Dyslexia… Looking out , through the ages and through the eyes of a person with dyslexia.
I am 5 years old. I am smiley and happy and confident. I’m sociable, friendly and keen. I love life, I love school. I think everyone is the same. I love to play with letters and sound them out to make words. I am noticing I am good at reading because I can remember what words look like, and the teacher tells me I am clever because I am learning to read quickly. I put my hand up to answers questions and I am desperate to please. I love talking to adults. I go into school smiling, I come out of school smiling. I’m top of the class and I don’t really know why or what I am doing to be there but it feels good and the teachers like me because they think I’m clever. School is easy.
I am 8 years old. I am inquisitive, I want to know about the world. I want to understand. I am eager to learn. I am enthusiastic. I want to read books, I love reading, I am told I am good at reading. I was the first free reader in the class! I was a free reader in year 2. I fly through books. I have read all of the famous five books, all of the secret 7 books and the list goes on. I read them. I don’t always understand what is happening but I read them and no one knows I don’t understand because no one ever checks or asks. Sometimes school feels hard but no one knows and it is my secret.
I am 11 years old. I keep a diary, I write stories, I write poems. I love writing. I love words. I love writing in neat tidy beautiful handwriting. I love writing about what we have done, I love writing about things I have seen, I love writing about adventures that might happen to me. I know that I am not great at spelling but no one ever seems to notice and none of my teachers ever seem to worry. My ideas are amazing and my imagination is fierce. I have a few friends but not many. Sometimes I’m sad because I don’t understand what’s happening most of the time but I keep it hidden and nobody knows, not even my mum.
I am 14 years old. I am confused because I work really hard and I just can’t keep up in class. In English in particular, I read and read and read the books but they don’t make sense and I just don’t understand why. I follow the words with my fingers, I read the words but they don’t seem to make sense. I feel stupid and I feel silly but I can’t let anyone know. I worry I’m not working hard enough and I worry I’ll be told off. I can’t spell the exciting words I want to use to make my writing amazing and I can’t write fast. I never feel as if I have written everything down. I hope no one will notice as I try to blend into the background and fade into the walls. I find it hard to make friends because I don’t always know what to say. I’m so tired at the end of the day, but my mind never stops, it whirs and it whizzes trying to make sense of the information I have been given in the day.
I am 17 years old. I am exhausted, tired and lonely. I work so hard but the teachers don’t notice me. I’m invisible to them. I think it’s because I don’t work hard enough. I think maybe they think I have let them down. They have little patience for me when I ask for help. I do my homework on time, but it takes ages and I always do my best, but my best never seems good enough. I never get As or Bs anymore. I know I’m not clever because I’m bottom of my class now but still I work hard. The pupils around me work quickly and easily, they can see the connections they can write their ideas down. I can never keep up and I’m never really quite sure of the key points but still I go to school and still I work hard. I hate school but I have not given up.
I’m 19 years old. I’m studying for a degree in dance, drama and English. It’s engulfed in theory I don’t understand, in words I don’t know and language that doesn’t make sense. I do my best to go unnoticed and my best to be unseen. I complete work on time, often working really Kate into the night. I ask questions enthusiastically when I know the answer and hide at the back when I’m unsure, which is most of the time. I buy every book I need because I can’t read fast, I can’t read quickly and I need to read it at least 5 times before it makes sense. I highlight while chunks of text because I can’t skim read and I can’t make connections or pull ideas together. I rarely smile. I feel life has limits… I have found mine, I’m out of my depth, and sinking fast using every ounce of resilience to get me through each hour.
I’m 22 years old. I’m training to be a teacher. I feel alive. I feel inspired. I struggle with the theory but thrive before a class. We go on adventures, we learn together, we never give up, we always find a way. We work as a team. I hold them together but they take me where we need to go. They take me to places I didn’t know existed. I still can’t spell. I don’t know my tables. I struggle to organise equipment and my thoughts but children are easy to fool. The children don’t judge me. The children don’t know how I feel about myself … They make me visible as I give them hope and I forget how hopeless and insignificant I feel.
I’m 28 years old. Im training to be a specialist dyslexic teacher. I’m anxious, I’m scared, I’m worried. I feel small and insignificant. Studying is hard. I know I’m not clever because my English is so bad. I’m not sure I can do it and also cannot work out how I landed up here. I know I’m the underdog but I need to learn how to help the children who find it so hard to learn. I need to find a way to teach them so they can achieve their potential and if that means it’s hard for me it doesn’t matter.
I’m surprised, the difficulties the lecturers describe are difficulties I experience everyday. They are describing me. I feel different but for the first time since I was 5 I feel a small piece of hope for myself. The pieces are sliding into place. I know I’m dyslexic, it is the reason for all my negative feelings about myself and my fears of falling behind, feeling stupid and small.
I’m 34 years old, I’m awaiting a diagnostic assessment for dyslexia. I’m terrified. I’m excited. I hope to get the answers I need. I hope it to be confirmed. I’m fragile but strong. Vulnerable yet in control. It’s hard and it’s scary but I try my best, knowing my best is all I can give. I am relieved… I was right. I feel empty but full, little but huge. Now its confirmed my life finally makes sense to me. The relief floods through me and starts to heal all my wounds. I feel clever and brave. Unstoppable in achieving my dreams.
I’m 37 years old. I understand my diagnosis. I have learnt and been taught how to understand the theories of dyslexia and know how it affects me. I can quieten the self doubt so it doesn’t drown my voice. I know how to minimise the impact of a learning difference so that it does not limit your expectations or dreams. I know how to teach and make a big difference to pupils lives. I finally know how I want to live my life…
I look into the classroom and I try to spot the 5 year olds before their self doubt begins to creep in and do unnecessary damage. I look into the classroom to try and spot the 8 year olds who read beautifully but don’t really understand. I try to search out the 11 year olds who are bright and sparkly but can’t spell because they can’t hear the sounds. I try to assess and work with 14 and 17 year olds who do well on the surface but fight hard to keep a lid on their difficulties. I work with them to help them to understand how their brain works so they can achieve their potential.
I know what I’m looking for because I have felt it and lived it and breathed it… I need to teach others to spot it because when we can spot it we can prevent a downward spiral of negativity from pulling pupils in on themselves. Instead we can provide support to make them shine brighter and lead a way for others. You can help them shine by sharing my blog and other blogs like mine. Let’s educate each other and raise the profile so that dyslexia is no longer hidden or misunderstood…
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