One College Grad Reflects on Life With a Learning Disability

Diagnosed with a learning disability at 9 years old, adoptee Kallie Tuxbury was told she may never make it to college. As she prepares to begin her first year of grad school, Kallie says kindness and perseverance are key to overcoming challenges.

Graduation 2015
Kallie Tuxbury was told she may never be able to excel academically, especially beyond high school. Here, she stands in her college graduation gown.

It seems like yesterday that I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder; a psychologist concluded this when I was 9 years old. This difficulty has been highly reflected in my academics all throughout elementary school, middle school, high school and to this day. While accommodations were made at school, it still felt there was something missing; it never felt exactly and fully diagnosed.

Due to this condition, the psychologist told my parents that the highest level of education I could attain would be a high school diploma. As I was adopted from South Korea, the cause of my anxiety is unknown. It could be hereditary or it could potentially have resulted from being born premature.

Growing up adopted comes with its challenges — such as never knowing your medical or family history. The best part, however, is that I have an adopted brother and eight adopted cousins from South Korea and throughout the United States. We all feel that being adopted immediately connects and brings us together.

Flathead Lake Reunion
Kallie, center left, at a family reunion at Flathead Lake in Montana.

For many years, I have tried to hide and deny the fact that anxiety is something that will always be a part of me. It most definitely brought tough obstacles. But every challenge became a great learning experience and has made me a stronger person. There were moments when I felt so incapable and felt that giving up was the easiest solution. I always told myself to keep going no matter how hard it got because the end result would be the most rewarding experience.Cousins

During autumn of 2014, I finally got the full diagnosis that was missing all through my childhood. An updated assessment showed that I met criteria for a specific learning disability. I have to re-read things multiple times to understand and remember concepts. More specifically, I struggle with reading comprehension and math reasoning.  As anyone would feel, I did not want to be judged by others so I hardly discussed it with anyone. Over the past year, I have realized this learning disability does not define me; it is simply one aspect and makes me, me. I have begun to work with this instead of running from it. I recently received a bachelor’s degree in clarinet performance from the University of British Columbia and soon will embark on my next adventure — attending graduate school for a master’s degree in clarinet performance to pursue my long-term goal of becoming an orchestral performer. Being able to openly explain this to others and myself has made everything much easier. Most importantly, throughout the years, I have learned to never, never give up. Kindness and perseverance truly go the distance.

SC.PhotographyWhile it felt like a roller coaster ride from time to time, especially during undergrad, I would never trade my experiences and memories for anything. Not only did I learn many things in classroom settings, but I also learned that moving somewhere completely new is the best reward one can give oneself. You learn so much about yourself — gain new perspectives about lifestyles and cultures, new interests, being independent, appreciating things that you did not before. You also learn the true definition of determination. We all have a story to share — it is a matter of who we share it with, and when. It is crazy to think that just several years ago, I would not have dared to share the entirety of my story with anyone. I am no longer afraid. I am so excited to conquer what challenges await, and getting one step closer to achieving my goals.

 Kallie Tuxbury | Missoula, Montana

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2 Replies to “One College Grad Reflects on Life With a Learning Disability”

  1. Thank you for your story!!! My 8 year old daughter was diagnosed with the same learning disabilities and this story made me smile. School is a real struggle at times and I feel bad that she has to work even harder to learn what others easily can and take for granted. But we always encourage her best efforts and are beside her all the way! I wish you much success!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your story! It is truly inspiring to hear of someone overcoming such a huge obstacle. Thanks so much for sharing.

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