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Jonathan Mooney on Lessons Learned

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Jonathan Mooney on Lessons Learned

Jonathan Mooney discusses the lessons he learned from his disability.

  • Duration: 4 minutes
  • Date Posted: 3/11/2015
  • Topics: Learning Disability, Self-Advocacy, Accommodations

Funding for this series was provided in part by the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation.


First lesson is the idea that different isn't deficient.

And that was a lesson that took a while to learn, you know.

If you hang out with the sort of language we use when we talk about learning difference or cognitive or physical differences, it's fairly negative, you know.

Language-based learning disability, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

And often adults -- got to be frank about this -- sort of use those words without thinking and don't give young people a full understanding of how these things we have called deficiencies are differences in the truest sense of the word.

You know, look at dyslexia.

You know, that's a difference.

It's got good things about it; it's got bad things about it.

You know, I don't write or read well.

That's something I'm not naive about, but there's a lot of research that shows that folks with dyslexia are more creative, more entrepreneurial than the general population.

Same goes with ADD and Asperger's and anxiety and depression.

These are very complex human phenomena.

And I had people in my life in my childhood and in particular during my transition to adulthood who helped me understand that and helped me understand that I am a part of a continuum of human difference, that diversity is a strength, that our culture, our schools, our workplaces need diversity in every single shape and form, and this is something to be proud of and not ashamed of.

That was an important lesson for me.

Second lesson.

Sounds simple, but hard to do.

I had to learn to ask for help and be okay getting help.

You know, during my early school challenges and struggles, I wasn't comfortable getting help even after I was diagnosed with a learning disability, even into my late adolescent, early adulthood, I had a hard time using accommodations -- books on tape, time extensions for exams.

And when I didn't use those accommodations, which were my right by law, I struggled and I failed.

And getting over that sense of shame, understanding that getting help is something everybody does.

Every human being, whether you have a disability or not, we are interdependent.

We lift each other up.

And that was an important thing for me to understand.

And, you know, I get more help now than I've ever done.

You know, I write books for a living.

You know, I spell at a third grade level.

How do I do that? Well, you know, I married my spellchecker.

You know, I [laughs], you know, and, you know, my wife, who was my girlfriend in college, would read papers I wrote, would read books to me.

My mom would spell check things.

You know, there's no shame in that.

And that also is something I continue into my professional life.

You know, getting help and getting accommodations isn't something that stops when school stops.

It's something we bring into the world of work.

It's something we bring into our interpersonal relationships.

It's a lifelong skill.

And I've mastered that skill and I wish I would have mastered that skill sooner.

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