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  • Writer's pictureSarah Gagnon

I'm 28, living with a learning disability

Growing up I always had to work hard to get the same grades as my peers. It wasn't that I didn't understand the material being taught; it took me longer to remember the material after that fact and at times process what was being taught to me.

A few months ago I went and saw a psychologist about getting tested for Dyslexia because I assumed that's what was causing reading to be a struggle for me all these years. Turns out you have to have strong Dyslexia criteria to be diagnosis with it. This is mainly due to the fact insurance companies will have to pay for any and all resources needed to help the individual with a Dyslexia diagnosis - and guess what, insurance companies do not want do that, which is not a surprise. With that being said, I was diagnosis with several learning disabilities. I am not going to get into the details of my diagnosis. The main take away is that I process information normally but holding that information while taking in new information is a struggle for me - I thinking this is called my working memory. There is more to it than that but that's the big take away.

Now, when I saw the psychologist about my concerns and wanting to seek help with this, he asked me why now? Why am I seeking help now with this issue at 28? I am capable of learning; it just takes me longer to really get it. I graduated from college with my BA. I have a great job. Why now? I told him I can't do this on my own anymore. I have worked hard to get where I am in life and I recognized I needed additional support and resources to get me to where I want to be not only in my career but socially too. I have a lack of confidence in myself and how I present to others because I know that I struggle with reading. I avoid reading out loud at all costs necessary! Which has and will keep holding me back in life. I no longer what my learning disability to hinder what I am capable of accomplishing.

Another factor in me seeking out an official diagnosis and getting support now at this stage in my life is I have the money and, well, insurance too to seek resources. Which brings me the bigger picture here, there are limited resources for adults who have a learning disability diagnosis. Most of what is out there is geared towards children. Which is great. Don't get me wrong. I am glad that there are resources there for our children but there is a gap in the system. And I currently fall in that gap. The 28 year old with a recently diagnosis of several learning disabilities with no clear direction of where to go for services. Now, there are one resource I did find in my city on my own. It is NOT covered by insurance (even though I have a diagnosis) and it is geared towards children not adults. If I had not been able to advocate for myself to seek out a psychologist (and have insurance to pay for the psychologist visits) for an official diagnosis (which I thought would mean that insurance would have to cover it), have him advocate for me to find where I could go to seek support, and have a HSA to pay for those support services, I would not be able to receive tutoring to help me re - learn how to read.

If the process is unclear for me - someone who is educated with a good paying job - what do you think this process looks like for those who have zero resources available to them, who are not able to advocate for themselves or who do not have the knowledge base to know where to start in seeking support with their mental health. That and the fact that a learning disability isn't covered by insurance is unjust. This is a systems problem. It isn't just the insurance companies fault or the agencies who provide support services to those with learning and reading disabilities fault. The change needs and had to come from the top starting with our policies. I think a good place to start would be how we define "mental health" and educating the policy makers that mental health is more than needing a prescription or going to talk to someone about your feelings. It is overall mental well - being in every aspect: cognitive, emotional, and developmental.

More and more we are learning that we cannot treat one aspect of a person (i.e. physical vs. mental). We are learning that out bodies function as one - our body does not separate our mental well - being from our physical well -being. This is why when we are not mentally well, we are not physically well. Which some of you are like "duh"; we knew this! But we are just NOW starting to see this concept show up in how we diagnosis and treat people - with the concept of treating the whole person: physically, emotional and mentally. However, this concept has not impacted the levels in which it needs - our policies. This type of change will take years. Especially when it means giving people more services for either the same amount or less money.

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