Confronting Negative Stereotypes About Dyslexia/ADHD and Not Settling for Low Expectations 

Note: October is Learning Disabilities / Dyslexia / Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Awareness Month. 


By Lucia, Colorado Youth Advisory Community Member 

I am a 17-year-old senior in high school, and I have dyslexia and ADHD.  

I received my diagnosis at the age of nine. I cannot recall the details of that day, except that I was ecstatic to be missing school, to be free of the seclusion and loneliness.  

The diagnosis solved nothing; it just created a thousand more questions. Every day, I confronted many assumptions about my failure to meet educational standards in reading and writing. Every day, I struggled to comprehend and focus in school. With all my heart, I desired to be “normal.” Yet daily, I encountered the reality I was not. 

The school attempted to help me by pulling me out of class for “special education classes.” But usually, I was just treated as a kid who wasn’t trying hard enough. These classes isolated me from my peers both physically and academically.  

Even as I moved schools, hoping for a better education, these negative stereotypes followed me. Over time, I became convinced I couldn’t excel at anything. These stereotypes took a toll on my self-esteem, and I started to believe in them: I wasn’t enough and wouldn’t be successful. 

Fortunately, at the time, my mother believed that I deserved better and sought external help by getting me a tutor. At first, I was so beaten down by the negative stereotypes I encountered my entire life that I resisted her instruction. I accepted the stereotypes and let them define me.  

But my tutor met me with so much compassion, kindness and patience that eventually helped me to try. Through hard work, I started to learn how to read and write. Over time, I bridged, sometimes surpassing, the gap between me and my classmates. I realized that the negative stereotypes weren’t my fault but rather the fault of other people’s poor expectations about dyslexia and ADHD. 

It’s been over seven years since my diagnosis, and I have worked hard to improve my reading and writing skills. I have come to a place where I am doing fantastic, excelling in school and taking challenging classes. However, as I became more successful, I was confronted with the other side of the stereotypes. The school thought I was doing too well for someone with dyslexia and ADHD, wondering if I still had them, if I’d been misdiagnosed or if I still needed the accommodations that had helped me thus far. Essentially, I was confronted again with poor expectations and stereotypes for people with dyslexia and ADHD. 

Now, this is where I would love to tell you that I’ve overcome all of the stereotypes associated with dyslexia and ADHD, but I haven’t. These stereotypes are still deeply rooted in me. I still can’t tell most people in my life that I have dyslexia or ADHD. It’s a shame that keeps me from speaking out. I still believe people will think less of me because of my dyslexia and ADHD. Even though I know they’re wrong. 

So, if there was one idea I could leave you with other than these stereotypes are wrong, it is that people with dyslexia, people with ADHD or people in general should not be subjected to stereotypes and low expectations. We should not put anyone down or label them because of something we believe. Therefore, I urge you to avoid putting people in boxes and to treat everyone with kindness and compassion. A world where I can proudly say that I have dyslexia and ADHD without being subject to negative stereotypes or biases is a world I would like to live in.

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  1. That is definitely something I wish I had realized when I was 17. Good for you. Your mother sounds like a good ally for you. Keep it up and do whatever you want. Be curious. That happened to me after finally figuring out how to decode my own brain and start trying to do general accommodations for myself. I got super interested (and angry) in learning everything. I wanted to make up for 15 years of just being the “kid who is smart enough but doesn’t WANT to do well. Its ridiculous. Schools are doing lifelong harm with this issue to every child who needs an alternate means of learning.

  2. Thank you for sharing this personal and hopeful story, Lucia. I have a 12 year old son with severe ADHD and other problems and he cannot write and he reads poorly. He is too embarrassed about his low skills to even try to practice in class where people might judge him. It’s a school for troubled kids but he is still convinced everyone else is doing better than him. I love the idea of having a tutor work with him; I don’t know if I can afford it but this story has inspired me to at least look into it and try!

    • Hi OL,

      Thank you for also sharing about your 12 yr old son. Check with the school he is in to see if they have the right tools to help your son. Sadly many teachers have never even heard of dyslexia and/or completely misunderstand ADHD. Your son is lucky to have you as a support. You can also check out,, and for more resources on learning differences and ADHD.

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