For this post, I’m going to do something I have never done before. I’m going to talk about something I am extremely self-conscious about, and something that causes me a lot of anxiety. It’s something I don’t talk about a lot, but something that affects me and my life every single day.. dyslexia. I have dyslexia. Something I don’t say out loud very often (if ever) or tell many people at all. Seeing as this week is is Dyslexia Awareness Week, today in particular being World Dyslexia Awareness Day I thought it would be the perfect time to share my story.
When I was in secondary school, I struggled with lots of things. One of the main things I struggled with was exams, especially science exams. Every science exam I ever took I failed miserably even though my classwork was usually a grade C/B. My science teacher made the decision to put through BTEC Science, meaning no exams would be necessary, it would all be coursework based. Part of me was relived, but part of me felt like a failure, who can’t pass exams!? I had always had the suspicion something was wrong, because I always struggled to read out loud in a class. I wasn’t as speedy as some of the others, and my brain could never properly take in what I was reading. I would read the same sentence over and over again and I still wouldn’t have a clue. In my secondary school, we had a student support centre which was where people who needed a little extra help with their work would go. I went in and asked for a dyslexia test and I was told they would come back to me with information, they never did.
My GCSE’s came and went, I got pretty average grades (mostly C’s with a couple of B’s) and I went to college to do a diploma. This was a BTEC too so again, no exams just coursework. The problem really hit when I started University in 2014. We had to do a Media Law exam. I was SO anxious about doing this exam, and although it didn’t really count towards a grade, I was terrified because I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it. The exam came and went, and when the results came back I wasn’t surprised to see that I had failed miserably. It was at that point my lecturer came and said to me in the nicest possible way he could “Alice, is there something wrong I need to know about, because that’s an epic fail”. I told him about the fact I thought I could have mild dyslexia but never got tested despite me and my parents asking. He immediately contacted student support and I met with a woman who was an expert at dyslexia testing.
I had numerous amounts of appointments and evaluations, and eventually I met with a doctor who put me through the few hour long dyslexia test, and his verdict was that I was dyslexic. I was SO upset and I can remember feeling like my secondary school had failed me. If I had got the test when I asked them for it, I would’ve been able to have help and my GCSE’s could have been so much better. But hey ho, at least I knew it for sure now and now I could get the help I always needed.
Now I know what you’re thinking, she can’t be dyslexic, she can spell! Well, first off yes I can but I’m not brilliant at it haha! And secondly, dyslexia is NOT just about not being able to spell. My dyslexia mainly affects how my brain registers things. For example, when I was saying about reading a sentence over and over again and it still not ‘going in’ that’s why, because my brain has trouble registering what I see. I can’t read black on white very well at all, the letters all merge together and look like they’re shaking a lot of the time. Because of this, I use coloured overlays (just a coloured sheet of plastic) that I put over the top of the paper so I can read it. The first time I used a coloured overlay I honestly thought it was magic! Another thing I struggle with is writing stuff down. For example, when writing essays/blog posts or anything else, I know what it is I want to say, but I can’t physically get it down, my brain struggles to transfer my thoughts into sentences. It’s really hard to explain, but it’s like there’s a block that stops information getting in and out. Lastly, one of the things I struggle with due to dyslexia is forgetfulness. Now I had no idea until I had the test that memory loss and forgetfulness is mildly linked with dyslexia. The dyslexia test I did required me to take two memory exercises. My long term memory is fine, it’s my short term memory that sucks. I’m definitely the type of person who walks in to the kitchen for something and then immediately forgets why I am in there! Little did I know there was a slight reason for that!
I received helped by the DSA, (disabled student’s allowance). Again, this was something that gave me so much relief but so much anxiety too. Disabled student’s allowance? Disabled!? I could not wrap my head around the D in DSA, it made me feel awful. I know that sounds selfish but it did, why was I counted as a disabled student because of dyslexia? I received a new laptop, complete with software which meant I could speak into a microphone to complete my essays rather than physically having to type them up. I was given a dicta-phone to record lectures with so I didn’t have to take notes, and I was provided with coloured overlays which helped tremendously when it came to reading books and other bits on paper. Looking back now, I am so thankful to everyone who helped me throughout my university course. Without the time and effort they put into helping me come to terms with having dyslexia, and helping with my essays etc, I would never have got my 2:1 result and would never have got the job I’m working in now.
The reason I felt strongly about writing this post is just to talk about something I am not all that comfortable with discussing, for many reasons. People have opinions. People will always have opinions, and will have no problem sharing those opinions when you are still trying to come to terms with it. “I don’t think you have it, they are probably just telling you do because the Uni will get some sort of funding for you if they tell you you have it. They get paid extra for taking on dyslexic students” was just one of the comments I received (from someone who is technically family!!) that made me want to kick and scream. Who are you to say that? How dare you say that to me when you have no idea how I struggled, when I had to teach myself how to read a certain way, when you don’t see through my eyes at the black writing moving and shaking and all jumbled together on the white paper? “You can’t be that bad, you can spell”. Yes I can spell, I do struggle with certain words and what context to use them in but yes for the most part, I can spell. Had you taken the time to ask people who have it, or research a little more you would know that Dyslexia is so much more than not being able to spell, and one day I hope more than anything that stigma can be broken.
It was important to me to be able to write this post. I want people to be aware of this, whether you have dyslexia or know someone who has. Help raise awareness to it, and help people come to terms with it if they’re struggling. No, it’s not the end of the world. But like anything in that nature, it can be hard to accept to start with. I am very determined not to let it get in the way of my life but I have also got to the stage where I accept that it’s there and there’s nothing I can do about it.
Thank you for reading. If this helps just one person then I’ll know I’ll feel good about opening up about something I’ve always found hard. Have any of you had trouble with dyslexia? Or know someone who has? I’d love to know.