Dyslexia and Me: A Response from a Dyslexic #TimeToTalk

I have just read The Problem with Schools Not Identifying Dyslexia on Dyslexic Advantage Blog and wanted to give my two pennies worth to the topic.

I can only speak from my own experience as I am not an educator or a health care worker. I am also not in the United States, so please read the original article for the full context. What I would like to discuss is the possible implications of not identifying dyslexia in schools. 

I am an adult dyslexic who was NOT diagnosed with dyslexia at school. My mother knew there was something going on and had raised the possibility of me being dyslexic both in primary and secondary school. Both schools failed in looking into this further. In fact, my secondary school told my mum that if she wanted to have me tested, she would have to pay for it herself, which was a lot of money for a single mum with two kids to find. My mum couldn’t afford it and I wasn’t diagnosed until later.

For me, there were things I feel I missed out on due to the lack of support.

I struggled with organisation and structuring my time (which I have become far better at since being at university and getting support). This isn’t just a skill needed for school but is a life skill. If I have a structure within the workplace or when I was at uni, then I cope pretty well on the whole. However, at home trying to organise which tasks are more pressing and making sure the flat is organised and tidy is a real struggle. I really do struggle to prioritise and end up having freak outs every so often.

Strengths and weaknesses in my learning have been more difficult to identify by myself. During my time at university I tried all sorts of different learning techniques to try to find one most suitable to me, but even after 4 years of undergraduate I think I only identified one technique which helped me though, which was cramming as much reading in the 2 days before an exam so it was fresh in my mind.

For me the real issue I have had because of my dyslexia not being diagnosed in school is my lack of self belief and self-esteem. I still have a real fear of making mistakes which can make me slower or more nervous when attempting new tasks. I am very thorough in all I do which is definitely a strength as I don’t cut corners, but it means that people assume that I am lazy or slow or a daydreamer. And that’s what I was tagged as at school.

I believe that if I HAD been diagnosed at school and I HAD been given the support I needed, I would have far better self-esteem. I was a very miserable teenager. I think teenage years are hard enough for kids growing up with all the hormones and dramas of life without feeling like you’re working your hardest and being called lazy or stupid. I threw tantrums and cried a lot. The only classes I enjoyed was music because it was where I did well and where I wasn’t made to feel like I was useless.

I left school at 17 thinking I was a useless waste of space. I didn’t believe the marks I received in my exams (all top marks) because I had been made to think that I wasn’t clever. I was convinced it was a flook and/or that they had mixed up my papers with someone elses. Even now I wonder how the hell I managed to do so well!

Even writing about my experiences of secondary school is painful and I can feel myself welling up as well as feeling anger and resentment. The signs were there, my mum tried her hardest to point it out, yet the school(s) were not prepared to acknowledge that I needed support.

“Well, she can’t be good at everything.”

Could I say that I had depression as a teenager? Well my doctor told me otherwise when I asked for help. I was certainly very low, had suicidal thoughts and am still dealing with self-esteem issues almost 15 years on. I do believe that all of that could have been avoided if I had been diagnosed with dyslexia and given the support I needed in school.

Posted on February 6, 2015, in Awareness, Personal Experience and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I am not so sure that everything is as black and white or as simple as saying if I had been assessed everything would have been rosy in my garden. We also have to remember being a child is not only about school we have parents, friends outside school etc that all go towards developing us as adults. I would say that the main problem I experience was with my family was. My dad’s alcholism and his gambling his psychological abuse of myself and two brothers and the very negative destructive relationship between my mum and dad. Of course I am not saying we do not need changes in our education system to make it more inclusive for all children just trying to give an alternate view here. Ok I did not like my secondary school at alI because i struggled with writing, spelling etc. It did impact on my self cofidence and self esteem with my school work but I was great with my art and music. Nevertheless in the end I just stopped attending and left school at 14 because I fel/ believed I could not learn. I then floated around a bit moving from one manual labour job to another. Then I did my music thing and had a little career in music and i would say now that dyslexia, even though I was not aware of dyslexia at that time, and the creativity it gave me enabled me to be a musician and be very happy. I then went back to school rediscovered a love of learning and spent 8 years in full time education. Staring with my basic skills and ending with my PGCE in Inclusive Education. I then went into teaching as an inclusion then dyslexia specialist. Again I would say dyslexia and the strenghts I have from being dyslexic enabled me to do these vocations well. Now I run my own social enterprise I am a social entrepreneur. Again I do not believe I could have done either if it were not for being dyslexic. So am going to say that my road as a child was a very bumpy one full of potholes but eventually I found a great road to be on and this is due in part from the issues I struggled with at school and with my parents. I dont think I would be here if i had not gone through those struggles. Maybe the struggles that Mr Branson experienced at school with his dyslexia made him into the entrepreneur he is now. Maybe its the struggles and experiences with dyslexia we face in every part of our lives make us into the people we are? Ok all very well for me but what about the many other dyslexics out there who are still struggling with self esteem, mental health issues, confidence etc? All I can say is we all have to start to find our own way. We all have to start trying to over come some of the barriers that society has placed in front of us. But more importantly we have to overcome the barriers we place in front of ourselves. Easy to say but not easy to do. I will say dont give up on yourself. Earlier on I mentioned something about my parents. I have never written about this before and it was not easy to do. I will also say that after my dad passed away I began putting together things I was hearing from other family members. As an inclusion specialist what I heard lead me to believe that he may have has Aspergers.

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    • Oh I know being a teenager is hard enough even for non dyslexic people. However, a lot of my self esteem issues comes from school without a shadow of a doubt. I even ASKED for help but received none. I was made to feel like it was me who was making stuff up for attention and being lazy.


  2. I think you are right but it is not the only place where this can happen with self esteem etc. I was also maybe saying the struggle make us who we are? Maybe if you had recieved the support would you be doing the very positive things you are engaged in now that helps other dyslexics? Maybe the struggle can make us more determined to succeed as an entepreneur, doctor, etc in later life? Do we contunue to let our negative experiences of school as a dyslexic kid continue to kick us up the ass? I think the single most empowering thing I got from my own dyslexia assesment was it put my life at school into perspective. It enabled me to see that I was not stupid or lazy or unteachable. It enabled me to realise these experiences were not my fault, I did not make them happen. To all intense and purposes what happend at school and with my dad were out of my control. Somewhere along the line we have to say enough is enough I am not going to continue punishing myself for something that I was not in control of. I am not saying this is easy to do but we have to try and leave it in the past, a past that we can never change. Again easy to say difficult to do.

    Liked by 1 person

  1. Pingback: Dyslexia and Me: A Response from a Dyslexic #TimeToTalk | NYC Dyslexia Research

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