Dyslexia and Me: The adventure begins

Dyslexia

Hello there! Thank you very much for deciding to read my first blog post on Dyslexia and Me!

My name is Áine (Hannah in English) and I am a 29 year old mature student studying an undergraduate degree in History, Celtic and Anglo-Saxon Studies. I am a big enthusiast of Viking history, I love music (especially metal) and cats… and I am dyslexic.


When I left high school, I dropped out half-way through my final year. I found it a real struggle and I couldn’t cope with it any longer, so I left and went to college to study music instead. I always thought that I would complete high school before I moved on to further or higher education, but unfortunately I was never given the help I needed in school. In fact, I wasn’t diagnosed with dyslexia until I was 25 when I decided to go back to college to gain the qualifications I needed for university.

Irlen Syndrome

I have felt very let down by the education system over the years. Despite my mother raising concerns about my abilities within reading and writing both in primary and high school, she was consistently dismissed as a ‘pushy parent’. ‘She can’t be good at everything!’ Although in high school they decided I had Irlen Syndrome (also known as Scotopic sensitivity syndrome, Visual Stress and Asfedia), they were not prepared to properly assess me for dyslexia as it ‘cost too much money’. I had extra time in exams and my questions printed on coloured paper, but besides this help in exam situations, I had no other help with my studies.

My results for my Standard Grades (Scottish qualifications similar to GCSE) when I was 16 were pretty impressive, I gained three 1’s (A’s) and four 2’s (B’s)! And for this reason, when I asked if I could take English over two years rather than the Higher (Scottish qualification similar to A Level) in one, it was refused. I had several meetings with my school counsellor, the head of year and my English teacher, but they refused to listen to my reasons as I had done so well gaining a 1 in English Standard Grade. I ended up dropping off the course completely. I couldn’t keep up with the work load and no one was prepared to help me despite asking on an almost weekly basis!

Graduation

After leaving education for the ‘real world’ for a number of years, I decided to go back to university to study one of my big passions, history. It meant that I had to go back to college to gain the Higher qualifications that I had missed out on while in high school. Before I started, I told the college that I had been told I was dyslexic (by someone when I went to study music in my teens) but I hadn’t been properly assessed. The college booked me in to see an educational psychologist who diagnosed me at the age of 25 as dyslexic and confirmed the Irlen Syndrome that was mentioned before. I then received the help I needed! I was allowed to type in exams (as well as the extra time and coloured paper) rather than writing by hand, I was given a laptop on loan from the college for taking notes in class and a digital recorder to record classes so I could listen back if I had missed anything while taking notes. With this extra help I finally managed to complete my Highers and received three A’s, in English, History and Sociology.

Since then, I have received a lot of support and equipment when embarking on an undergraduate degree at university. I’m currently in my final year and am hoping that I will be able to continue my studies further into a postgraduate degree. I wouldn’t have managed to get this far if I hadn’t gained the help I needed when I came back into education.

So despite my struggles through school, I am on the way to completing an undergraduate degree in a field that I love! It has taken me a while to get to the position I am in now and I still struggle and threaten to throw the towel in with every essay I have to write, but I’ve got here now! It does however make me wonder if it would have been possible to have achieved more if I had been given the support I needed from when my mother originally began calling into question whether or not I was dyslexic back in primary school.

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Posted on February 9, 2014, in Education and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. Hi there after reading your blog I couldn’t not comment about how awful this must have been for you. I’ll tell you a little bit about my experiences.

    My names Sophie I’m 21 currently at college studying computer science, I am dyslexic and have irlen syndrome.

    Whilst I was studying at school I received 1-to-1 support out of class, which stopped when I went to secondary school. Whilst at secondary school nothing was diagnosed although I reviewed extra time for my exams and I was put in a separate room from the exam hall.

    I then stayed on a year in 6th form to try and gain better grades in maths and English as well as studying Business and ICT, but again with not support or help.

    I then went on to study Business at College and it was there that my tutors decided to get me assessed for dyslexia and irlen syndrome, it took them a few assignments and an essay to realise that there might have been something wrong,

    I think the education system is awful as I wasn’t diagnosed all the way through primary and secondary school and it took my tutors at college to realise there was something wrong after only teaching me for a couple of months.

    I would also like to stress that I think I would have achieve better grades in school having the support I receive now and I would have been able to get a C in English a lot earlier, as I only received it last year due to being encouraged a lot by a tutor who I was taught by previously for my level 1 in English.

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    • Hi Sophie, thanks for leaving your personal feedback on the topic. It sounds like your experience is very similar to my own. It was college where I was diagnosed. The first college I went to they gave me a quick test and found I had 16 out of 20 classic signs of dyslexia but I wasn’t fully assessed until I went back into education at 25.

      I also agree that you most likely had the potential to gain higher grades had you been given the support. I think the education system is failing people like you and me because there isn’t the funding, the resources or the recognition that would give those with dyslexia the chance to achieve their potential.

      I am glad to hear you are continuing with education despite your difficulties and happy you are getting the support you need now too! Keep kicking arse and good luck with the rest of your studies 🙂

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  2. I have dyslexia and irlen syndrome too Just don’t given up you will get there in the end

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  3. Hi Hannah,

    Thank you for sharing your story. I also suffer from dyslexia and was diagnosed with Irlen Syndrome at 13. That was in 1994. Back then children or parents did not get the support. As I was struggling at school my mum send me to extra lessons once a week after school where a lady called Mrs Jude helped me develop my spelling/reading and discovered I had dyslexia. It explained a lot of things and helped my mum understand why I used to get tired and didn’t want to read with her as I struggled and my eyes would get itchy sore and tired. I would avoid it like the plague. Mum thought I was being lazy until Mrs Jude took me under her wing. Sadly Mrs Jude died about 10 years ago but through her life she helped many children and at my old infant school they named the reading room after her.
    I went to a specialist in Cambridge and had a few tests and ended up with green tinted glasses. Sadly kids bullied me and called me names like frog eyes which made my battle even harder.
    I also do a lot of theatre arts while I was growing up an I still take part in local productions. I discovered I had a talent for singing and acting around the same time I was diagnosed with Dyslexia. My friends where impressed with the fact I could learn my lines for plays so well. I used to say its because I had to work twice as hard lol. I also ended up as a part time drama teacher and while i was teaching could tell very early which kids where dyslexic. I still now dread doing to a group read trough and get annoyed when people correct me. It takes me back to school again but I do the taking once I am on stage.
    Now I have a successful job as a Key Accounts Manager. My reading and writing is much better and I was determined to not let this ruin a great career.
    My overall ambition would be to have my own company teaching drama and public speaking to dyslexic children.
    I still believe that Mrs Jude (RIP), my drama and a supporting family got me through it all.

    My message would be to anyone is to do not be afraid to talk to people about dyslexia. No one is perfect and remember you are talented in your own way.

    Jon

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    • Hi Jon,

      Yeah my mother thought that she was the reason I hated reading because she read to me a lot as a child. Like you my eyes would get tired or itchy (they still do) and that was the real reason I hated reading.

      I’m glad you had Mrs Jude to help you out and that her efforts were recognised by your school. It’s always good to have someone who understands and is on your side when it comes to these things.

      I was never given the tinted glasses because of the pricing, but my colour has changed several times over the years. Did you find they helped? Kids and bullying when it comes to such things is not a nice experience. Frogs are pretty cool though! I just had kids saying to me ‘haha, you can’t read! You must be dyslexic or something.’ Nail on the head!

      It seems there are a lot of people who are creative with dyslexia. As acting goes, you’re in there with Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley and Whoopie Goldberg to name a few. Not too bad a list!

      I have to plead ignorance to what a Key Accounts Manager does. Teaching drama sounds like a lot of fun. Have you thought of looking to see if there’s any work specifically teaching kids with dyslexia or similar learning difficulties? I’m sure that would be challenging but very rewarding!

      And I totally agree about talking about dyslexia. That was why I set up the blog. It’s not something people should be ashamed of. There are a lot of positives, like your ability to learn the lines so well in your drama work.

      Thank you so much for your response and I hope you do manage to achieve your ambition 🙂

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  4. It’s great that you have a blog .I also have a blog Don’t called me stupid check it out

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  5. I hope you will look at my blog and leave a comment please .

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  6. Hi Áine

    I enjoyed reading your bio. I’m pleased you received the support that you needed, albeit later than it should have been provided.

    When I went to school in the 1970s teachers didn’t acknowledge dyslexia even though it was referred to as word blindness in some circles. Children were placed into streams, and in our county we had the 11+, which is still in place today. So, if you had dyslexia then the chances were you wouldn’t get the support the more able students enjoyed.

    I was diagnosed as dyslexic at 48 years old in 2009 while on an Access to HE course at a local community learning centre. I was told I am moderately dyslexic with scotopic sensitivity. To cut a long story short I ended up on a postgraduate child studies programme with DSA and have spent the past 4-5 years campaigning for children and young people’s rights, mainly in education, and in opposition to the 11+.

    I have two school age children who aren’t dyslexic, but my biggest fear was that I wouldn’t be able to support their education (there is a massive deficit of support for dyslexic parents in England).

    I want to thank you for following/RTing my blog that provides a link to a suite of free apps to help people with dyslexia. I set up this service to support people from across all age groups from disadvantaged backgrounds who can’t afford dyslexia services, especially parents.

    It is great that you are raising awareness about dyslexia by speaking out about your own experiences.

    All my best for the future!

    WordPress.com / Gravatar.com credentials can be used.

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    • Hi Alan,

      Thanks for reading the bio 🙂 Yeah I am glad I finally have the support I need and have a second chance at education.

      I think my mother always knew I had dyslexia, but the schools weren’t prepared to accept or support it because of the money needed to have a full diagnoses. I have been told by several people that the school system has improved a lot since I left in 2001. I have to say, I am yet to see evidence to back this up when I meet other people diagnosed with dyslexia at university who are in their late teens/early twenties. The horror stories continue, so I thought it was time to stand up and share my experiences in hope that it informs and inspires people.

      I have been thinking of going into DSA type work myself, but haven’t a clue how to go about it. I think the problem exists throughout the UK, it’s definitely not just an issue in England! It’s nice to see someone else with dyslexia standing up and helping other people too, good on you!

      The software I have on my laptop was given to me through DSA so I am learning from different bloggers and people on Facebook and Twitter other free resources. I agree, I think it’s well worth sharing these things! I know my mother wouldn’t have been able to afford these things for me. I am very privileged to have full funding for university as a mature student and the DSA behind me! If I find anything I think is useful, I will be sharing it on here. If people are drawn to the blog because of the topic of dyslexia or Irlen Syndrome, then I think it’s very important that I don’t only raise awareness but show support for others.

      If you know of anything else that I am missing in my links section or any other handy bits and pieces, I would love to know so I can share them 🙂

      Thanks for taking the time to read the blog and for leaving a response 🙂

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