Now maybe you read the title of this post and your thinking um what does that mean? well let me give you the definition of dyslexia taken from dyslexia action : http://dyslexiaaction.org.uk/about-dyslexia : Dyslexia is a specific type of learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling. Characteristics of dyslexia include difficulties in areas such as phonological awareness, verbal memory and verbal processing speed .Dyslexia is best thought of as a continuum, not a distinct category, and there are no clear cut-off points. Dyslexia occurs across the range of intellectual abilities and is not an indication of intelligence or lack thereof.
Dyslexia is very much a “hidden” difficulty, you would never be able to tell an individual has dyslexia just by looking at them, in most cases you would never be able to tell an individual has dyslexia by talking to them, but you may know if you were to watch them during different activities such as reading, writing, spelling etc. I want to give you an insiders view on my experience of dyslexia to help spread the word and break the myth that dyslexia is in some way related to intelligence or the lack of.
(I know some individuals do not like to be referred to as a “dyslexic” but as an individual who has dyslexia, I am simply referring to myself as a“dyslexic” In this post but will not when speaking about others.)
As a “dyslexic” myself it’s very important to me that people understand having dyslexia does not make you stupid! Far from it! Albert Einstein, Orlando Bloom, Whoopie Goldberg, Leonardo de vinci, Picasso, Walt Disney, Cher, Richard Branson, Steven speilberg, Churchill i could go on and on all had or have dyslexia. All of these individuals have achieved great success in their fields, they are in no way unintelligent. I am not being boast full but want to give you an example, I got A’s and B’s at As &A-levels and have a Bsc Hons degree in Social Psychology as well as certificates in studies in autism, learning disabilities and child care and I am dyslexic. It frustrates me that people in this day and age still think that having dyslexia makes you “thick” as we say.
I have encountered this attitude myself from others both in regards to my own diagnosis but also in regards to family members and friends who have dyslexia and it angers me. See although I wasn’t formally diagnosed until I was 22 years old (i’ll explain in a minute about that) dyslexia has always been part of my life for as long as I can remember as one of my siblings has dyslexia, which impacted them quite severely in regards to learning and I became quite defensive about it on their behalf.
Life can be tough for children growing up with dyslexia in regards to education. How do you teach a child to read if that child doesn’t get the Alphabet? or sees the letters back to front or upside down? Or like me has no idea how the the heck you sound out words with phonics!
Think of how that would make you feel? Frustrated? of course, and this frustration can lead to self-esteem issues and feelings of being different or “stupid” and in some cases sets them up as easy targets for “bullies”. A huge part of this for me I feel is the role of, or lack of that teachers play. Most teachers i have encountered have been ignorant and i’ll say it completely useless in regards to both early diagnosis of dyslexia and teaching individual’s with dyslexia. I have even met teachers who openly have said “there’s no such thing”. It was always obvious to me that I had dyslexic traits throughout my schooling, my spelling is terrible, every school report from p1 til upper 6th has the comments spelling needs improving., yet my reading skills are good. No teacher ever picked it up. In primary school my primary 7 teacher told my parents if i pulled a blinder i’d get a low c in my 11+ i got a high B. The same teacher knew I couldn’t spell yet regularly asked me to spell words out in front of the entire class. Thinking of this now this is completely unacceptable, it broke my confidence and made me feel like i wasn’t as smart as everyone else.
No one I know who has dyslexia was ever taught any dyslexia friendly learning techniques during primary or secondary education by a teacher, nor were their needs catered for. They were simply left to get on with it. I have a family member who was been diagnosed in primary school and is still at school now onto GCSE’s stage yet nothing has or is being done to help them in anyway and they struggle everyday just to keep up with their peers, how is that fair? To me it is the same as wearing glasses if a child needs glasses and cant see the board or their text book or to write without them why would you not give them glasses? Would you simply say oh dear you can’t see a thing sorry, I know if i give you glasses you will be at just as much an advantage as everyone else but nah i’m not going to bother! Just carry on without them you’ll be fine. There are ways and methods of learning that work wonders for individuals with varying degrees of dyslexia, if only those teaching would take the time to educate themselves firstly and care more about wanting to provide each child with the same educational opportunities. (I am not saying all teachers are the same as I hope at least there are teachers out there who understand dyslexia and are willing and wanting to help the children they teach achieve their full potential).
Now iv’e ranted a little but refocus… my dyslexia officially was diagnosed at 22years old during my 2nd degree in adult nursing, when one of my tutors asked me how my studying was coming on for an upcoming exam and I explained my studying method. (which is for example if revising this page I have to write out ever single word then next re write the page but summarise into smaller paragraphs then rewrite again and again until i’ve summarised the notes to a few key points. By the end stage I can remember the notes, this is a long method but the only way in which i can remember and revise for exams). My lecturer just listened and asked a few questions like how my spelling was etc and said have you ever been tested for dyslexia? She arranged for a test to be taken at student support then if the test indicated I may have it I would see a educational psychologist who would assess me and give me a report. I knew i would end up being assessed and I was and was diagnosed officially. However if this lecturer hadn’t had an understanding of dyslexia which enabled her to identify that I showed signs of dyslexia I would still be un-diagnosed.
To be honest when I got the official report that yes I was dyslexic I was gutted. At first I cried as I was training as a nurse and had read articles on how student nurses with dyslexia often had a hard time on the wards because of lack of knowledge about dyslexia and nurses worrying they were unable to fulfill their role or would make mistakes. I felt that all of a sudden I wasn’t like everyone else, like their was something wrong with me. It took a trip to a fab local ice cream parlour with my mum (which is now a tradition if during times of major stress, including night before maths GCSE, around As & A-level results, the week running up to handing in my psychology dissertation and everything in between) who reassured me that I had succeed in life so far and nothing was stopping me continuing. Hubby was equally as supportive and I decided that instead of seeing it as a huge barrier or hurdle I was going to see it as a positive.
Dyslexia gives me a different perspective from others. A unique view and an ability to think outside of the box. The psychologist who assessed me praised my “coping strategies” (such as my revision technique) I have developed over the years as some of the best he’s seen. I feel dyslexia has given me creativity and innovation which I have used in my previous job roles and has enabled me to develop creative ideas for my little business. Dyslexia means I have a visual mind. I remember things far better from pictures or photographs and am a very visual learner. I feel dyslexia has also given me problem solving skills, the ability of multidimensional thinking and ability to see the bigger picture in situations.
Don’t get me wrong it’s not easy not at all, to even write this blog post takes me a good bit of time due to my spelling. If you could see my drafts they often look like this… dyslexia gives me a
diffeernt different persepectieve perspective… coping stratgies stragtgies strategies. But i have always had super support from my parents, hubby and close friends and have learnt to adapt and will continue to adapt as there is no quick fix, no cure, i am dyslexic for life and you know what.. that’s fine by me.
There are a number of brilliant support groups and organisations out there if you need more info, a few listed below:
The British Dyslexia Association : http://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/
Dyslexia Action: http://dyslexiaaction.org.uk/
Young minds has a great section on dyslexia : http://www.youngminds.org.uk/
If anyone has any questions or anything feel free to get in touch!
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