So, it’s National Dyslexia week. I wasn’t sure whether to write something about this or not, it’s not something that I really talk about, but if this helps someone who is struggling with dyslexia then great.
It was a massive relief when I was identified after several tests that I was dyslexic, this didn’t get diagnosed until I was in my 2nd year at university aged 20. For me in the late 80’s/90’s dyslexia were not something that was considered a thing at school, I had no idea what it was.
I was put in the bottom sets for most things at secondary school, however, given time was also able to produce work that was considered well above the class I was in. We all know being in the bottom classes at school normally comes with stigma and generally some bullying, however, I was fortunate that I was pretty good at sport, particularly football and athletics which at my school trumped my lack of academic ability – being good at sport was the number one currency.
I must be honest, I did really enjoy school, I managed to adapt my way around most things, the brain is an amazing piece of kit, however in my case also very frustrating. I do remember times when I would get so frustrated with myself that I would struggle to read and spell, I recall my parents at the time getting frustrated too, thinking I was not working hard enough, none of us was to know it wasn’t me, it was just how my brain is programmed – I would always find my workarounds given time.
I find that my brain runs at 100 mph, however, my hands don’t seem to quite keep up. For example, I could write an email that in my head sound perfect until I read back what’s on the screen and all I see is lots of spelling mistakes, words missing and an email that doesn’t make any sense at all! The same is with text and WhatsApp messages – It’s a bit of a standing joke with my mates when I’m typing on WhatsApps as it takes so long to reply – everyone else has sent 5 messages to me 1 as I must check it about 5 times.
I recall sitting at school through the years not understanding why I couldn’t spell simple words or having a head freeze over how to spell the simplest of words or spelling words as they sounded in my head, which turned out to be completely wrong 9 times out of 10 times! Some very funny examples over the years.
When I look back it’s amazing how my brain managed to think differently to get around not being able to spell certain words and how it adapted to solving problems in different ways.
I managed to get through school with enough good grades to get me onto a GNVQ colleague course, this suited me as this was practical and coursework based which allowed me time to get the assignments right. I managed to get a Merit which got me into university to study for a Leisure /Business Management Degree.
I absolutely loved University, Birmingham was a great place to be, and it made me grow up quickly. In year one I managed to pass, my assignments were C+ / B+, however, I just scraped by on my exams. Year 2 is where things started to go wrong, assignments again were C+ /B+, however, my exams were in truth a disaster! I failed 2 exams, which I had to re-take in the summer and failed again.
This really hit me hard, I felt I had worked hard, studied hard and had all the answers in my head, but just couldn’t get them down on paper in my exams. I generally felt I had let my family down and myself! What is wrong with me, why am I so stupid! Where do I go from here?
At this point, I have to say the University were amazing, I will never forget what they did for me in this moment of time. My lectures at the time looked at my exams and my assignments, and for the first time identified something isn’t right here! They could have kicked me off the course quite easily, but thanks to them taking the time to look at all of my work, they identified that there could be another answer to this.
I was referred to a specialist, that the University paid for to give me several tests and to spend time with me discussing lots around how I approach different problem-solving tasks and asking questions about how I see things, really getting to understand how my brain works.
A week later I was called back to see the specialist to run through his report and conclusion. I didn’t really know what to think going into the room. I recall sitting there and he started to discuss his findings, he said firstly, after going through all your tests and problem-solving assessments it’s amazing how you have managed for so many years to find a way to overcome your dyslexia. It turns out I am highly intelligent (open to debate), however not so great when it comes to spelling and elements of reading. I have since I can remember always read around words I can’t say or understand to work out what it means within the context of the story or document (I’m not sure if this is a common trait for people with dyslexia or not?)
Anyway, it was recommended that I was given a grant for a new computer and specific software to help with my spelling, grammar etc, and that I was also given extra time in exams and was allowed to use a computer to help with spelling and time to get out what was in my head.
The University recommended I moved on to the 2nd Year of the HND course and then into the final year degree. I passed my HND with no problems and then completed my final year degree, just missing out on a 2:1 by 3% (Very frustrating) however I will take drinkers first 2:2 😉
I really can’t thank the University enough for what they did for me, I guess this was my sliding doors moment on reflection.
Fast-forward 20 years and things are going well. A few bumps in the road as you would expect over the years, but I find myself Co-owner of Broster Buchanan a recruitment and consultancy business. I have an amazing family and amazing friends.
I guess I write this to give anybody who is struggling with dyslexia just to keep going, you will get what you want from life, just not always when you want it.
Anyone who knows me knows I love an inspirational quote, so it’s only fitting I leave you with this one…
“I can accept failure. Everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” (Michael Jordon)
***Disclaimer – I have re-read this about 20 times, if you do see spelling and grammar mistakes (even with the help of spell check) apologies, but it’s not my fault 😉