Hi I am DysMysLexia. I am a woman of Indian origin, born and raised in the heart of England – Coventry – please don’t judge! I am a Sociology, Social Research and Theatre graduate. My honours include a Fellowship from the Royal Society of Arts and I was Alumni of the year from my former university for Community and leadership. I received Coventry Citizen of the year for my work in Activism and Arts. But under all this sparkle is my story of struggle and many challenges with Dyslexia. I am blessed to have the superpower of 3 – #Dyslexia, #Dyspraxia and #Dyscalculia. Please read my stories.
I am honoured to be the voice of adults with Dyslexia for the Adult Dyslexia Organisation. There are so many misconceptions around dyslexia. We often associate Dyslexia with the image of a little kid who can’t read and writes backwards. This is a minuscule facet of the truth. I also want to give fresh perspective of Dyslexia as an adult, as a woman and a person of heritage because Dyslexia is being mistold and misold.
Dyslexia is regarded as a specific learning difficulty, (SLD) but I say it’s more of a learning style. It puts people who have it at significant disadvantage. Dyslexia is a part of a massive spectrum and it’s not one size fits all. People with dyslexia are diverse. Irrespective of race, sex, IQ, anyone can have it if they’re lucky enough! For example, some people may be verbally articulate but may have difficulty with formulating words, spellings and sentences. Some have difficulty reading or missing certain words. Words might jump off the page or disappear. Spelling might be atrocious like mine. They may get words that sound similar confused. Or on the other hand, they may struggle to formulate a verbal sentence, but can write it or draw it like a genius. We are not the same!
I also have dyscalculia and dyspraxia which are part of the Dyslexia umbrella. First meaning that I have difficulty visualising numbers. I may not see the number 5 unless there are 5 things or a pattern of 5. A three-digit number may confuse me. I might read 456 as 546. As for Dyspraxia, that’s just a posh word for being clumsy. I struggle with coordination. I can fall up the stairs or appear to wobble like I am drunk. This does not stop me being a brilliant dancer if I say so myself. I am messy. My handwriting is abysmal, but I am good portrait artist. I struggle with spelling and remembering how to spell words. However, I am a writer with publications and can proofread the work of my students to perfection. It’s complicated.
Dyslexia is forever and not just for childhood. It doesn’t go away. I do need to revisit my childhood to begin my story. As a child I always knew I was different. There was a world around me that I couldn’t quite break into. I was left to my own resources to create my own way of understanding my surroundings. I learned to read and write at the age of 8. I am surprised I didn’t go to a special needs school when I clearly had huge difficulties looking back, but I am glad. I was desperate to grasp words, but they were so out of my reach. I used to write stories. Most of it was shite but everybody has a right to write. At least I can say I was a trooper who carried on no matter how bad I was. My stories made sense to me.
My first memory of Dyslexia was not being able to read the white board at school. Black boards were becoming extinct plus I am not that old. My mother sent me to the opticians for an eye test. I kept telling the optician that I can read the letters, but they were dancing, she ignored me. I was given prescription glasses. It was only 15 years later after having laser eye surgery I came to realisation that I was wrongly given glasses. The letters were dancing because of my dyslexia and not my vision.
I was not stupid kid. Ok I wasn’t astute, but education let me down. I was branded a ‘lazy’. Step outside of school and I was gifted. I could make anything without instruction or being taught. I could sew. I used to make dolls clothes and puppets. I was a fantastic painter and a great dancer with two left feet. I made things out of woodwork including a table! I had pathways to creativity like no other.
Growing up there were no privileges, but I made a lot from nothing. My parents didn’t nurture my potential. It was almost like they abandoned the thought of me ever achieving because I wasn’t clever in school. I guess they didn’t know how. In school I was excluded instead of being included. I was sent to ‘room 16’ to do intervention which was menial writing tasks that were tedious. I was not learning. I predictably failed my GCSE’s. But really, I was failed because I didn’t have the tools to manage my time in the exams as well as not knowing the content because I wasn’t in class. By the time I had finished a question the bell rang. I failed every single exam!
I looked at my F-U-D-G-E grades in shame. My teachers offered me hairdressing courses- Yes, I would be a fab hairdresser, but I wanted to go to university! I wanted to learn about social issues. I was hungry for knowledge. I approached my teachers telling them of my dreams and they laughed and said, ‘you will fail’. I was angry because I knew I had it in me. I then went to the head of Psychology, Mr Rattigan and told him I wanted to do A ‘level Psychology. He looked at my grades shook his head and said, ‘Ok then’. I was over the moon! I ran off before he changed his mind. One chance. That’s all it took. From d’s and e’s, I excelled! I got a C in my first assessment and an A in my first AS module. Did my ‘thicknesses disappear? No, I just developed creative techniques to remember things. I also enjoyed what I was being taught. I was challenged. I spoke to my class notes as if they were people, I sang and rapped them to learn the content. I used colour codes, smell codes you name it I invented it- well at the time I thought I did. Sadly, Mr Rattigan died just after my exams but my last words to him were ‘you are the best teacher ever’. Without him I would not have been given the chance to shine.
In 1999 I managed to get into university. What an achievement, but there the struggle began. There was so much to read! I was putting in long hours and only achieving 50% of the marks. It didn’t seem right. A member of Student Support came into my lecture and spoke about learning difficulties. I didn’t think it was for me, so it went in one ear out the other. I carried on struggling. I summoned my struggles to being ‘not clever’. It was a year into my degree before I plucked up the courage to go to student support and burst out crying. ‘I can’t read’. She acted straight away. She read my work and saw patterns and got me assessed by an educational psychologist. In 2000 I was given the gift of Dyslexia. I received support at university that was impeccable. This does not mean I got extra help, or someone did the work for me. The barriers were removed. The playing field was even. I had a better chance of passing.
I had an amazing support tutor. Ethan helped me organise my research and enabled me to proofread better with the aid of computer software and overlays. He also explained Dyslexia very eloquently. He wrote:
I am a sheep not a tree.
He asked me if there were any pictures I saw with this sentence. Yes ‘sheep’ and the ‘tree.’ He asked if there were any images for the word ‘the?’ I said ‘no’. He told me that people with dyslexia have a more visual and creative brains. They are right hemisphere dominant. -outbox thinkers. People without it are left hemisphere thinkers in box thinkers. He added that people with dyslexia process pictures faster than words. Around 10-20 images per second. Certain words have pictures and someone like me can process more pictures per minute than words. Ambiguous words without pictures are often not processed, ignored or skate off. This was very true to my difficulties as often I stumbled on on words like ‘it’ and ‘was.’ Ethan gave me so much confidence within myself that if I were to now go back to university, I would cope better now.
Now that I am adulting, I have discovered more struggles but also more ways to cope. There are still daily battles with life and work but many funny stories. Read more in my next blog.
#DysMyslexia #Dyslexiaisforlife #Dyslexicadults #gift #embracedyslexia #learning #nevertoolate #adultswithdyslexia #noshame