Tuesday, August 15, 2023

A Student’s Perspective on Seeking Help

The Yellin Center is delighted to welcome guest blogger Annabel Bayer to our blogging family.  

As a young student in a classroom, you are not always aware when something is taking a toll on your learning. You may not understand why you are struggling to comprehend material as well as others, finish your assessments in the time given, or perform efficiently on in-class assignments. This can lead to frustration and self-doubt, as you question what seems wrong with you that isn’t wrong with others. Students can easily lose their confidence and motivation as confusion and anger build in regards to schoolwork. This may have an academic impact, but also impacts the mental health of the child in their daily life. 

As a student, I struggled with the challenges of slow processing. During my freshman year of high school, I began to realize that I was not understanding the material in class at the same pace as other students. In addition, I noticed that I was using all of the allotted time to finish my tests, which usually still wasn’t enough. I began to doubt myself and my capabilities to perform and succeed academically. I became frustrated and angry as I compared myself to others and my grades remained below average despite so much effort. This took a toll on my mental health as my confidence suffered. As I advanced into sophomore and junior years, these issues and feelings persisted, leading me to lose more and more motivation.

This frustration escalated to a point when my parents recommended that I get a neuropsychological evaluation to help me understand and address how I learn. I had never heard of a neuropsych, and it sounded scary, but at that point I wanted any help I could get. The neuropsych process was fascinating and enlightening. One conclusion is that I discovered was that I had slow processing. Having this knowledge about my brain gave me a sense of comfort; I understood that my processing was different from other students, but not because I was any less intelligent. Heading into my senior year, I became eligible for accommodations, permitting me to use extra time when taking tests. I performed significantly better in almost every course and my confidence and motivation as a student grew. I felt at peace discovering how many other students also struggle with learning differences and my confidence and motivation as a student grew. 

The neuropsych process helped me to recognize my ability to feel in control of my own academic success, and had such a positive impact on my mental health. In college, I continue to use my accommodations with great success, alongside many classmates from around the country who’ve experienced similar situations. My parents played an important role in helping me gain back confidence and motivation as a student. When I expressed frustration and struggles in my classes, they listened to me and tried to understand my challenges. They encouraged and supported me, even when my grades were below average, recognizing that I was always trying my hardest. 

What mattered the most was that they prioritized my emotional well-being, and paid attention to my feelings rather than focusing on my grades in my classes. They sat with me, listened, tried to understand my experience, and wanted to help. Getting a neuropsych ended up changing my academic career for the better, and I could not have done it without the support of my parents and their validation of my frustration. In writing about my experience, I hope to make students and their families feel more comfortable embarking on the neuropsych process to hopefully end any cycle of frustration and discouragement. I want students and families to realize and accept that having a learning difference does not mean that there is something wrong with you, and that using accommodations like extended time is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of taking agency. Accommodations can change your entire academic career for the better. Sometimes a little bit of help can go a long way

Annabel grew up in New York City. She is currently an undergraduate at Lehigh University majoring in Psychology. 

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