A dyslexic walks into a bank… “Air in the hands mother stickers this is a fuckup!”

I’ve known that I was dyslexic from before I started school.  My dad is dyslexic, he struggles with reading and spelling, he had a really hard time in school, he was always afraid of exams. Lots of my relatives are dyslexic. It runs in our family. My youngest daughter is dyslexic too.


Google’s home page for Dyslexia Awareness Day

Before I started school my dad had taught me to read. He didn’t want me to suffer in the way he did. He didn’t want me to have the same problems as he had with reading. He hugely affected my progress in a very positive way. I hit school at three and a half able to read. I couldn’t recite the alphabet in order, but I could read.

I still struggled to read out loud (what is written on the page simply will not come out my mouth), and was often humiliated when a book was ‘read round the class’ and when it came to my turn to stand up & read a paragraph I was humiliated by my inability to get the words out right.

In my head I could read fast, and was usually well ahead in the book we were reading, so would get easily distracted, and bored, and then I would get in trouble for disrupting the class. My over-riding memory of primary school is of being excluded from the class for being disruptive.

http://www.dyslexiaaction.org.uk/I always secretly thought that I was clever, I found Maths & Science easy, but I almost always under-achieved at exams, and was particularly poor at languages.  I eventually gave up trying, and got myself a career in banking (note to to others: it’s expensive being a bank cashier with dyslexia)

In my 30’s I had an opportunity to rethink my life, and I decided to go to university.  I initially thought I would study to become a midwife, but during the Access Course I encountered studying Physics for the first time in my adult life and fell in love! I applied to go to university &  I was accepted on the basis of my maths results, my age and my enthusiasm (I had never done Physics at school….. too many ‘word questions’)

As a part of the Mature Student programme at my university I was screened for dyslexia, and told that I probably was dyslexic (I was not surprised), however when I was formally assessed and recommended for support I was blown away by the amount of support that was available to me, and by the range of factors of my personality and behaviours that were affected by my dyslexia.

Problems caused by dyslexiaI had learned many coping mechanisms over the years like using my finger or a ruler to read out loud, and slowing down, counting on my fingers, investing in a huge set of multicoloured hi-lighters, post-it notes and coloured pens to keep track of things & help me study, but even still my time management has always been a problem, and my organisational skills very poor.

I remember once complaining to a friend that I was a dreadful procrastinator, and he said that it wasn’t that I didn’t want to do the task… I simply didn’t know how to start, and that really rung true for me.

I was given a dictaphone so I could listen to lectures properly rather than trying to listen & write at the same time, and a computer with excellent programs on it, such as a fantastic spell-checker, a mind mapping tool & a program that reads documents for you. many of the programs have also been a great help my daughter.

Realising that my dyslexia was affecting my life in so many more ways than just spelling really opened doors for me, and improved my self confidence greatly (as did the IQ test!)

I graduated from University in 2009 with a Masters in Physics, and subsequently completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Secondary Mathematics Education.

I really did not think that I had what it took to complete a degree, let alone a Masters & PGCE, but being diagnosed formally and having dyslexia explained to me, gave me the confidence and commitment to follow these things through.  My diagnosis has changed my life completely as it allows me to stand my ground.  I now feel confident defending myself when my dyslexia lets me down, and more importantly asking for the support that I need to work properly.

I spent two years teaching Maths to children with special educational needs who were in care, and having dyslexia really helped me connect with the frustration and exclusion that these children experience by simply not being ‘the same’ as everyone else.  Unfortunately my ME has meant that I am not able to work full time in a school at the moment as I am far too exhausted a lot of the time, but I am working two days a week for Barnardo’s, a charity that supports children, especially those in care and with special needs.  Even in my work there my understanding of the problems that special needs cause enable me to support volunteers better and I have even managed to support a dyslexic supporter to finally complete an application form to volunteer with us 🙂

Dyslexia Scotland

Useful Links:

Dyslexia Action ‘It’s Me’ site – Stories of other dyslexics.

British Dyslexia Association

Dyslexia International

Dyslexia Scotland

Dyslexia Research Trust

Dyslexic Lemon

About Barbara

Born in Dublin, living in London with Peter, my two daughters, Wilson our Spaniel & Woordow our Malshih (Shih Tzu-Maltese cross)
This entry was posted in Dyslexia, Families, Jokes, Life, Teaching, Teenagers and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to A dyslexic walks into a bank… “Air in the hands mother stickers this is a fuckup!”

  1. Al says:

    A very heartfelt post, Barbara. It is such a struggle for dyslexics.

    Patty specialized in reading and is a certified tutor to kids with dyslexia. (It’s called Wilson Learning. – she spent a couple of thousand dollars on the course). Very rewarding though. I got to know a few of the kids as they came over to for lessons. It was neat seeing them later in soccer leagues and swim leagues.

    You were strong and had a great support system with your parents. Your accomplishments are proof that people can overcome handicaps with perseverance and will.


    • Barbara says:

      Thank you 🙂 I do remember spending what felt like days crying over spelling and times tables and having to learn poems for homework. It was sheer hell, for me and my poor parents.

      My daughter struggles still but i have to remind myself that I was not formally diagnosed at 16 and had no formal support. In fact a well meaning careers guidance counsellor told me I should study German in addition to French Irish & English meaning that I detested over half of my school timetable and was destined to fail. I wanted to do art with sciences but that was not considered a good combination. 😦

      It took me undertaking my masters degree with lots of support to realise how much help i needed and what a difference it made to my self esteem to be on a level playing field!


    • Barbara says:

      PS I’ve only noticed Patty’s course was called Wilson Learning!!

      He is one smart puppy!


  2. Al says:

    P.S. Love your title! That should get some readers.


  3. Margie says:

    What a motivational story!
    My brother-in-law is dyslexic. He was a very successful draftsman, but always had to get someone else in his office to check his drawings and correct how he spelled words like ‘bathroom’! He always joked that anyone could spell ‘bathroom’ only one way. It took a great mind to spell it differently every time!


    • Barbara says:

      Thanks Margie 🙂

      My mum and sister used to get great mileage about how I spelt allways and finnish meaning finish, not the countrymen! Spellcheckers are a real lifesaver for me, though when I’m tired the iPad comes up with some pretty strange corrections!!

      I only learned to spell necessary in the last few years…. (I have to think of a shirt, it has one collar ‘c’ and two sleeves ‘s’) before that spellcheckers couldn’t work out what I wanted to spell cos I always started the word ness…..


  4. Grannymar says:

    I am one of the family with dancing word problems. I find that when trying to read a book I am reading the same paragraph over and over. when it comes to writing,,,,, I still have a fear of the empty page.


    • Barbara says:

      At least with blogging and spellcheckers most of the time nobody would know! 😉


    • Barbara says:

      I learnt to speed read, it’s brilliant but you have to be focused and completely distraction free. It suits our way of reading much better as we absorb he words rather than read them in a linear fashion & was a lifesaver when I was studying, but it takes practice!

      Start with Maeve Binchy or Mills & Boon, try reading them super fast, it works, I promise!

      (PS large print too… MUCH EASIER) I read everything in 14+ font. Better for your eyes too


      • Grannymar says:

        Barbara, it takes me six months to read a book! By the time I reach the bottom of a page, I have forgotten what the first half was about! Don’t laugh, I am serious. If I was to concentrate on reading as you suggest, I would need to live in a bubble without, noise, distraction, need to cook, eat, wash or sleep!


        • Barbara says:

          I’m not laughing, dad is the same, and Charlotte hardly reads, I’m just so so lucky to have read so much as a child my reading is faster than most dyslexics (but still about half the speed of mum or Peter!)


          • Grannymar says:

            I read a sentence and the words do not make sense . When I read it again, the words that caused me confusion have moved three or four lines down the page! It would be a whole lot worse if I could not see, so I will not complain!


  5. Barbara I hope that over time you feel better and better and are able to spend more time with youngsters who could use your understanding. Love this post!


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  8. The crazy thing is, I read the title “right” and thought, was she in a bank when it got robbed?


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