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Growing up with dyslexia

There are reportedly 1.5 million people who suffer from a learning disorder like Dyslexia. Even now, many people do not understand the challenges this brings throughout your childhood, which is why I wanted to write about it to help others who may see their kids struggling or want to understand more of what it's like.

I am now over 40 years old, and was only diagnosed with dyslexia at 17. From an early age I always struggled with language and my understanding of English, and would often muddle numbers up. What should have been said in a couple of sentences often took double the words to explain what I wanted. There are five things that stick out to me, that had a a big impact on me and my self-confidence growing up.

  1. I was aged about 9 years old. The teacher asked me to spell ‘Rhythm’ in front of the class. I knew this word, and how to spell it. I got up to the board, and started. I was suddenly disturbed by the teacher politely coughing and the rest of the class laughing. When I looked at what I had written, it looked like this: Rhijklmnopkrst. From then on, I never wanted to put my hand up or put myself in front of the class. I was too afraid of what I might do and with no understanding of how my brain functioned, I shut myself out of class engagement.

  2. I remember having to read a book aloud, in class, for some government reading scheme. I can still see myself reading the same line at least 10 times, not realising what was happening. Again this caused much hilarity to everyone in the room. Even the inspector.

  3. During my A-level history dissertation, I had to write out, in my neatest handwriting, with no mistakes a 10,000 word essay on the Duke of Wellington. Computers weren't an option at that time, and I don’t know how many tears of frustration I shed, as I probably ended up writing it out about 5 times in total.

  4. For my A-Level exams I spent weeks memorising Mein Kampf, developing my arguments, so that when the time of the exam came it would be perfect. However, reality stepped in. As I sat down for the exam, I started writing and realised I had forgotten everything I knew. I spent 3 hours writing absolute rubbish. My brain just let me down.

  5. Later, as I was starting my career, I was an account manager at a creative agency and was on the phone to a client. He told me his phone number, yet I couldn’t write it down properly. It took 8 attempts, and lots of exasperation from both the client and myself. I knew what he was saying, but when I wrote it down it was all muddled up.

The impact of dyslexia knocks your confidence, knocks your ability to trust who you are and what you can achieve. Yet, there is help and incredible people who will support you, focus on you and make you realise your potential. If your kid suffers from dyslexia - or you suspect they do - don’t get frustrated with them, as it is likely to make it worse. Support them and find the people who understand, who are empathetic and see that child's potential and help build the foundations for success. People with dyslexia are often highly creative and great problem solvers. Studies have even shown that there is a correlation between dyslexia and entrepreneurialism (though spelling that took a few attempts, thank god for autocorrect!).

For me, all the frustration improved when the school and teachers identified that I was dyslexic, a certain few teachers took me under their wing and worked with me to help give me the tools that have got me through to this day. This included spending many an additional hour, of their time, to coach, mentor, support and help me learn in different ways.

Even now, I still face people who do not understand what it means to be dyslexic and they are incredibly destructive. I still get people criticising my writing, saying words like “sloppy”, “I can show you how to put spellchecker on”, to “have you triple checked your work”. All these comments make me feel those same frustrations I did when I was younger, but I try to explain dyslexia to them: words go blurry; I cant see if the word is underlined and meaning gets completely lost.

At the end of the day, living with dyslexia can feel tough, but if you, or your tween, builds the right friends and support around them, then they will thrive. Remember, some of the most amazing entrepreneurs have been through this, so anything is achievable.

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