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