I was diagnosed with dyslexia when I was 8. For an articulate kid who was good at maths, my spelling and reading comprehension was pretty shockingly low. In many ways it made sense; my elder brother is also dyslexic, and so is my dad. But as I moved through the state education system, being taught by different teachers, I received a mixed bag of reactions to my diagnosis.
Because of my stubbornness to write, to enjoy reading, and to just function in a world that doesn’t welcome those with different functioning brain systems, a lot of teachers doubted my “disability.” Obviously in quotation marks because you can’t actually see it, plus you only have my word that I have it so maybe I’m just making excuses – or insert any other explanation I’ve had for why people don’t believe I’m actually dyslexic here.
A later, more in-depth diagnosis, aged 15, labelled me with high-functioning dyslexia. Like other learning difficulties, dyslexia is characterised by an unusually low ability in one particular form of academic, language or speech skills – for dyslexia, this means specifically reading or spelling. Being high functioning just means that my other skills – like arithmetic and writing – are unusually high (please see: my Kangaroo Mathematics best in school certificate, 2019). But this means that when you’re sitting in your year 6 class (S7 for the native Scots), acing your times tables and being verbally articulate, your teacher doesn’t believe the fact you struggle to read and spell. So they put it down to your own laziness and lack of resolve that you regularly fail spelling tests.
Out of sheer desperation, I’ve had to find ways around the fact that I don’t read linearly, or that no matter how hard I try I find vowels confusing. Thank goodness word autocorrects my spelling of “colour” from the gobbledygook I type it as. Like synchronised swimming, what you see on the surface looks effortless but underneath it’s taking a lot of work. So when I ask for support, and you brush me off know that it’s already taken a lot of effort to get here.
I appreciate that I’m lucky, I’m in a privileged position compared to some. But I still want to raise awareness, for the kids that seem to just “not get it”. It’s not that they’re bored, lazy or just not trying hard enough: it’s because they think differently, and that’s OK. Shouting at them because you think they’re being obstinate isn’t going to help: they can’t miraculously rewire their brain to your liking.
Sometimes I think about that last bit, and whether I would rewire my brain if I could. It would sure make university easier and would save me a lot of time explaining myself too. But then again, why would I trade in the free printer I get with my disabled student allowance for the chance to see the world in a normal, linear way?