I was just reading an article on challenges faced by twice-exceptional children, that is, children who are intellectually gifted yet have special needs. The article holds a lot of significance to the issues I faced in school – and those I’m facing now that I’m out of school and trying to plan for the next so many years.
The author highlights the fact that often, children who are twice-exceptional, can compensate for their difficulties so well that their problems get unrecognized till they come to a point where they hit the wall and all their compensatory skills fail. With me, of course, it’s been the other way round for many years – I was thought to be unintelligent by the schools for the blind cause my emotional/behavioural difficulties were so obvious that they were masking my intellectual ability -, but I have felt for a long time that there was a pendulum effect going on here: that, starting by 1999 when I left the school for the blind and went to regular high school, I was supposed to be doing alright. This was only agravated by the fact that I did get high marks in the early grades – and later also got above-average marks if I tried hard enough. Ir remained unrecognized that I was using my ability to learn quickly and without much repetition to compensate for both my intrinsic academic difficulties – never reading faster than 95 or so words per minute (which may be slow but not extremely slow for a braille reader) or having more difficulty conceptualizing graphics (which may not be “normal” but was an issue for me), for instance – and the problems due to accessibility issues, such as getting books rather late or not having films described (which never happens here). That in itself does not matter – it doesn’t matter how you achieve something, if you achieve it -, but it does matter that compensating takes a lot of energy and even then may be failing, for instance, when you can’t get around graphics or when you’re dealing with material that isn’t often read repeatedly, like works of fiction for language classes. Of course, I’m willing to pour extra energy into things I feel are important or that I’m interested in – I mean, I considered (and still somewhat consider) majoring in American studies, which involves a lot of fiction reading -, but I refuse to buy into the idea that we as people with disabilities are obligated to pour extra energy into everythiing. We are, in order to achieve an equal position to the non-disabled, but no-one can require a person to get a Ph.D. solely because he or she has the intelligence to – and whether that person has an identifiable disability or not, doesn’t even matter, although some people within the disability communtiy would like us to believe it by for example calling the blind “college-bound” without realizing that only 25% of the general population have college degrees. It is one of these concepts I have a lot of difficulty with, having seen in the last eighteen months or so that I do have limitations – whether that is normal for a blind person with my IQ or not -, and sometimes it makes me want to drop any effort at ever getting a college degree or becoming employed in a challenging job. I know that I want that degree and that I don’t want to get a low-level job or live on disability for the rest of my life, so I still pursue the goal, but I pursue it because I want it and not because I would be a shame to the entire blind community if I don’t. Or at least, that’s what I say, but within me of course there are still the one who wants to prove that she deserves the Competent Blind Adult degree (which I don’t) and the one who has had enough of compensating and just wants to sit on her ass. However, I know I can help both by learning to be truly realistic about my situation – that is far more than my intelligence and my blindness combined.