Thursday, February 4, 2010

What would my dad have thought...

It will be 16 years this April since my dad passed away. I have great memories of him and we had an awesome relationship. We both loved to talk about politics and current events. We were never at a loss for conversation.

Everyone has childhood memories of those "lines" we would hear from our parents over and over again. My mom always said "You go to hell for lying as much as you do for stealing," when she thought we were fibbing. (Of course, being the truly lippy teen that I was, I eventually started replying back to her with, "Oh Mom, there are so many other reasons I'm going to hell, I think lying is the least of them.")

There was the one line I heard from my Dad each time I would bring home my report card from school. I got mostly B's and C's (and there were a couple of F's in high school chemistry classes), but there were also the teacher's comments and my Dad was just repeating what they said, "If you'd only apply yourself."  In other words, you would have better grades if you would just apply yourself and stay focused. The teachers would comment that I was too often distracted and impulsive.

It was frustrating because I knew that I was "applying myself," at least the best that I could. Whenever I was reading textbooks, I would have to re-read paragraphs over and over again because somewhere in the middle of the paragraph, my mind started to think about something else. My eyes were looking at the words line by line, but at the end of the paragraph, I would realize that I had no idea what I had just read because I hadn't stayed focused. My reading comprehension sucked.

If you only looked at my grades, you would have put me as an average or below average student. But if you caught a glipse of my test scores on the Iowa Basics Tests (standardized tests for the 60s & 70s), you would have thought someone else took the tests for me. None of my scores were below the 90 percentile and there were a couple of times, I got a 99 percentile score. It was just something that my Dad couldn't reconcile, thus the belief that I wasn't applying myself.

Today, people ask me why my parents and teachers didn't realize I had a learning disability (ADD) back then; I give everyone the same answer: "We didn't have ADHD back then. We were just behavioral problems."

I was finally diagnosed with ADD in 2002, eight years after my Dad passed away. And when it all clicked as to why I struggled back then, that I wasn't dumb or lazy and that I just couldn't learn in the same way as others did, I wondered what my Dad would have thought, if he would have been as relieved as I was.

A year after my diagnosis, I started Graduate School. I had discovered that I didn't learn using traditional study methods and I adapted myself to a new way of learning.  When reading a book, it would take me three times longer than most because comprehension of what I just read only happened when I re-wrote the idea of the paragraph it in a notebook. It was the first time I had ever read a text book in its entirety.  Ever!

When I got my final grade from the my first class and it was an "A," you would have thought I had won the lottery. I put that report card on my refrigerator at home. When I finished my Master's program, I had a 3.98 GPA (those two A- really ticked me off).  I know my Dad would have been proud, but also sort of redeemed by the knowledge that he was right - His daughter had it in her the entire time.

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