Redefining Intelligence:

As someone with a disability, I’ve never liked standard measures of intelligence such as IQ testing. I always dreaded my IEP reevaluations in school. As a part of this process, I always had to take a test called the Woodcock-Johnson Test of Cognitive Abilities. The test didn’t show the full scope of my intelligence. I’m a human being with hopes, dreams, and struggles, just like anyone else.

In my opinion, the tests were a very narrow way of showing my intelligence. I am more than a test score or a diagnosis. My challenges don’t make me worthless. Intelligence doesn’t equal worth.

Many people who have Cerebral Palsy struggle with math. I have difficulty with the visual aspect of math. Interpreting data on a graph is incredibly challenging. I didn’t take higher-level math classes in school. Taking an advanced math class didn’t make sense.

In particular, I struggled with chemistry and geometry. My teachers were able to find ways to adapt the curriculum for me because of my disability. It was easier to plot a graph on a graphing calculator than on paper. Technology made geometry much less frustrating for me. I will always be grateful that my teachers were willing to accommodate my disability in the classroom.

Struggling with math does not mean that I am not intelligent. All people have their strengths and weaknesses. I know that I won’t be a chemist, engineer, or math teacher. This is okay with me. There are many other careers I could pursue that don’t involve high-level math. I want to become a writer one day, a career that doesn’t involve complex math.

Intelligence is much more than a test score. People who have an intellectual disability are still worthy of respect and dignity. They might not meet the grade-level standards as defined by their state’s department of education, or they may score poorly on a standardized test. However, they could be an amazing cook, artist, dancer, or basketball player. None of these talents will show on a standardized test. They could have a passion for animals, music, sports, baking, or Disney movies. Passions don’t show up on a standardized test either.

Standard measures of intelligence don’t show how complex human beings are. We are all intelligent in our own ways. Learning differently than most people doesn’t make someone worthless. Intelligence is not a black and white concept. Struggling in certain ways doesn’t mean that someone isn’t smart in their own ways. We are all complex human beings with gifts, struggles, and talents.

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