“Special Ed” students are, often times, seen as the stereotypical, uninterested, incompetent or just plain dumb students, thus creating a culture of rejection toward anyone associated with Special Ed. My own association with the title led to numerous encounters of discrimination for being “Special”, and I started to believe that I was: unable to learn and unable to succeed. This continued into high school. The breaking point came at the end of my freshman year, when an adult I had respected proclaimed my “destiny.” The problem with his revelation was that although his intent was to belittle me, it did just the opposite. His cruel words gave me the motivation to attempt and achieve academic endeavors that I never thought possible. I went from last in my class to holding a spot in the top three! Ironically, I found myself standing before the same person who destined me for failure, now congratulating my successes. I chose my NYU I.D because it is my trophy in the battle with my learning disability. Growing up “Special Ed” left an indelible mark on who I was and who I believed I would become, but I chose to fight back against my learning disability. I do not mean to say that I am some sort of unstoppable machine that does not stumble or make mistakes. But just because I have a learning disability doesn’t mean I can’t perform better than most students who are “normal.” Yes, I do have a learning disability; and yes, I will not let my disability keep me from success.
– Tonio Ottenwälder