Dyslexia and me: Becki’s story
Friday 11 October 2019
By Katie Tynan, Product Owner of Inclusion at Twinkl
People with dyslexia can understand complex information, communicating with others and seeing the big picture, meaning that they make diligent and creative employees. However, too often we are failing to empower individuals with dyslexia to do their best work, and in many cases, missing a diagnosis completely. A dyslexia diagnosis can empower individuals to achieve their best, but a supportive environment is essential.
Dyslexia is covered by 2010’s Equality Act which means that by law, a person with dyslexia is entitled to additional assistance during their education. Here, Twinkl’s Phonics Content Editor and teacher Becki Porter shares her dyslexia journey from secondary school, through to diagnosis at university and into a flourishing career in education.
My journey with dyslexia
“I wasn’t diagnosed with dyslexia until my first year of university - I’d always miss out on my predicted grades in English, whereas I was getting As and A*s elsewhere. I remember my English teacher saying to me ‘I don’t understand why you haven’t got your predicted grades,’ on results day - nobody picked up on it. It was incredibly frustrating. All my feedback said ‘you need to proofread your writing’ and all I could say was ‘I am proofreading my writing!’.
“I instigated seeking my diagnosis initially. My brother and my dad are both severely dyslexic and were diagnosed early on. My dyslexia was more subtle so it went under the radar. Even my mum said she didn’t think I was dyslexic. I feel that because I had managed to achieve despite my dyslexia, there was a slight resistance to recognise it, which is something lots of people with mild dyslexia can probably identify with.
“I went on the university website and they had a quiz called, “Do you think you’re dyslexic?” I took the quiz, and the results said there was a strong possibility I had dyslexic tendencies. I got in contact with the university and had a formal assessment, where in many aspects I was extremely high functioning, but in writing and processing speed there were massive dips. The staff said they didn’t understand why it hadn’t been picked up earlier, and from that point on I was provided with additional support which was hugely valuable.
“I did a history degree, which includes an awful lot of reading and writing. I had a tutor at university who would support me with my essays after my diagnosis. I was given free printer credits, as we found my processing speed was impacted by reading from a screen. I tend to read with a pencil and highlighter in my hand and highlight and add notes as I go. Annotations really help me to process. I have become hyper-organised as a counter to my dyslexia, which seems to be quite common.
“Dyslexia has an impact on my talking as well as my reading and writing. I find that talking with a large group can be difficult because by the time I’ve worked out what I want to say, the conversation has moved on. I’ve also experienced a great deal of social anxiety because of my dyslexia, mainly because of the difficulty I experience finding the right words to say.
“Upon starting my role as a content writer at Twinkl, where my job is literally to check people’s punctuation and grammar, I experienced some nerves. That said, I successfully passed my tasks at the assessment day and the company has been able to accommodate my needs. In order to stop feeling overwhelmed, I tend to make sure I do not work with resources that are too lengthy, and I make sure that the text is a larger size, as that’s easier for me to process. I originally worried that colleagues would judge me, but the reception has been very supportive and understanding.”
The challenges of studying with dyslexia
“I definitely struggled with the quantity of reading that was expected of me at university, and found that I had to come up with lots of ingenious ways to help my processing speed. I recently got rid of lots of university work and looking over the essays I was reminded of sitting in the library using headphones to listen as my text-to-speech software read my essays aloud to me (there were lots of sentences that ran to half a page long!) I also had to use a screen filter on my computer to reduce the contrast between the page and the text so I could read my work and academic articles more easily.
“I still use my text-to-speech software and I have access to a great dyslexia-friendly spellchecker tool which is capable of checking for a wider range of spelling variations in one word. Another important milestone was for me to accept that I can’t proofread my own work, and will ask family or colleagues to check over instead.”
My dyslexia super powers
“I am hyper-organised and I’ve got a very keen eye. With dyslexia, you see the written word from a bit of a different perspective, so I find at work I’ll pick up on things that other people might miss. Within my teaching, it made me more creative because I was thinking of bringing different methods of learning into the classroom, and catering to a range of abilities. I specialised in speech and language, and the importance of special educational needs strategies, such as using gestures and picture cards, was very apparent to me.”
Supporting those with dyslexia at home and in education
“It’s important to recognise that individuals with dyslexia can need a bit of extra time to think about things, whether it’s for the written or spoken word. A common misconception is that dyslexia solely deals with issues in reading and writing, and the fact that speech and communication are also affected often gets forgotten. One example is that I often know what a word means and understand how to use it, but in the heat of the moment, it just won’t come to mind, meaning that I can often ramble my way through a conversation! Even skills such as picking up choreography will come to me much more slowly, which was something that was really difficult when I was a young dancer.
“Teachers and parents should try to understand that dyslexia affects many aspects of how a child may perform academically, not just their reading and writing. Don’t write off a child for being dyslexic!”
Have you recently been diagnosed with dyslexia?
“Use it as something to empower you, rather than seeing it as a negative label. I had so much support after my diagnosis, and was equipped with a much better understanding of my strengths and weaknesses. Without my diagnosis, I would have continued struggling without realising the root cause.”
You can read more information about spotting the signs of dyslexia here. For expert resources designed to aid the development of dyslexic learners, head over to the Twinkl website and visit Twinkl Inclusion.
Katie Tynan works at Twinkl HQ as our Inclusion Product Owner. Before joining Twinkl, she gained experience teaching in secondary as a Design and Technology teacher as well as volunteering for the RNIB. Katie believes in Inclusivity; everyone should be provided with opportunities that enable them to thrive and succeed.