My college graduation

Today is a proud day. I was finally able to have a graduation ceremony with my family watching, it wasn’t the one I expected but I am still blessed. I never thought this day would come, I struggled so much during my high school years, I dealt with learning disablities and trauma and just graduating from high school was a feat for me.

Even though I made the effort after high school, I didn’t believe a college degree was in the cards, it seemed daunting and I didn’t have the confidence to take college courses and soon dropped out. But slowly but surely, I did take classes, I passed them and gained my confidence.

I entered a program of study that I was passionate about and I flourished. And the last semester was a really struggle; being forced to take a course that I have learning disabilities in, I must have taken this math class at least 3 times and dropped out each time, I was so frustrated and I felt stupid. I thought I would never graduate and eventually had to petition the school to allow to subsitute the math class ( which is something they rarely did) Through a lot of meetings with the school and prayers, by the grace of God, I managed to get a subsitute class and I passed it, leading to me to finally get my degree.

So today, I can say what I never thought I could say, I am a college graduate, I am so proud of myself, I had a dream of a college degree and it seemed impossible but I never gave up, no matter the obstacles in front of me. I learned more fromt he courses I took, I learned about perservance and patience, I learned that there is hope in a hopeless situation. And I hope to use this part of my story to inspire others to never give and never stop reaching for their dreams.

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I am a college graduate

Well, it is now official, I am a college graduate. I may not have been able to have a proper graduation but I am able to hold my diploma in my hands, and it’s an amazing feeling, I worked so hard for this.  I struggled so much over the years and because of issues with my mental and physical health, I spent almost 15 years trying to just get a two-year degree. And given the trauma of my brother’s death in middle school and how difficult high school was, I never imagined in a million years that I would have a college degree. In fact, a few weeks before graduating high school at my alternative school, I talked with a counselor and she asked me what my plans were and I told her I just wanted to get a job somewhere and earn a paycheck. She shook her head and asked about me going to college and I told her that I wasn’t sure about it at the moment, she shrugged her shoulders that was the end of the conversation, like at that moment we both gave up on me, college was out of the question.

I took a year off of school and worked at a Grocery store, bagging groceries. A year later, I started college and took a few classes but I wasn’t ready, I was in bad shape emotionally and physically,  I had to get up several times to use the restroom, I felt like I couldn’t keep up with the other students, I felt stupid and I didn’t understand the lectures so, I quit after a few weeks,  feeling like a total failure.

 

I gave up and found a minimum wage job ( one of many over the years) and worked for about three years, just trying to earn any money I could, my emotional and physical problems got significantly worse and it affected my job performance and I was treated poorly at every job I worked at. Finally, my physical difficulties became so bad, that I could no longer work and I forced to stay at home. During that time, I wanted to learn something so I taught myself Spanish by watching Spanish language television, listening to the radio, and reading my dad’s old books in Spanish.

Eventually, I decided that I should take a Spanish class at my local community class and I signed up, I also signed for an English writing course, I took a test and I was required to take a remedial English course to get me up to speed to a credited English course.  I remember the Spanish class well; it was a beginner’s course and I had already learned most of the language concepts. On the very first day of class, I met my teacher, she was pretty with curly hair and she said she was Cuban. My family is Cuban and I excitedly told her my family was Cuban, she looked unimpressed as if I was trying to brown-nose her. And when she heard me speak Spanish, she told me that I didn’t belong there, I belonged in a more advanced class, I didn’t complain.

When I took the English course, they had us write simple compositions about our favorite vacation or just creative writing, I enjoyed it, I didn’t see myself as a writer or have a passion for it yet. One day the teacher told us we could write about any topic we liked but had to have a 3 to a 4-page minimum. Well, I decided to write about the counterculture of the 1960s, a topic I knew a lot about since I watched every documentary I could on the subject.  A few days before the due date, I hadn’t written anything. I sat on my couch and started writing in a notebook every idea that came to my head, it was page after page. Eventually, I was able to mold that into a paper that spanned 10 pages, I just couldn’t stop writing. I turned it in, a few days later the professor talked me and said the dean was concerned because he thought I had plagiarized it but couldn’t prove it, I said sincerely that I didn’t, I just loved to write. The teacher said “I believe you” and handed me back my paper and like the other class, moved me to a credited college course immediately, it was one of the proudest moments of my life up to that point, I felt really smart. After those classes, I took another semester with two classes, I continued the English writing and Spanish courses, I did quite well, I was proud of myself.  As I was taking this class, my family was planning to move out of state, so I have to stay with my Aunt for a few weeks to finish my courses.

 

I moved to another city and took another year off to just get settled, I found another low paying job that I hated but, in my heart, I wanted to be back in school. After a year, I signed for classes here at the local community classes, I now had a school counselor and a set number of classes I needed to take. I started to branch out, I took a communications class and some other class I can’t remember, I did well in those classes, considering I was also working a job that was stressing me out at the time.  During my last year at this job, I missed a few semesters and just lost interest in school, I think my mental health was really deteriorating at this point. Sadly, my job was affecting my mental health so bad that I had a breakdown, I quit after 3 years and I was so distraught that I didn’t know what to do, I came home upset that I lost a job and I also liked a co-worker but she wasn’t interested, I was a mess. I was at one of the lowest points in my life and feeling hopeless. I was on Facebook and I saw a post from an old friend and they were now working with people with disabilities, I was impressed and I was also angry because I had disabilities and I was treated so poorly in the workplace, I wanted to do something to make a difference. I found a book with college programs, I was outside chain-smoking and I saw a program called “Human services technology developmental disabilities” And immediately I pointed at it and said to myself “I can do that”  I didn’t even hesitate.

A few weeks later, I signed for a few classes and I entered the program. I met with the man who was the chair of the program and he became my school counselor, he was kind and really believed in me ( sadly he no longer is working for the school anymore) He was teaching a lot of the classes I was in and I was excited to be there, I excelled, I loved the curriculum and I got good grades without even reading much, I was just interested in the classes, I wrote papers and loved the discussions we had. I especially loved when I had assignments where I had to interview people in the disabilities field, I got so much out of that. I was just proud that I was doing so well. I  was required to take a counseling course, which was the hardest class of them all, everyone feared this professor, she was tough. She would get upset at me if I wouldn’t follow the format of writing she expected. She would tell me that she didn’t care about the content, I didn’t follow her directions and I could do better. But once I was able to follow her format, she started to really like what I turned in and I was one of the few person’s that got A’s on her hardest papers; both required us to write over 10 pages, it was hard work but I love to write. I ended up getting an A in her class, I just jumped for joy.

 

After that semester, I had some financial troubles and I wasn’t working, my parents were retired and couldn’t help me much with paying for classes. Again, I had to stop classes and after a few months. I applied for a Pell grant, which basically gives low-income students an opportunity to finish school without worrying about finances, they paid my tuition and books, I even got money back at the end of the semester, it was a godsend. So, I was finally able to go back and get closer to getting my degree.

I took a few classes and began an internship program at a large agency in the area, it was a day support center where they had classes and art time for disabled adults. I was working at the time, so it was hard at first to get my hours. I really loved the clients and they loved me and I also got to know the support workers there, we got along well. I, however, did not like my supervisor, I could tell from the moment I walked in that she did not like me. I am not sure what it was about me but she had this disdain, she looked annoyed every time I would ask her a question, she never gave me direction, so I ended not doing much except helping teach the classes and interacting with the students, I felt frustrated because I didn’t know what to do unless someone took the time to show me what they needed. I finished my first round of internship and passed but I wasn’t happy and neither was she, I questioned whether or not I belonged in this field.

As time went on, I continued my classes, I slowly but surely got closer to my degree, but one thing was bothering me, I have a learning disability in math and I had been avoiding it until the very end, I knew it would be difficult. I finally had to take a remedial math course and it was this large computer room ( like you see in a library) with a station with 5 or 6 computers attached. The course was done in class and online, I was not allowed to use a calculator and I got so frustrated, I’d go home and just want to scream, I didn’t get it. After a week, I walked out, totally distraught, and thinking that I could never pass. The next semester, I tried again and passed the first remedial course. Oh, and the course was only for 4 weeks at a time, which didn’t give me the time I needed to learn and that only added to the frustration.

Before I took this next math course, I talked to someone at the disability department about getting accommodations, I qualified and was able to have a student write their notes for me, I was able to have more test time and to take it at the learning center instead of the class, I felt like this could help me pass. I was also feeling like I could pass this next math course because I heard that I could use a calculator, that was my main issue, simple arithmetic was holding me back and I could figure everything out if I just had a calculator. It turned out that I could use a calculator only if I passed the first test.  When I attended my first class, I was so lost and I kept looking at the girl next to me, she was so much farther along than me and I felt so dumb, I’d asked the teacher assistant a question and she’d explain it and I still wouldn’t get it, I’d ask again and could tell she was annoyed. I had it, I was cursing underneath my breath, I angrily threw my stuff into my bag and walked out. I called my mom and told her that I couldn’t do this, I felt like an idiot and I was never going to pass, I felt so bad at that time and hopeless. I talked to my counselor after and she explained to me that the class required no calculators and there was nothing she could do about it.

At the time I had started volunteering at a Christian organization for adults with developmental disabilities and I was telling the woman in charge about the issues I was having and she offered to help, there was also a parent of one of the disabled adults and she would sit down with me and go over the math problems and explain it slowly so I could understand, she was kind.  Also being there had given me the confidence I had lost while I was at the internship, volunteering I felt valued and loved and knew that I was capable of being in this field if I had the right guidance and people who cared.

I ended up having my mom come with me and explain to the counselor the difficulties I was having and how I was at a disadvantage because the trauma of losing my brother really affected my education in high school ( and that was the truth)  I asked if I could waive the math course and she said that usually never happens unless it were extenuating circumstances. She mentioned that the school might offer the option of substituting a class but it would be in science, I was concerned since I was not good at science either and had dropped out of a few of those classes over the years. She said substitution was also rare and I shouldn’t get my hopes up. I walked out feeling somewhat disappointed because this was my last resort and I didn’t get a solid answer but we did request that the class be substituted, I was told that it would take some time for a decision to be made.

 

A few months passed and I heard nothing, I contacted the school several times and didn’t get an answer, I was ready to give up at this point. I finally got an email from my disability counselor and said that they were looking over the decision and I’d know soon, I knew in my heart that it would be denied, I’d never pass this course and get my degree, after all those years of hard work. I was thinking of trying to find another community college to finish up at and see if they could waive this math course, sadly, I was told that it was a state requirement. My last resort was to write a letter to the state board and keep going higher up until I got an answer. One day, I was checking my school email and I saw something from school with the subject “Class substitution ‘  I was nervous and opened the email, it stated that the substitution HAD been approved and they were offering astronomy. I literally screamed for joy and jumped out of my seat. I didn’t know a thing about astronomy but I knew that it was better than math and I had a chance of passing.

 

I quickly signed up and attended class in the fall. I was concerned though that I might not do well but the first class, I enjoyed the lecture and the teacher was really cool. It was both an in-class lecture and online work, that was ok with me. But the best part was yet to come, the professor mentioned that we did have in-class quizzes and exams. When the exams came, he surprised us and said that the exam was online with open notes, everyone was relieved. I ended up passing with flying colors, my heart soared because I knew that I was going to do good in this class. The next exam came and I studied so hard, I made flashcards, I got notes from the professor ( like in the math class), I just focused on that one class. And to my surprise, the next exam was online as well. Most classes never allow exams online so I was ecstatic. It turned out all the work online and I was able to eventually pass.  The last day of class, I was on top of the world, I knew I passed and it was like a huge boulder had been lifted off my shoulders and I could finally rest easy, it was over, I had gotten my degree

After struggling on and off for 15 years and when I saw that I got an A, that was the proudest moment of my life. Me, someone who struggled so much in his life, someone who made to feel he was stupid and not good enough, finally got a college degree, I was a college graduate at last. I never thought this would happen. I never thought it would happen when I was an 18-year-old kid in that class with that counselor, I was just happy to be out of high school. I didn’t think it would happen when I was working low paying jobs, treated like garbage every day, and sick to my stomach. I didn’t think it would happen when I couldn’t solve a simple math problem ( that a child could solve) and I felt so stupid. But it did happen and it could happen to me, I could happen to anyone. If you want something in your life, you have to work hard with every fiber of your being for it, you have to picture it in your mind and never stop until you reach that goal. You can struggle but never ever give up, that is one thing I learned from this whole experience. I am a walking miracle and I hope somebody can read this and be inspired to achieve their dreams just like I did.

 

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Life update

It has been such a long time since I have written an update. I am sorry, my advocacy on social media takes up so much of my energy. I have connected with hundreds of people in so many positive ways, I am amazed actually.  I have been doing Facebook lives and I created a mental health group on there and it is flourishing. I am now flooded with messages and comments and it so difficult to keep up and I just haven’t had time to blog but very good things are happening.

I wrote earlier about trying to get a substitution for the required math class which was the only class I had left. I fought the school and pushed for them to either waive the class or give me a substation, I wasn’t optimistic I’d get either. I have a learning disability in math and I failed the course three times even with accommodations, I was hopeless and thought I’d never get my degree. But low and behold, after several meetings, I got a notice that they were going to substitute my math class with Astronomy, no equations or multiplication, heck yeah.  It was a miracle and a prayer answered. And not only did they substitute my class, but I also have the scholarship to help me finish school, my books and tuition are paid for, by the grace of God.

 

So today was my first class and I was anxious because I have had such difficulties the last few semesters, but I went and got through it. The teacher seemed really nice and the classroom is small plus I was able to get the accommodations I need from disability services. I just know I am going to have to really focus and study this semester, this is it, the last hurray and I really want this degree, I don’t want to piss it away, so I have to be determined and I’m going to study my ass off, that’s what I’ll do.  I am just so proud that I have come this far, I never thought in a million years that I’d be this close to a college degree but here I am, a goal realized.

Like I stated earlier, my advocacy has really grown by leaps and bounds, I am reaching more people than I could have ever imagined. I am connected with therapists. Authors, therapists, advocates, entrepreneurs and through networking, my mental health advocacy is growing every day and I feel I am making a huge difference. I have hundreds of people tell me how my words have resonated with them and I am so humbled.  I even am going to be on a mental health podcast and possibly volunteer for a mental health radio show including being a guest, I mean it’s crazy, this wasn’t even possible 4 or 5 months and here I am., I couldn’t be more optimistic.

My volunteer work has also been going well but I won’t be able to help as much because I have school on those days but I will see them at church and will visit when I can, I am so incredibly grateful for all the wonderful things happening in my life at the moment, I pray it continues. And I am going to make more of an effort to update my blog. Thank you as always for listening.

 

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Getting my college degree

Things are so good right now; I can’t believe it.  Well earlier, I had made a post about how I was struggling with my math class at college, it was the only class keeping me from graduating.  I have a learning disability in math, which doesn’t mean I am stupid or that I don’t try hard enough ( For those who judge me), it means that my brain is not wired to understand math concepts. It’s similar to someone who has dyslexia and struggles with reading the most basic things. In fact, I am not ashamed of my disabilities, they make me who I am and I use my experience to help others.

 

Anyways earlier I had to drop out of my developmental math class, I just didn’t get it despite my best efforts. I had actually taken the course multiple times and it caused so much emotional distress that I couldn’t sleep at night, I was having angry outbursts and anxiety attacks, I was in bad shape. I assume a lot of people with learning disabilities deal with frustration. People without learning disabilities fail to understand that we try really hard and the issue is not that we are lazy or dumb, it’s just that we learn differently and the traditional way of the classroom doesn’t work for us. We need to find our own system of learning; we all have our own learning styles and learn at our own pace.

 

So, we require accommodations, which can include longer tests times, testing in a quieter space, extra tutoring, frequent breaks. I had talked to a disability counselor prior and I had all my documentation, which had al long history of learning disabilities and emotional issues that impeded my learning, including the trauma of losing my brother to suicide when I was 14.  So, I was given the accommodations and even with that in place and putting all my energy into studying, I failed my midterm even though it was an open book quiz, I was so frustrated.

 

I was also fortunate  to volunteer with a disabled ministry at church and the lady who created the group offered to find me a tutor and some other people looked at my math with me. I am so blessed to have so many people who support and care about me, people who take a vested interest in my life. I don’t know where I would be without this support

 

My mom and I decided to have a meeting with the disability counselor, we brought all the documentation and discussed the issues I had with math particularly the fact that I went to 5 or 6 alternative schools while dealing with the death of my brother.  The meeting went well I asked for them to either waive the class or give me a substitution but she is insinuated that a substitution was very rare, so I wasn’t very optimistic when I left the meeting.

 

I was told that I would be contacted about the school’s decision. I waited and waited and heard nothing. So, a week later I emailed the counselor and she told me she had sent everything to her boss and I would receive a call or email. Again, I waited 2 weeks and heard nothing so I was losing hope. I mean, all of that hard work and it was a brick wall.  I felt like my dreams were crumbling. It just seems like there are so many obstacles and its hard not to want to give up sometimes.

My mom who is my best advocate wrote a letter on my behalf, asking what the hold up was.  And before anyone makes a judgement, I am so grateful that my mom advocates for me. Sometimes it’s difficult for me to confront people or seem pushy and she is really good at fighting for me and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.  She was able to get their attention when I couldn’t.

 

Almost immediately, we got a response saying that the substitution had been approved, I couldn’t believe it, I was  so excited because I thought it would never happen. I wasn’t expecting for them to approve it. I am going to take astronomy and that is much easier for me than math. It will require studying but I know I can pass this. It also means I will finally have a college degree, a life long dream of mine. I couldn’t have imagined this 10 years ago when I was struggling so much.

 

The lesson I learned from all of this was preservice, never giving up, and to have faith.  I thought about God an how he is always working in my life and always answers my prayers.  It’s funny because I am assisting a special needs Sunday school and the theme this week was perservance and not giving up, I mean how much clearer could God’s message  to me be?

 

I also find it interesting that at this time, I would get a troll, saying that I was stupid and lazy and couldn’t even pass a math course and this miracle happened immediately after. Like the devil trying to trip you up or something.  Things happen for a reason and this troll attempt only gave me confidence and got me more connected with others and propelled me to write even further. So, I am grateful for the troll comments, gives me motivation.

 

So, I wanted to share the wonderful news with you and to thank you for all of your support. I will keep everyone updated

 

 

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People who care

I made a blog earlier about the difficulties I was having in school with my math course, I didn’t get the support I need and now I am so far behind that I can’t possible pass this course. I have no choice at the moment to withdraw; a part of me feels like failure even though everyone around me says that I did the best I could, a part of me feels stupid because I really wanted to pass this course. So I was volunteering the other day and during my lunch break, I was talking to some of the staff of the disabled ministry, I was telling them about my situation and they were appalled that I couldn’t receive the help I needed and how I just need to one class to pass and I’m being held back, and it’s important to note that I’m an honor student, so I am highly capable of making it through college.  The people I were talking asked me to bring my math notebook, so they can see the kind of math problems I’m dealing with. They offered to tutor me a little and get me up to speed for my next class, I was amazed. I was amazed that people would take the time to help me, someone they’ve only known for a few months.  I am going to take them up on their offer because I need all the help I can get.  I have been hurt so much by people in the past, it’s easy to forget that there are good people out there, people who care.   And tonight, I went to a dinner with the same disabled ministry and I saw the leader of the group who had been out town, she asked me about school and I told her how frustrated I was and how I am going to drop out. I told her I was going to school to speak with the disability counselor and she offered to go with me and advocate and I really think that would be a good idea. She Is known in the community, she’s a pretty tough lady in the sense that she would hold them accountable for not giving me the proper accommodations, she also cares about me and sees how passionate I am about helping the disabled, she knows how much I want this degree and how I will use to make a difference in people’s lives.  I am just so blessed because I know God is working in my life through this group and I know I’ll be ok

 

So, on another note I am also getting a lot of online support. I added a bunch of writers and mental health advocates to my Facebook page, I have over 3,000 friends on there. And since I use my social media for advocacy and network (in fact I have managed to give my link of my blog to several people and they loved it), it makes no difference whether I know them personally or not.  So since I have added all these people, I have had an influx of messages and comments and reactions, so much so that I can barely keep up, all of it positive, a lot of people are inspired by my writing which is really heartwarming to me that they are positively affected by it and I can tell how many people said that my writing has made a difference in their lives; that is an honor. On top the comments about my writing, I also talk a lot about mental health and gotten so much support, it’s overwhelming. I have several people who are life coaches’ message me, one woman offered to do a Facebook video call and I will do that very soon, another person invited to participate in mental health workshop online.

So, all these wonderful things are happening and it feels like mental health advocacy is a big part of my life and I am connecting with thousands of people and getting my message across, it is a feeling that indescribable to me.  Only about 1 year and half ago I felt totally isolated, I wasn’t writing or connected with anyone, I wasn’t open about my struggles and kept my feelings to myself.  I still can’t believe the responses I get, 50 ,60 comments a day, hundreds of likes, I don’t want to seem like I’m bragging, I just am amazed.  I like metaphors, it’s like a poor guy all of sudden winning the lottery. I was totally alone one minute and now I have all this attention and it’s hard to handle. I mean, I wanted it but I’m not used to it.   But like I said earlier, people care, for the first time in my life I feel like people are listening to what I have to say. As if my all pent-up feelings are being validated by so many people who feel the same way I do and can relate. I felt like I was the only one for all my life and now I realize I am not. I was put down all my life and now I receive more praise than I can handle.  How does one deal with all that sudden change? I don’t know. But that’s for this blog, I am happy to have a place to express all of their feelings. I thank all my followers for being so supportive and will keep everyone updated.

 

Thanks for listening

Dave

 

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Learning disabilities and college

I just started a new school semester and have devoted all of my energy on this Math course which is the only class I need to take in order to graduate.  I have learning disabilities and it mostly affects Math, in fact I passed every other subject with flying colors, I have about a 3.5 grade average.  I excelled at writing papers and in my counseling, class was one of the few students to get an A in one of the hardest classes offered by the degree program. So not to pat myself on the back but I feel like I’m a pretty smart guy.  So back to math, my degree program in human services disabilities, Math has nothing to do with my chosen career and yet it’s forced up upon me.

So, I signed up for what’s called a DMA course, that means that it’s a class that designed to get you up to speed so you can pass 1 college level math course. It is not designed for those that specifically have learning disabilities despite that the name of the course implies it.   I was actually given a scholarship so I could finally get my degree after many years of attending this community college. I took all the precautions; I talked to a disability counselor and managed to get accommodations (although not as many as I had hoped). The class requires that I not use a calculator until I can pass the midterm test, I tried to waive that but the counselor told me there was nothing that could be done. But she did give me the option of taking the tests in the testing center with more time and that is pretty much the only accommodation that I have right now.  In addition to class time, there is a tutoring class which was offered, it consists of student volunteers that help guides you. It is not individualized or designed specifically for those with disabilities.

So, I got to the class and it isn’t even a classroom, it is an open computer area and all the lessons are done online. So basically, you sit in front of a computer and the teacher and her assistant try to help you with questions and sometimes they are of help and sometimes they aren’t.   You have taken these little quizzes based on videos and an online textbook.  I haven’t taken math since middle school and due to the trauma of losing my brother and having mental health issues, high school is a blur, I didn’t learn much. Needlessly to say my math skills are very limited, I can barely do long division and multiplication without a calculator, so to take away the one tool that COULD help me succeed is almost cruel.  Sometimes during class, I’d just jot down notes or stare at the screen because I couldn’t figure it, I felt so stupid, seeing everyone figure it out and I was stuck on the basics.  I felt helpless.

I decided that I had to take the tutoring courses, which were offered at two campus. At  one campus, the class was in an enclosed classroom but there were 4 or 5 students with one teacher, I couldn’t get the amount of attention I needed because she kept jumping to help every other student. She explained some things here and there but it wasn’t enough for me to fully understand, even if I wrote it down. The other tutoring session was in the same area of the math class but was in an open area, above a lobby where many students gathered, there were 3 volunteers to help me but it was noisy and I couldn’t concentrate, she was trying to help me solve a math problem but I was so frustrated by all the noise that I just gave up for the day. I also have ADHD and I was furious, I wanted to ask someone to do something, I was trying to learn and this was impeding on my learning process. You’d think tutoring would be a private and quiet area, right?  I just shake my head at how many obstacles this school sets up for those who struggle with learning disabilities

So, on top of the class, I could do schoolwork at home which at first was nice, I was in my own space, I could concentrate and really think about the problems. But I found myself studying for hours at a time and still not understanding. I was getting angry and frustrated and stressed out, I couldn’t sleep and it has taken up all my thoughts.  And doing it at home is difficult because all you have is a computer program, they don’t have a person explaining it to you, step by step, which is helpful to a person who has disabilities. An online video can  can only help so much.   Mentally and emotionally, I am totally drained, I have been so frustrated, as if I am a kid again and I’m being forced to learn something that I cannot understand, until eventually they stopped teaching me because it caused so much distress.

So, I have a midterm due and I have done almost every quiz except for one, I have tried and tried and cannot get it right. I actually went through all the videos, wrote an example of each concept, twice, my notebook is completely full and I have looked at this math concept every which way and still cannot figure it out. So, after 2 or 3 days of little sleep, I threw my hands up and decided that I cannot do this, this is unhealthy.  I will take the test tomorrow, that way they can’t say that I didn’t try and afterwards I am contacting my disability counselor and telling her I cannot continue.  They can either waive this class so I can finally graduate or I don’t get a degree, all those years of hard work down the drain because they don’t recognize that my disability severely impedes me from passing this math course.

But here’s the thing, this is a wonderful opportunity to advocate not only for myself, but for others who will come after me, those struggling with disabilities that try so hard and fail because of the school’s refusal to adapt to their needs. So here are some of my suggestions. The first is that if a student has a history of documented disabilities (makes no difference if it is specifically in math) and has passed all of their other classes and has made several attempts at math and failed and math is not a part a specific part of their degree program then they should be able to waive that math requirement.  The second part is that if they are adamant about forcing math on those that are learning disabled, then they should have a class geared specifically for those with documented learning disabilities; with instructors that can meet the needs of the learning disabled; with the attention and guidance they so desperately need. And the last suggestion is that there should be individualized one on one tutoring for students with learning disabilities. There is no reason why a learning-disabled person can’t get more individual attention, our needs are greater than most students and we do require more attention and time to understand certain courses. I can’t see why this isn’t possible with this school.  It’s all about ensuring that students with learning disabilities succeed, when the disabled students succeed, so does the school.   So instead of getting angry and feeling sorry for myself. I use this has an opportunity to educated the school and the public as whole about better adapting to the needs of those with learning disabilities in higher education.

 

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A year in review 2018

This has been such a wonderful year for me; a life changing year; really. I can’t even begin to describe or list all of the wonderful blessings I have had in 2018 but I am going to try. I started out the year still working at Sears and starting an internship related to my degree in developmental disabilities; it was actually kind of rough and I had doubts about my ability to work in the disability field; I had a lot of stress and anxiety and felt overworked with both my regular job and internship; I turned to only comfort I knew; prayer and my writing; I just had to go on faith that I’d get through this period in my life. I found myself turning to God more and more and growing in my faith; even if I couldn’t make it to church. And I was blessed to have so many caring and supportive friends on social media; it made such a huge difference; I really appreciated all the comments and messages from people. I felt I became a better writer as well ( and began calling myself one); I wrote blog post after blog post and it really helped me to cope with some of the anxiety I felt. My blog grew like crazy; it went from 300 or so followers to over 1200 followers in less than year; you don’t realize how grateful I am to ALL of my followers; just to know that people can relate to what I am saying; just vindicates all of these feelings I have had for years and I no longer feel as alone; this blog has been my saving grace. This is such a great community and not only did I connect with writers on my blog but my instagram has also grown and I connect with so many writers, mental health advocates, educators; its amazing. My social media feed is full of positive messages and I love interacting with people; it makes my day.

In 2018 I also was able to take a trip back to where I grew up; after not being there for 10 years. I left in 2008; feeling like I never wanted to go back home; too many painful memories. But I decided that I wanted to face the past and see my old friends; it was very emotional leading up to the trip; I was sort of reliving all of those memories and it hurt; and people around me didn’t understand it; so I kept it myself; I only expressed it through writing. I went back to DC in July of this year and stayed with a friend and I think a lot of the memories of the past came flooding back; I was gone for so long that I had forgotten what the area looked like and it was like being a tourist in my own city. But I did have a lot of fun; I saw many of my friends and family. They even had a welcome home party for me; which was crazy because all these people showed up and I just felt loved; to see those faces again was indescribable. I was happy but anxious at the same time; these are people I really care about and they all showed up to welcome me home; I think I was just overwhelmed; and I am already overwhelmed at social events to begin but it turned on out nice. I went back to my old church where I had spent a lot of time and I just broke down crying; thinking of all those memories; the good and the bad. It was painful but healing; I finally let go of all that pain and anger and sadness in a matter of minutes; it’s what I needed. And I feel God was watching over me the whole trip; comforting me. I will never forget that trip and I hope in 2019; I can come back again and hopefully it will be less emotional.

About 3 months; I finally had a Sunday off and I was able to attend church. They were talking about something called the Rainbow Ministry; which serves the needs of the developmental disabled in the community. I was impressed and I asked the pastor about it and he told me that he wanted me to be a part of this ministry. Before I knew it; I met with the leader and her daughter and we talked about volunteer opportunities. I helped with this lunch called “Feast with friends” which is where the young adults; make and serve lunch at the church; the crowd can be up to over 100 people on some days. I helped a young man dry dishes ( we make a great team by the way). I got to know all of the young adults and the volunteers and grew to care about them and I think they feel the same way about me. I started spending a lot of time with Rainbow; I went on a trip to the mountains with them and it was such a wonderful experience; I bonded with a lot of people. Again it helped grow in my faith in God and gave me a purpose; I no long felt as depressed or anxious. We have done activities at church and at the cabin in downtown Matthews; just a lot of fun. It was one of the biggest blessings of this year and it has changed me; I am different person because of this group and I only have God to thank for it. It also has given me more confidence that I can do well in the disability field; with the right guidance.

And lastly I recently just started a new job; my old job was closing it’s store and I had to scramble for a new job quick and by the grace of God; I found one and it has been so much better for me. I have about a 6 dollar raise, I am treated better; have better hours; am more productive and have so much pride in what I do. Yes, there are challenges but it wasn’t like at Sears where I got paid nothing, was treated terribly and it just made my anxiety and depression 10 times worse; I felt antagonized most of the time and I felt stagnant; I prayed for God to get me out of there and he delivered on that promise. I am so much happier in this new job and my confidence has increased; both as a worker and socially. It’s seasonal and I have anxiety about whether they will keep me or not but I leave it leave it God; it’s in his hands at this point. I work hard every day and can only do my best.

So yes, 2018 was a life changing year and sometimes I just sit back and I can’t believe all of the good things that have happened; it feels like a dream to me; like it’s not real. All the wonderful friends and people who have actually come to Charlotte to visit me. I get overwhelmed by the good things sometimes and I tell myself I have to take it a day at a time and learn to accept praise and love and to be easy on myself. I pray that in 2019; my life will continue to be good and I can grow as a person and hopefully help and inspire others; through my words and videos. Thank so much for all the support friends; you guys mean the world to me. Please take care of yourself in the year to come and I hope we continue to connect and support one another

Your friend,

Dave

 

 

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Dealing with learning disabilities in Math

All my life I have struggled with math; to the point where I find myself enraged every time I have to look at a math problem; I used to throw my math book on the ground because I got so frustrated; 25 years later; in college I find myself doing the same exact thing. Throwing a fit like a kid because I just don’t fuckin get it. I don’t know what the exact diagnosis is but I have a learning disability in math and it used to make me feel so stupid. I will never forget when I was about 9 years old; they moved me from my special education class to a regular classroom; I had no idea what so called “normal kids” were like. Anyways this teacher made me go up to board and solve a math problem in front of all the students; I can still remember turning red and hearing them laugh when I couldn’t figure it out and the more they laughed; the angrier I became at them but also at myself. I was angry at this teacher for putting a child with disabilities on display; knowing I struggled with it. In fact I hope things in school have changed since the early 90’s.  I felt so stupid because the other kids understood math with ease and I would look at a problem a million times and I still couldn’t figure it out. Due to the bullying they moved me back to the special ed class ( at least for Math) and I was given easy math assignments I could understand and got plenty of one on one help. By the time I hit high school I was still getting help for my learning disabilities and by that point; I don’t remember any math courses; then again it was a chaotic time in my life. I just remember now having to deal with math from 7th grade on; I figured I was free and never needed it again; I couldn’t have imagined at that time going to college in the future.  I got kicked out of high school and ended up in a bunch of alternative schools and their only requirement was that I showed up; not a lot of expectations. I look back and I feel cheated but I was a troubled kid and I needed to be there.

So fast forward to 2018 and I am so close to my degree. I have all of my classes passed; all the internships done; a good grade point average and I have taken 1 developmental math course (  passed by the skin of my teeth)  Now I am in the second class and it has to with prime numbers and simplifying fractions. mixed numbers etc; probably basis shit to most people, but for someone with maybe 6th grade knowledge of math ( and that is stretching it) it is all complex.  I don’t know how to divide or multiply without a calculator and the class requires that I not use a calculator for the first two weeks ( I had a assumed i could use the calculator from the start)  A lot of the coursework is done online ( thank god) but the tests are done in the computer lab ( which does not help my anxiety)  Yesterday was ok; I took notes of all the basis concepts and was able to finish some assignments; i felt confident.  Today I worked all day ( I am in retail and cannot take weekends off) so I was already tired. I came home again and started on my math work; took notes and tried to limit distractions.  When it came to taking the practice tests; I drew a blank and had to google the answers just to finish the assignment; it doesn’t help because I still don’t understand the concepts and I again feel like that 9 year old kid; I feel stupid, frustrated and incapable of learning this math.

I asked my family for help and said because of my temper they refused to help ( which is understandable) but that just frustrates me further; I feel helpless sometimes. I just say to myself I can write a 10 paper in a few days and get and A, but I can’t solve a simple 7th grade math problem; it hurts.  It’s the weekend; I am working; I can’t go to the school so I am sitting here; trying to calm myself down and take it a day at a time ( or in my case; a fraction at a time). I am going to get the right documentations and ask for accommodations because I need help. I NEED HELP!! There is also free tutoring and I am going to take advantage of that too.  I know I can do this with the right help and resources; I am not stupid; in fact I consider myself quite bright; I just have a disability and it isn’t my fault. And I’m not 9 years old and no one is laughing ( as far as i know)  I hope someone out there understands where I am coming from. The lesson of all of this is never be afraid to admit you have a problem and don’t be afraid to ask for help and never ever think or allow someone to make you feel like you are stupid due to a disability. You are not stupid; you just have a different way of learning things and need to find a way to adapt. With that ,I am emotionally drained and I am spending the rest of the night watching movies and leaving the math until tomorrow.

Good night

Dave

 

Working with the disabled

It’s Autism awareness month and I wanted to share my experience working with those who have developmental disabilities. All my life I have been passionate about helping the disabled; it’s a population I have always enjoyed being around. In fact some of the nicest; least non-judgmental people I have known have been disabled in one sense or another. It doesn’t take much to be their friend; you just need to be kind and understanding and have to ability to talk to them on their level. I think that because I have disabilities myself and was in special needs classes for most of my schooling; I am more sensitive about it because I see myself as part of that community.  Like a lot of disabled people I had trouble in social settings; making friends and building relationships. I also had difficulties finding and maintaining work and even more problems getting the understanding of my supervisors and co-workers.  Just getting through the work day was a struggle; because I’d run to the bathroom every 5 minutes ( I have physical issues as well) or lose my cool at inappropriate times.  It felt like I had to work 3 times as hard and I still wasn’t as good as the person working alongside me; it was frustrating to the point where I had a breakdown and had no choice but to leave work and was unemployed for several years; feeling hopeless.  One day a thought occurred to me that maybe I should go to school and finish my degree but I had no idea what I wanted to do. I remembered a friend of mine worked with people who had disabilities and I thought to myself: Hey I can do that.  I looked through the program catalog and found a developmental disabilities degree program and before you know it; I was signed up and headed to class. I remember being really nervous because I kept thinking that I am disabled myself; how can I help others who are disabled if I am struggling so much? I soon found out I loved the classes and did exceptionally well because I was so passionate about this field.  I may not have been able to express myself in the class the way I wanted to; but I shone through my writing; the papers I wrote about developmental disabilities. I found a few teachers and counselors who believed in me and encouraged me to continue. After a few years and a lot of apprehension; I started my internship at an agency that serves the needs of the developmentally disabled in our community; I was really nervous.  I am actually on my second round of internship at the same agency.  To be honest; getting along with my supervisor and some of the other workers can be challenging. I find some of them to be rude and not willing to help me or guide me; I feel left on my own.  But what I do take comfort is the fact that I love working with the clients. I love to see them laugh and the smiles they give when they see me. That is my skill; the ability to connect with them maybe in a way that other workers can’t. I don’t bark orders at them and I speak to them at their own level; I never talk to   the client as if I am above them.  I try to be their friend and maybe that isn’t my role but I don’t know how to be anything but myself.   Yesterday I saw a client who has down syndrome who I hadn’t see since I was last there ( about 2 years)  He ran up to me gave me a high five; and said “DAVID!! I can’t believe it; you’re here; where you been? I missed you, man”. That brightened my whole day and that’s the reason I show up; to make a difference.  So when did I feel dismissed or not understood by staff I can take comfort in the fact that I care deeply about the clients and that my kindness is my gift. I know God placed me here for a reason and he doesn’t want to me to give up on my dreams.  It may be tough but I will continue my education so I can get a job in this field; I am determined.

Thanks for listening,Dave.

Life update: Back at school and internship

Even though I feel stressed at times and I am balancing full time work, class once a week and an internship, I am trying my best to be positive. I am frustrated though because since I have been working full time I haven’t had time or energy to really prepare for school. During the Christmas season I was working 50 hrs a week; getting off late at night and coming back in the morning. It really screwed up my whole routine and was the worst thing for my mental health. I wasn’t even sure if I could find the time or energy to sign up for school and get in contact with an agency to secure my internship. It’s miraculous I made it this far without having a nervous breakdown; it took a lot of praying and begging God for help. I also worked with a really toxic coworker who went as far to steal my things and did everything he could to sabotage my day so that was stressful as hell, trying to keep my cool so I wouldn’t lose my job. So I was dealing that  @&%^$ and trying to keep up the busyness of working retail during Christmas. Fortunately everything worked out and I got signed for school and my internship, just in the nick of time.  So I went to my first class last week and I just wasn’t mentally prepared at all. I was in work mode when I needed to be prepared for school. Not only wasn’t I prepared but I was saddened to find out that my counselor ( who was also the head of the department) had left and was replaced with someone I didn’t know and I didn’t feel comfortable with.  I really liked my former counselor; he encouraged me and also pushed me to do my best. He always told me how great of a writer I was and he was just a likeable man. So I now have to deal with this change and I feel somewhat overwhelmed. I am asking for God’s guidance and leaning towards my online friends for support, luckily for me they are really helpful.

Then today I went to the internship to work for my first full day. I had worked there before for my first internship and again I wasn’t prepared. I was too busy working to really think about what I wanted out of this internship. It doesn’t help that I am not sleeping well because  of this stress.  At the internship we talked about creating goals to be achieved by the end of the semester. I was hoping I could man the front desk and then get some rest and sit at home ( where it’s quiet with no distractions) to really sit and think about what I want to achieve. I came to her with some ideas about setting boundaries and learning more about the agency and she said they needed to be more concrete. She said just find a place to sit and come up with some goals.    For me when it is hard come up with ideas on the spot in a noisy place where the radio is on and people have loud conversations. It’s no one’s fault because this support center for the disabled but even so I couldn’t concentrate. I did come up with an idea for a class where the clients could create a journal where they share their feelings or use it to set goals for themselves, I think that’s a good idea. But anyways, I felt frustrated that I have didn’t have a way for preparing for going back to school.  I now feel pulled in all sorts of different directions.  It’s not like I’m some 20 year kid with a part time job that has all this time to call people and set appointments or to go to school and wait in line for 2 hours. I realize this about being an adult, but it is still tough especially when you’re dealing with mental health and physical problems to boot. I just need try to calm myself and take everything a day at a time. Things will work out, they always do. I just need to be patient