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Letter from a Learning Disabled Kid

15-year-old Launches World-Class Web Site to Help Others

Copyright © 1999 by Jason Fernandes
Webmaster -- Learning Disabled Kids Support (India)

 


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Jason Fernandes

Hi

I would like to tell you about my site http://www.learningdisabilities.ourfamily.com I am Jason Fernandes, a Learning Disabled teen 15 yrs old, from Bombay, India, diagnosed just 8 months ago. That day of the diagnosis changed my life. I was diagnosed as 'Gifted with superior intellectual functioning, as well as learning disabilities (dyslexia, dyscalculia and dysgraphia) -- a mouthful...huh?

I started the web site on December 3rd 98 (World Disability Day) to help other kids just like myself. I spent all the years up to the time of my diagnosis punished and misunderstood. I wasn't allowed to go out to play. I wasn't allowed to watch TV. Homework took me well into the night, and my parents were angry and disappointed in me all the time. Even I could not understand why I couldn't perform academically as well as the other kids. I knew I wasn't stupid. I could handle computers better than anyone else I knew, but sometimes I doubted myself. What other explanation could there be, I thought, and got terribly upset and demoralized.

It was because of all those years of pain and trauma that I went through bringing me to near suicide sometimes, that I started my site to help others like myself. Things have changed for me now. My academic performance has improved by 80%! I am a happy teen with a mission, and I have developed self tailored learning compensation strategies which I share with others on my site's message board. This message board welcomes others to share their tips too. When I was diagnosed information regarding help in India was hard to come by, even on the Internet. There were lots of web sites for kids in the USA with info on LD for a better understanding and where they could go for help. There was a comprehensive guide on their legal rights and the accommodations and concessions that were given by their respective governments, but there was no information anywhere regarding testing/help/concessions/accommodation provided in India.

Because Learning Disabilities, unlike other disabilities/handicaps, are invisible disabilities, they often go undiagnosed. The concept and diagnosis of learning disabilities like Dyslexia has only recently been given credibility in India, and a lot of ignorance still surrounds these conditions. Many learning disabled Indian children go through most of their lives punished and misunderstood because of a lack of social awareness. I was one such victim of ignorance, and I am sure there are many other kids like me out there still going through anguish, along with their anxious parents.

Undiagnosed learning disabled kids are often erroneously labeled "lazy" and "unmotivated" and suffer needlessly, being punished most of the time for appearing to be off-task and for failing to demonstrate their obvious intelligence in their academic performance. This results in loss of self esteem and depression. Feeling 'uncomfortably different' they develop poor peer relations, and often become academic and/or social dropouts. My site was started as an effort to avert such disasters. It promotes social awareness and offers a common place where LD kids and their parents may go to share information, lick their wounds, and find out from each other where they can get testing, help and support around the world but especially in India, where information is very hard to come by. I am working currently on making information about the various kinds of assistive technology available like software and hardware, that could go a long way in aiding Learning Disabled kids achieve their full potential. Unlike in the West, such help and information is not available to Indian learning disabled children.

Indian Learning Disabled kids and adults often have a hard time asking for help because of fear of ridicule. Lots of people think erroneously that learning disabled kids are retarded!

This site is the only site of its kind in India offering a library of information, on-line community, chat and message boards for kids, with a special focus on where Help can be found in India. It provides an anonymous medium where people can share their views, experiences and info and thereby help each other. This is a completely free and non-profit organization. The site was the small link that started the chain to unite kids like this all over the world as well as India, and in sharing their own discoveries find out that they can find ways they never thought existed to help themselves perform well academically. I'm glad that my site has done a lot of good. It is the medium through which Mr Richard Wanderman of LD Resources in the USA has chosen to communicate with the Indian kids and parents after conducting a workshop on dyslexia in Mumbai, India in March 98. The site has also recently won a lot of awards.

My site has so far helped many kids, and the membership for the community is growing. In fact, the recent very positive review of my site in the local Indian newspaper (Times of India, Bombay Times Supplement, dated 12th March 99 under column 'Net News') greatly increased the traffic and membership.

Every kid has a dream. We all need to know we can make that dream come true. We all need somebody to show us the way and we all need a helping hand. This site became that helping hand, and it makes me real happy to know I have made a difference. We have come a long way since the 3rd of December when I started the site as one simple page. Now this online community is on its way to becoming a movement!

Yours sincerely,
Jason Fernandes
Webmaster -- Learning Disabled Kids Support (India)
http://www.learningdisabilities.ourfamily.com

I wrote this young man to praise his work and tell him I was featuring it on MenWeb. Here's his reply:

Dear Mr Bert Hoff

Thank you for appreciating my work. I hope to build a world wide family of kids who can lean on each other now and then when things get rough. With everybody sharing tips and tricks we could get ahead one step at a time.

You are absolutely right about there being a higher incidence of LD in boys than in girls. Boys do get misunderstood and unfairly labelled. I could never sit still in class, and that made my teachers very angry. Actually I was getting pretty shameful grades in class.

When you do so badly academically, you have two choices. 1) To have the others parents and teachers believe you are stupid and 'slow', ---or 2) to have them think you are lazy, unmotivated, and uninterested in your work.

I didnt bother to correct anybody when they called me lazy , unmotivated and uninterested. That was just what I wanted them to believe. It was definitely better than being called 'stupid'!!!! Whenever I was called stupid, I would stand up in my defence, and that would make them think I was arrogant as well!

My brother Carlos is a member of MENSA. That means that he is certified super intelligent. His was hard enough living under his shadow of success. To be considered stupid was something I couldnt live with.

There are no testing facilities for ADD or ADHD in India. My handwriting was always a mess and my mind could be here focussed one minute and completely foggy the next!

One day my teacher got so mad at my slow and illegible writing, that she decided that she was going to teach me a lesson. It was a few months ago, around the month of August 98. She decided on this this new thing to 'train' me! She made me come up in front of the class and kneel and do my writing on my knees holding my book in my hand through the half period 20 mins... It was impossible for me to write that way. When she found I had hardly written anything she thought I was willfull and defiant. It was very humiliating especially in a coed class room. I wanted to just have the ground open and swallow me up!

I dont want to think about those awful days anymore... I have put the past behind me. I found out that with the right skills I can learn, and I can get those marks! If dyslexic Albert Einstein could do it, ,so can I! I dont harbour any resentments, I know it was all a result of ignorance. With time, I hope my website will correct that, and contribute to a better awareness. I just want to make the world a more humane place for LD kids . Dyslexics have trouble reading. I also have plans to include an electronic text to speech facility. This will enable Dyslexics to highlight a certain amount of text and have an electronic character read it out to them.

I would be very happy if you made a small mention of my site in the hardcopy version of your magazine. Could you do that for me please? The more people that know about my site and join our community, the more people are helped.

Thanks again,
God Bless,
Jason.


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