strong self-advocacy skills:

“Alexis found her voice and faced even the most ‘fearsome’ teachers, only to find out that they were in fact eager and able to help her.

Alexis is going to be an inspiration to other students who struggle with school.  She already is, but I know that her passion and skills will pull her towards helping others see their abilities.  She can be fierce and I know that fire will take her anywhere she wants to go.”