It’s Special Education, not “sped”

How having a learning disability has affected my life

I have been classified as “learning disabled” since the third grade after an evaluation by a psychologist and receiving learning center support for most of my primary grades.

I have always had a difficult time with the retrieval of information. My auditory process was and still may be weak.

Before I was classified as “learning disabled” I would have to go to the psychologist in my school and take the most annoying evaluation tests – counting numbers, counting blocks and so on.

These evaluation tests continued every year throughout middle and high school.

The tests were used to determine what special education services I was eligible for. The different types of services were then determined during an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting. An IEP is a written document that is developed for public school children who have special needs.

“An IEP is meant to address each child’s unique learning issues and include specific educational goals,” according to, a website for learning and attention issues.

The IEP contains the result of the student’s evaluation, the special education and related services to be provided, accommodations and modifications, supplementary aids and services, annual education goals and more.

Some of the things that I received from my evaluation were extended time on exams, smaller classes with a teacher’s assistant and a resource room period every day.

I was embarrassed by the fact that I was in smaller classes while all of my friends were in bigger classes and that they would finish their exams quicker than I would.

Being qualified as learning disabled isn’t something that I am embarrassed about now. That’s because I have grown up with “it” and if I didn’t get the help I needed from third to eleventh grade, I wouldn’t be here at UB.

But I can’t help but sometimes feel like there is a stigma attached to the phrase “Special Ed.”

I have a vivid memory of people calling it “sped.” They think that if someone is in Special Ed, they are stupid. The word is still used today and it shows that people think a learning disability means that the person isn’t smart.

It’s not true, but it also isn’t easy.

People who have learning disabilities struggle every day with doing things that other people may find easy.

As I got older, I would get more and more frustrated with myself when I didn’t get a question right in class or when I couldn’t figure out how to do my homework.

I also would get annoyed when a teacher would tell me that I didn’t do something correctly because I felt as if I would never be able to do anything right.

I used to – and still – hear people say, “If I had extended time on a test I would get a 100.” My reaction to that is: “Great for you, because I still do poorly even with my extended time.”

Just because I have more time to take an exam doesn’t mean that the information will come any easier to me. I have more time to spend on each question because it takes me longer to process things and that is something that people don’t quite understand.

Regardless of the additional time, I have learned so much because of the extra help that I received before I came to college. I used to not be able to see myself taking classes in a room such as Knox 20. But I did it and am now graduating in a semester and I couldn’t be more proud of myself.

Samantha Brenner is a staff writer and can be reached at