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"I did it!"

I recently shared a post with this image – “I did it!”

I spent the past year going through coach training school, mentorship, and passed the exam.

This may not seem like THAT big of a deal, but this can be a HUGE deal for people who have learning differences.

As the academic worlds of primary schools and colleges slowly adapt to different learning styles and learning differences, the professional world is lagging.

Flashback to the fall of my freshman in college, and excited to be away from home, even if it’s only an hour away. As the semester went on, I could feel myself slowly falling behind and not reflecting on what I learned on the standardized tests. I was a good student, but my grades were not reflecting this due to the standardized tests. Jump ahead two semesters later, and after being on academic probation for three semesters in a row, my official academic status with the university was ‘dismissed.’

I knew my grades were not reflecting what I was capable of and what I was actually learning, but I didn’t know why. I figured out how to re-enroll in the school without missing a semester. I granted ‘G.U.E.S.T. Granting University Enrollment for a Specific Term, and then if my grades improved, I could re-apply for regular admissions. As part of this process, my new advisor suggested visiting The Office of Disability Services. To this day, still, I wouldn’t say I like that terminology, but if they could help me out, I would take all of the help I could get.

It turns out I have several learning differences. A reading difference (and I’m pretty sure I have a mild form of dyslexia). An auditory difference. I was never taught how to take class notes to be used as a study guide for test-taking. I was never taught how to take tests. It wasn’t ‘natural’ for me. And the grandest of all – ADD/ADHD. They couldn’t diagnose me there, so I went to a specialist who could officially and adequately diagnose me. My ADD/ADHD made taking standardized tests extremely difficult. The school had granted several resources and alternatives for many of my academic struggles, including test-taking.

I’m proud to say my grades improved, and I graduated within four years, with the help of summer taking classes during the two summer terms. I learned a lot academically, but I also discovered that my brain works differently.

I still feel like it’s a blessing and curse with the way my brain works. I now love it for the most part, but it can be a struggle with the “normal” way of being.

I connect things that most people can’t see. I can sense the layers that are involved that most people don’t. I often say my thoughts are like a parfait (to quote a famous donkey from Shrek) – it has layers, lots of layers. Because of this, my writing isn’t always clear, and even with rereads and edits, my brain goes faster than my fingers, and it will naturally fill in the words that are missing, but the actual words are still missing. When this occurs, I typically need 24-hours to process conversations, ideas, and the potential impact. My ADD/ADHD brain needs a little extra time to sort out what is important, what was left unsaid but still, information was taken in, and what information is missing. Other times I can spit something out, but I don’t have a clear answer when questioned how I came to that conclusion. My brain pulled from numerous different aspects, some from months ago. It takes effort and energy to pause, focus and pull to the surface all of the information my brain stored unconsciously about that situation. The people around me get frustrated that I don’t have a quick answer to the “how do you know this?” question. I get frustrated too. My brain has already “solved the problem” and has moved on to five new thoughts. Not all ADD/ADHA present the same. This is one of many ways mine shows up.

I can see/sense the strategic big picture, understand how things will affect each other (up, down, and laterally), and get down into the details of step-by-step execution. This has been a problem my entire corporate career.

I think the way my brain works is such an asset; an asset to my clients, an asset to my co-workers, an asset to future employers, an asset to professional organizations. It’s not “normal.”

However, based on the required tests, I am very cautious about what professional certifications I will pursue. Before applying, I interview personnel from the certifying body to see what alternative testing options they have. I am typically the first person that has asked the organization this question.

When I first started my consulting / coaching practice, I struggled, financially (thank you pandemic). I started looking for a corporate position to supplement my income. I would research the company by reading the mission and vision statements; some now have culture or value statements. However, my heart would sink when it came time to apply, and a standardized test was involved. I had already spent all of this time applying, rewriting my resume, creating job-specific cover letters, to only be turned away when I didn’t pass their tests.

I know I can’t be the only one running into roadblocks like this.

When will companies and professional certifying organizations REALLY adjust to Learning Differences? And not just the optional question “Do you have a disability?”

No, I don’t have a “disability,” I am an asset. I am different.

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