Hi guys 🙂
I would like to share my experience of finding out I had learning difficulties and my views on them now as a 27 year old.
When I was in college I discovered that I had dyslexia and I personally felt a huge sense of relief! ‘I’M NOT STUPID.’ I thought. During my school life, I always felt stupid and often got called it, or ‘Dumbo’ which had a major impact on my self-confidence and motivation. Finding out that I had dyslexia gave reason to why my school life was such a challenge.
My college was very supportive and provided me with a tutor who I met up with for an hour a week to help me organise my studies. I found this extremely beneficial and it made me fear A Levels much less. I got to grips with the college routine and managed to keep my head above the water. I was keeping up with deadlines and completing my work to the best of my ability. Due to being dyslexic, I was allowed special arrangements for my exams which made life easier. I was allowed to do them on a computer, had my exam papers printed on coloured paper and was given extra time which was very helpful. I finished with a C in Media, D in Sociology and an E in English. On results day I was actually devastated with these results. I remember leaving the college as quickly as possible in floods of tears. I was distraught that I got an E for English even though I found it a very overwhelming subject.
Despite that, I got into university and was assessed by an educational psychologist so the university could provide me with the right help and equipment. When the results came back it turned out that I didn’t only have dyslexia but I had dyspraxia, dyscalculia and dysgraphia also.
I’ll explain these a little for those who may not know. Dyslexia means having difficulties with precise/fluent word recognition, poor spelling and decoding abilities. Dyspraxia affects fine and/or gross motor coordination, and sometimes speech. Dyscalculia means having difficulty in learning or comprehending arithmetic, such as difficulty in understanding numbers, learning how to manipulate numbers, and learning facts in maths. Dysgraphia is a writing disorder linked to impaired handwriting, storing the process of written words and processing the letters in these words. It can also affect the movement in muscles needed to write with.
After receiving this report I had very mixed feelings, on the one hand, it gave me some justification on why I had always struggled to keep up in educational settings, but on the other, this was evidence of many difficulties that I had to learn how to deal with. I went through a difficult time for a while trying to accept this but through a lot of determination and support from my mentor, I was very motivated to continue my degree and succeed. I still struggle today but I have found ways to love myself and use my learning difficulties to my advantage. There had never been an awareness of these types of difficulties during my school education and thinking about it now I believe there should have been. I did receive lots of support from my university which contributed majorly towards me graduating with a 2:1 in Education Studies and English.
I often wonder if I would have had a different educational experience if my needs were recognised earlier in my school life. I would have liked to have more one to one time with mentors who explored the way I learned. I think if I had this than I would have learnt how to understand it and get to grips with school life with more ease. I know that I felt lost in a class of 30 being taught by one person so I would have liked to be in a smaller class so that I felt less overwhelmed.
I developed a significant interest in the education system during college and university, which has increased by working as a Teaching Assistant in the primary sector for three years. My original career plan was to become a primary school teacher, however, this idea changed after working in two primary schools and witnessing a number of things. I got to observe the pressure that teachers are under and the ridiculous speed they are expected to work at. I feel that teachers are so controlled by the government’s expectations that they don’t always get to put their own heart into the things that they want to teach.
I also got to witness the school life that pupils have and this isn’t always a positive one. So many of these children had needs that weren’t being recognised and they were expected to go along with the demanding learning objectives regardless. As someone who majorly struggled at school, I could relate to these children that were being left behind. I could recognise so clearly that they deserved so much to have recognition of their unique personalities yet weren’t getting it from the schools. I did everything in my power to support these children but I have to be honest…there wasn’t enough of me to go around. With class sizes of 30, and give or take, 15 or so children who needed unique help – I struggled to help all children as much as they needed.
After working as a teaching assistant and seeing that there isn’t a great deal done for children with dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia and other learning difficulties, I felt the need to put my feelings into writing. I am currently writing a book which reflects upon my experience and discusses the biggest lesson I ever learnt: We all have different brains inside our heads and a great deal more. With facing struggles during education I never found one particular subject that I was very good at and often felt lost in it all. I know this is relevant to pupils in our schools today and believe that there should be more on the curriculum that helps pupils to understand their strengths and how to use them to face their struggles. I believe that if schools focused more on children as individuals then we would have more people leaving the education system, sure of themselves with a steady vision for their future. I see the way some people have ended up in our world and I am eager to try and help people keep hold of their well-being and discover themselves in whatever way is right for them.
Thank you for reading if you got this far. Please leave your opinions or own stories in the comments. I would love to connect with more people on this subject!
My inspiration for this blog post came from Debbie Abraham BSc (Hons) Cert Ed PGCPSE who helps parents make learning less frustrating and more successful for their dyslexic children.
She is a Specialist Dyslexia Tutor who has worked with dyslexic children for over 12 years and has overseen large improvements in their reading and writing skills, including achievement at national age appropriate levels in primary school and passes at English Language GCSE.
If you have children with dyslexia and would like to talk about it or get some guidance – get in touch! She is very willing to help you and your child.
Check out her website here: http://www.dyslexiadeb.co.uk/