My name is Lexie Gallant and I’m a happy human rep going into my fourth year at Dalhousie. I’m taking psych, French, and law/justice/society. My journey with schooling has always been slightly interesting. Elementary school was not great for me in terms of actual content that I managed to absorb. I vividly remember being put in groups that needed extra help with subjects like math and science. By the time I reached middle school, things were looking better. I started to blend in a bit, and by high school I was close to the top of my class in everything but math. I thought that the explanation for this shift was an increased interest in school, however, in eleventh grade chemistry, my teacher asked me a question that genuinely changed my entire worldview.
The first unit we had done in chem was theory based, I remember studying and doing well on the test. The next unit, on the other hand, was math based. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t wrap my head around the content. I studied for hours and performed poorly on the test. I stayed late after class that day to try and explain myself. I didn’t want him to think that I just stopped putting in effort halfway through the semester. Before I could even say anything to him, he asked me if I had ever heard of a condition called dyscalculia. I looked at him blankly, so he began to explain. He said that it’s like dyslexia, but math based. This was a very basic and slightly inaccurate definition of the term, but it was also my first time hearing that word spoken.
I got home that night and began frantically googling everything about this term. I was shocked; everything described me perfectly. Though it was scary to see something that could be different about me, it was also relieving, I finally had what I thought was an explanation for why I tried so hard, but sometimes just couldn’t succeed. I mentioned it to my parents, and they thought it would be worthwhile to get me tested. Finally, I had a diagnosis, and broke down crying when I was told. Everyone thought I was sad, but I didn’t know how to explain that I was just so relieved to understand what was different about me.
Since then, not much has changed. I still struggle with anything math-based along with other tasks related to this disability, such as judging speed or time. However, knowing that there is something different about me allows me to be more patient with myself. It has also helped me develop strategies for everyday life. For example, I work as a server and sometimes I must handle a lot of cash. Even though it is possible for me to make change at the table, I always let myself step away to a server station. That way I don’t have the anxiety of trying to do math in my head in front of other people. I know now that rushing to figure it out is more likely to lead to a mistake than taking the time to walk away is.
Though this learning disability affects me every day, it is so much easier to live life being patient with myself instead of just frustrated. University poses a lot of challenges for people with learning disabilities, including the lack of accountability and structure. Compared to high school, University gives you full freedom and when you struggle to learn and engage already, it can be hard to keep motivated. I’ve found that dedicating time to a planner and dedicating time to doing things other than school is what helps me. Yet, I’ve nowhere near figured it out completely. The only piece of advice I would give, is to continue trying to find something that motivates you as an individual. And remember, you can’t always see what someone is struggling with, so just be kind!