The ADA means a lot to me as an individual for many reasons. As a person with a classic, textbook-example case of ADHD, I’ve always had trouble paying attention in school. I would often get in trouble as an elementary school student for making too much noise and entertaining my hands while listening to a story. This problem continued into high school. I would talk in class and I was labeled “disruptive” and teachers would scold me, activating my sometimes overly-delicate sensitivities. I would cry and get visibly upset over minor incidents and over bad grades, and I felt I didn’t have anyone who understood what a struggle it was to “act normal” in an environment that either over- or under-stimulated me.
Now, however, programs exist to help people like me. I can let my professors know that I have trouble paying attention, and they can gently guide me back to focus instead of making a public spectacle out of making me an example to the class. I can receive extra time on assignments that I’m worrying too much about and losing sleep over, even though it’s “just an assignment” because the teachers understand that it isn’t just an assignment for me, but a real stressor that I base my self-worth on. When I get irritable and frustrated, I get encouraging words from kind professors instead of a calm-down lecture about the unimportance of the thing I’m so upset about. I have the help of the Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques (SALT) center on my campus, designed specifically for people like me, with learning disabilities, and I can stay on track, even when I’m so far from home on my college campus. I don’t think I could have come this far and achieved this much if things like the ADA didn’t exist—it levels the playing field, even for me, someone who has a learning disability that most people don’t consider a “true” disability. Finally, I am encouraged by my teachers to do what I do best—naturally excel—in an environment with the right amount of stimulation and the right amount of confidence in myself from the confidence I receive from others.