Stories from Past DESP Students

My Learning Difference and Words of Encouragement for My Peers

Alan Palmen

My name is Alan Palmen and I would like to share my story as a student with a learning disability. I would like to share some words of encouragement to others who might have grown up with a learning disability or with a difficult time in school. Having a hard time learning and absorbing academic material could be very frustrating for me. Over the years, I have learned how to turn my learning difficulty into a strength and stopped seeing it as a weakness.

Ever since I was little, I’ve had difficulty with reading comprehension, test taking and processing what others say. I spent my whole school life in special education classrooms through high school and occasionally attended mainstream classes. Throughout high school, I would feel frustrated with myself in the classroom, doing homework, and during tests. As a result, my confidence and motivation to participate in school started to decrease. However, I found a way to accept my difficulty and turn it into a strength and was able to push forward into success.

As I graduated high school and moved into college life, I discovered there are many resources that I have access to. I discovered the Disability and Educational Support Program (DESP) at West Valley College and the Accessible Education Center (AEC) at San Jose State University. Both of these departments have been of a great help to me. At West Valley, I got access to extra time on tests, note-takers, and reading software’s. In addition, I got many of the same accommodations at the AEC at SJSU! With the help of these departments, my outlook on my disability changed. Now I see my disability as a strength. Using the accommodations to help me go at a slower pace has made me more of a perfectionist which allows me to turn in quality work. Basically, I have learned to appreciate the way I learn and to appreciate all the great staff and resources that are available to me and to others who struggle through school. I can’t say I know how other people with learning difficulties feel because we all have unique experiences. I’d like to motivate them to be appreciative of their learning styles and to be aware of all the wonderful resources that are available on campus or online.

Overall, I’d like to conclude with some words of encouragement. I encourage my peers to not be embarrassed of a learning difference. Instead, one should accept it, find a way to see it as a strength, and seek resourceful accommodations from The DESP at WVC or The AEC at SJSU. Both campuses have outstanding staff who are there to support us. Also, communicate with your teachers in order to keep yourself ahead of the game. We all have our learning styles and we are blessed to have such wonderful support teams on both of these campuses. I wish all students a successful semester and good luck in the future!

Last Updated 11/3/20