What shapes us? “Learning disabilities”?

So, we blame our parents for what we are? Maybe we blame our toilet training, the bullying we received as children, or perhaps what has come down via our genes or family lifestyle. Maybe we were so glad to become adult and then be able to ‘break forth’ from restraints we didn’t relish — only to find some of those restraints held.

We will each find there are factors that shaped us and still persist. Yes, we can change our Character, but perhaps not our Personality. In coming to terms with what we can’t change, we may find some explanations, some coping strategies, some inspiring stories… It’s good for us to give these topics some thought.

Some of us may have been labelled — or suspect we should have been labelled — dyslexic, hyperactive, Aspergers or any other one of what are broadly classified as “learning disabilities”. As a person trained to tutor children in this category, I’d like to question the accuracy of this term, and suggest an alternative.

Firstly, the clusters of behavioural indicators that gave rise to these labels are diffuse, and do not only affect Learning. They affect every aspect of our lives, tingeing our social interactions, our choice of free-time activities, our reading matter and so on. I prefer to describe them as affecting our total Functioning and not just learning.

Secondly, who is to say that what are designated “LD” are always actual disabilities? We know they are not necessarily so. The hyperactive child is quite likely to be shaping up as a very able leader of others. A person along the Aspergers spectrum is very likely to have an in-depth knowledge of particular subjects and perhaps to the degree of being described as a genius. In his book THE GIFT OF DYSLEXIA Ronald Davis told how, when he realised that dyslexia gave him an extra ability, he worked out how to ‘turn it off’ at will, in order to fall in line with the way ‘normal’ people function. There was nothing ‘disabled’ about him!

Rather than the term disabilities  I prefer to say Idiosyncrasies. Therefore I offer as an alternative to the LD label, the term Functional Idiosyncrasies. My feeling is that this is what makes us different from each other, and it plays a big role in determining Personality. But it’s as we work out how to adjust to the demands of the real world — which may be skewed away from our own particular predilections — that we develop that important area of growth, our Character.



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