Dyslexia and me: Vic’s Story
Monday 7 October 2019
By Katie Tynan, Product Owner of Inclusion at Twinkl
There’s a dangerous myth surrounding dyslexia; to those less informed, dyslexia can be falsely viewed as an impenetrable barrier to academic success. Whilst it’s true that dyslexia can slow learning, with the right environment, support and attitudes, there’s no reason a person who is dyslexic cannot achieve just as much as any other person. The British Dyslexia Association has proven this potential through their ‘Sound Check’ project and continues to support children with dyslexia through such services as their ‘Children Will Shine’ workshops. So what do individuals believe helped them to shine and how can we counter these damaging assumptions?
Vic is a writer, editor and colleague at Twinkl; an educational resource publisher. She has moderate dyslexia and recently spoke to me about her experiences. She spoke about her experiences of dyslexia throughout her school life and how she was diagnosed. Vic also mentioned how dyslexia affects her working life today; there are many insights to be gained from hearing Vic’s perspectives.
Here is her story...
Growing up with dyslexia
“I wasn’t diagnosed with dyslexia until I was a couple of months shy of 18. I was in the second year of college and doing my A levels but nobody had ever noticed anything. In fairness, nor had I. My impression of how I learn and experience things is the only one I've got and I had no idea it wasn't normal per se. I’ve always done really well at school and through high school got As in my GCSEs. Nobody thought anything untoward.
“And then, when I was in my second year of college, my philosophy teacher asked us all to do a homework assignment - an essay. I handed it in thinking I did exactly what was asked. When I got it back, the teacher knew it was atypical of me. The feedback said it was completely off the mark, not at all what she’d asked for and I just cried because I didn’t know why. I pride myself on doing things well and I had no idea why it wasn’t what it should have been.
“It turned out my teacher was dyslexic and recognised the signs in me. So she took me out and asked me ‘has anyone ever actually tested you for any kind of learning difficulties?’ and I said ‘no, I’m good at learning - I get good grades, everything’s fine!’. She referred me to the college study support team and they had the head psych conduct a dyslexia assessment. It turned out I’m moderately dyslexic.”
Anyone can have dyslexia
Stories like this are not uncommon. As Vic explained, many people don’t realise the difficulties they struggle with are abnormal because, after all, it’s all they’ve ever known. Without the understanding and familiarity with dyslexia that Vic’s teacher had, individuals like her can go years without a formal diagnosis and sometimes may never be diagnosed at all. A key takeaway here is to realise that just because someone is dyslexic doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of doing well in school.
“Don’t dismiss children just because they’re bright, because they’re getting really good scores or because they don’t cause a fuss. I feel like I was missed in primary school purely because I was gifted and talented in school - I was just pigeonholed into that. All through high school, nobody noticed anything and my handwriting was neat so they didn't bother. But I was taking 5 times longer to finish things. Bright children can struggle in different ways.
“We need more education for parents as well because my parents are from an older generation, it just didn’t exist when they were at school - the label ‘thick’ was often applied. Parents need an understanding of things to look out for, even from a young age. These include how to tie shoes and hold a knife and fork in the right hands. I did so many of these things wrong but it was just accepted. It wasn’t a thing.”
Dyslexia diagnosis can help
Spotting the signs and being diagnosed makes it much easier for a child with dyslexia to get the support they need. Whilst individuals with dyslexia can still succeed without extra assistance, there is nothing to lose from having the help available.
“Since I had my diagnosis, I’ve been given things like extra time in my university exams and that really helped because I never realised how much slower I worked then everyone else. Prior to that, I had done everything at home so although I might have been spending an extra hour or two on a piece of work, I never knew because I was doing it on my own. Since then I got my undergraduate degree, masters degree and PGCE so it all worked out fine.”
Different doesn’t mean wrong
As Vic’s experience proves, the path to being diagnosed can be long and difficult but by no means unmanageable. Most people with dyslexia simply need the right support and understanding to develop.
“If someone’s got a different way of doing things and it’s working for them, don’t try and pigeonhole them into the way you think it should be. If it takes someone to go round the houses to get there and that’s what works for them, let them do it.”
It might not be easy, but it’s the right thing to do; don’t ignore dyslexia, facilitate it.
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.