A paper airplane smashes into a brick wall as multiple paper airplanes float effortlessly over the wall.

Early Education Obstacles

Growing up, it seemed like my parents were always fighting with the school district about something.

Most of the challenges I faced as a student were physical like being able to do my work independently with the use of a computer. The school providing a laptop, training teachers on how to use it, and my teachers following through with allowing me to submit digital copies of my homework was the hardest and most frustrating obstacle.

Resenting school due to limitations

Because of how intelligent I was, it always felt like I was behind my classmates somehow which made me resent school.

I don’t want to brag (well, not too much), but I really was a smart kid. Honestly, the majority of the people I meet who have SMA are extremely intelligent. The one positive about this disability is that it shows no signs of affecting the brain.

If anything, people with SMA are often smarter than their peers because it is true that what we lack physically we make up for mentally, especially with our ability to problem-solve.

Support from my parents to make school accessible

But it was almost impossible to problem solve or feel like I was getting a good education because I wasn’t participating in the learning process 100%. At least not in my elementary and middle school years.

Every night, one of my parents would have to sit with me and scribe all my homework onto endless worksheets that the school wasn’t equipped to provide or accept digitally.

To my parents and me, it was a simple solution. Instead of printing a copy, just email it to me and I’ll email it back. Or scan the worksheet into my laptop.

However, there always seemed to be an excuse like the laptop the school provided was too outdated or the teachers would forget to email me a copy. So, my parents or PCA were my hands just so I could get my work done.

And because of that, I’ll admit that as a child I was a terrible speller and almost always failed spelling quizzes because I wasn’t the one who was physically writing essays. Yet another barrier for no reason.

Barriers to digital learning

But the problems didn’t stop there. In my IEP there was a stated accommodation that I needed all my textbooks and required readings in a digital format so I could read, highlight, and take notes independently.

This was during the time right before Kindles or other e-readers so, in order to get a digital copy, the school would have to contact the publishers and request one. Of course, that never happened so again someone had to sit with me to hold the book and turn the page.

Better accommodations led to independence

It wasn’t until college that I was able to experience being a fully paperless and independent student. All my books were online and that’s also where my work was downloaded and submitted.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we started to hear about K-12 schools being forced to adopt online learning tools like Blackboard and accepting digital homework submissions.

I actually got jealous when friends told me how their kids were able to stay home and learn because I know that’s an environment where I would’ve really thrived.

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