29 October 2016


Right now, you may be reading this on your phone waiting at a bus stop, or possibly on your laptop during a lunch break. To be honest, you’re probably reading this when you have something better you ought to get on with. But no matter where or how you're reading this, I bet you didn't even think about how great it was that you could take in every word with total ease and without any consideration.

One in five students have a language based learning disability, with dyslexia being the most common. Dyslexia is a hereditary, lifelong, neurodevelopmental condition that affects nearly the same percentage of males and females and exists in all cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds. Dyslexia can be described as having an array of difficulties in learning when it comes to reading, writing, and/or spelling; which persist in spite of the extra help and appropriate learning opportunities. The difficulties dyslexia brings vary from person to person.

Despite actually having a high IQ, those with dyslexia - including myself - do not test well academically and are often labelled lazy, dumb, uneducated, and “not trying hard enough". This is one of the most infuriating yet upsetting aspects of being dyslexic for me. For a number of reasons, I have poor self-esteem and social anxiety. I find it difficult putting my thoughts into words especially when speaking and somewhat conversing in halting phrases. I struggle understanding tasks and learning sequenced information, whilst experiencing dizziness/headaches from reading for not even an hour. Reading can often take me longer than the average person (though I did read The Girl on the Train in 3 weeks - which is amazing for me!) and I read and reread over and over with little comprehension.
Testing has shown I also have a 10 second memory. This does not mean I have the same ability to remember things as a goldfish, but instead, if you were to tell me your mobile number, within 10 seconds I will have forgotten it. This is often common in those who have dyslexia as we learn most effectively through hands-on experiences, demonstrations, experimentation and through visual aids. Thus meaning we have a crappy memory when it comes to remembering sequences, facts, and information that has not been experienced. Furthermore, I have little internal dialogue which essentially means I think primarily with images and feeling, not sounds and words - therefore having an excellent long-term memory for experiences, locations, and people's faces.

Going back to the number of those affected with dyslexia, 1 in 5 children leave primary school below the national expected levels in those of reading, writing, and mathematics. This has nothing to do with the child themselves but often by schools regarding the student as not being “bad enough" or isn't “behind enough" to be helped in the school setting. This was the case for me. After being tested in primary my mum was told I wasn't dyslexic but just...slow should we say. She wasn't convinced. My mum then paid for me to get tested privately once in high school and just as expected - results showed I have dyslexia and dyscalculia (dyslexic in maths). I never really got the support I should have received even in high school except when tests and exams rolled around. Only then was I given extra time, and a calculator in the non-calculator maths papers. I often regarded this as being unable to do any form of mathematics above higher maths, when actually I can do arithmetic, but it is near impossible to grasp algebra and other aspects.
So let’s say I drop a number of pencils on a table. Most likely someone without dyslexia can look and automatically see how many are there. However, for those with dyslexia, it’s a case of counting. For example; How many pencils do you see?
You're probably able to see that there are only six just by glancing, but, I still had to count and basically identify there were two sets of three equaling to six.
Dyslexia can and does affect behaviour, health, personality and development, again varying from one person to another. Those who are dyslexic are often either a class clown, troublemaker, or “too quiet". I fall into the too quiet category. Throughout school I barely spoke up - same goes now for uni. I get easily frustrated and emotional about the reading for uni and assignments/assessments. I understand I am not at the same level as my peers and classmates, and truth is, I most likely never will be - I’m studying events management for goodness sake, that includes economics and accounting & finance. AKA MATHS, which by now you should have realised it’s not my strongest point and actually, I loved English at school and studied it throughout my school life which is a subject commonly unliked by 'us dyslexics’.

Though I have only covered more or less negative factors, those with dyslexia are additionally more talented when it comes to creativity and can pursue well in art, drama, music, sports, writing, sales, business, building, engineering, and designing. I presume this is for many reasons, one being we think differently from those without dyslexia. Essentially we think and study out with the box (which actually also makes us really good employees). We also had either unusually early or late developmental stages. For my own part, I was super early, “you could run before you could walk”, and at talking, tying shoes, etc. A quirky wee fact as well is that I am ambidextrous (both handed) which is more common in dyslexics than the 'general population’ (sorry, I’m not liking the terminology I'm using but there’s no other way around it).

Honestly, I could go on and on but I just don’t think people truly understand dyslexia unless they have it. And although I don't have it as strong as others, when people find out it seems as if they automatically think "Oh dyslexia. She can't spell or read". When that’s complete bulls**t - sorry but it's true. I mean sure, I sometimes spell phonetically but I can spell and I can read, and I can be just as successful as someone who doesn't have dyslexia.
With one in 10 of the population estimate to have dyslexia, more than 6.3 million in the UK potentially have it - over half a million people in Scotland having it. One in six adults only have the reading skills of an 11 year old, and 74% of children with dyslexia who are not diagnosed by the age of 8 remain so into adulthood.

Dyslexia is more common than you think, and though it can’t be “fixed" the way it’s looked at can be. I mean, I’m at university and if feeling ’thick’ wasn't enough, others often judge me like that too. Yet having the hereditary, lifelong, condition dyslexia is not me being lazy, dumb, uneducated, or simply me “not trying hard enough". In fact, you’ll find I work my butt off even more as a result.

Many people who are dyslexic get great support and encouragement. Although at primary school for me support was nonexistence, at high school it was at least acknowledged and some support was given, it wasn't till I got to university that I became aware of the encouragement and support. I was granted such things like a MacBook, a tutor, reading time + further extra time in exams, and further extensions on assignments - which is actually blessing right now as I have one due in 3 weeks, eeek! But without going off a complete tangent, I wish I knew where to go for the support years ago.

I mean did dyslexia stop Richard Branson, Jennifer Aniston, Holly Willoughby or Orlando Bloom? What about Johnny Depp, Lewis Hamilton, Kara Tointon, or even Princes Beatrice? I don't think so!

With the right help, strategies to overcome difficulties associated with dyslexia can be learnt and further understood. It need not be a barrier to achievement, but a reason to go out there and to do our best and prove to everyone that it isn't something to be ashamed and upset about.

1 comment

  1. As somebody with a, um, conventional brain (ugh, the terminology is the WORST) the thing that's most interested me about living with a dyslexic is learning about the different ways it affects your memory and the ways in which you see the world. I think, by this stage, most people understand that it affects reading and writing to a certain extent, but not enough is known about the other parts of it.

    We have a few years on you, but I think Stringer would agree about it not being recognised in the classroom environment - he wrote this, a few years ago, about learning to read through comics instead. And he now makes a living as a novelist, so in your face, education system.

    Anyway, this was a really well-written post and I'm glad to have discovered your blog through the Scottish Bloggers Facebook group.

    Lis / last year's girl x


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