Advocacy: The Beauty of Being LD

Analisa Smith and her son CharlieYou cannot begin to advocate for your child with a learning disability (LD), until you recognize how you define him. Advocating effectively begins with recognizing your child for his talents, his gifts, his unique attributes, rather than his deficits. This is my personal story of such and I hope it can help you.

Two years ago, I presented a session at the LDA 49th International Conference entitled The Beauty of Being LD. The presentation itself consists of 8 Beatitudes I wrote outlining what I felt was beautiful about a child with a learning disability. I wanted others to understand that being a parent of a child with a learning disability can be a beautiful journey and a blessing.

It is a blessing each day of my life to be graced with my children. The diagnosis of my younger son does not define who he is. Each morning when he wakes up and each night as he closes his eyes, he is a blessing. He has a name. His name is not his diagnoses. His name is Charles. Charles is defined by his moral character, his fortitude, his graces, his beauty, the inward light that comes from within, his wisdom, and his inquisitive nature. He is not named for his disability. He is Charles and he is my son.

His disability is a part of him. And, because he is a beautiful child, his learning disability is a beauty in itself. It makes him a better person. It gives him tenacity. He is a fighter. He perseveres. He works harder than most children I know. There is beauty in his being LD.

On a lighter note, I needed a projector to show my powerpoint presentation. A dear friend, Joan Teach, had agreed to loan and help to set up her projector for the presentation. Joan refers to her projector and laptop, which she has strapped to a roll dolly for easier transport, as the ‘dog and pony show.’

Charles was my assistant for the presentation, standing at the entrance to the room and giving participants their handouts for the session. The session started without a hitch and was well underway. Joan snuck out the side. Charlie stopped her on the way out. I am halfway mark into my presentation when quietly from the back of the room the whispering starts, “Mom…Mama…Mom…!” Then, still whispering, but louder, my child continues to call my name.

He is then walking up to me, still whispering my name in a loud but hushed tone. I asked everyone to please forgive me for one second, as I focus my attention on my son. He tells me, “Ms. Joan left the room to go to a mental meeting and you have to watch her dog and pony until she gets back.” He whispers to me that there is not a dog and pony in the room. His literal interpretation came shining through. What tickled me so much was he knows what Joan calls the ‘dog and pony show.’ He has called it that himself. He has pulled this ensemble in previous cities and conferences before. The bigger point was that this moment was a shining example of a learning disability in action. But, more important at the moment was the child.

So, my question to you is do you allow the disability to define your child or is your child defined by the person he was created to be? Don’t limit your son or daughter by the label that is given him or her.

My son is my son – each morning and night. He is defined by moments of sincerity, inquisitive learning and thought, humor and laughter, his heart and feelings…by the moments that make his life. He has Aspergers and learning disabilities, but he is never defined by them. He is made more beautiful because of them.

I have a child named Charlie. He has disabilities. He is not limited by his labels, he excels because of them. They help to make him a more beautiful and refined individual. My child is beautiful, because there is beauty in his LD.

Dr. Analisa Smith is mother to Charlie and serves on the LDA Advocacy Committee as well as an active member in LDA South Carolina/em>