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Lesley shares her daughter’s real life story of living with dyslexia

Tuesday 6 July 2021

Lesley shares her daughter’s story of the day to day reality of living with dyslexia, from diagnosis and adjustments, to identifying skills and strengths.

“Imogen is a divergent thinker and often sees visual solutions, practical outcomes and resolves issues easily”

Imogen just learned differently. It was very obvious to me from the moment she started reading in school. She drew inference from pictures, but the words did not interest her. She could tell me a magical story but did not want to write things down and to explain things she used object or diagrams to explain her thinking.

She was initially tested in school at my request and her working memory and short term processing were highlighted as different to her cognitive ability. The school said she was meeting all of her targets and so did not feel that she needed a formal diagnosis. Imogen did do well. She also resisted. Learning was not always fun and at times motivation was lost.

Spellings were a challenge and she felt a failure. She couldn’t understand that she could spell ten words perfectly if she learnt them in order but out of context and in her working memory she consistently made errors in high frequency words.

She moved school at the start of year 3 and excelled. A smaller class and less noise and distraction however by year 5 her teachers were noticing that her input to learning was exhausting and highlighted that it was not sustainable without intervention for secondary education. She had another assessment which highlighted the same areas of challenge but again with an outstanding cognitive ability. This time the school recommended a formal assessment and she was diagnosed at the start of her last year in primary school.

Finding solutions that work for you

Imogen has never shied away from hard work. Her diagnosis has never been a barrier but it offered a reason when she was frustrated and helped her to identify areas where she needed support. Imogen decided that she would learn to type. Her spelling improved dramatically as muscle memory in touch typing was different to writing.

She worked through a phonetic programme to understand the rules of spelling and understood that her auditory skills often meant that she heard words differently making spelling challenging. Her metacognition of learning enabled her to develop her own strategies to success. She uses humour to deflect mistakes but corrects them afterwards and then learns the right answer.

Imogen is a divergent thinker and often sees visual solutions, practical outcomes and resolves issues easily and she doesn’t over complicate learning but does it in the best way possible for her.

“Dyslexia does not define her, but it is a part of her”

Imogen has had the support of her family. We have never seen it as a barrier but have always maintained an honesty about areas that might be harder but equally recognised that dyslexia is not an excuse but a different way of learning.

I have always been honest that education examines in one way and that in adulthood ‘spell check’ exists so spelling will not always be such a chore. I equally highlight that there are areas where she needs to put in more effort than others to teach her intended outcomes but explain that everyone has different strengths and challenges so dyslexia does not define her but is a part of her.

Imogen has support in school to help her learn and use strategies and practice areas of difficulty. This is something that has been important as it enables her to have a good working relationship with teachers and a consistent approach in lessons.

Focus on the strengths

Imogen has so many strengths. She has a quirky, quick thinking, imaginative brain. She excels in English, she has a wide vocabulary and is creative. She is brilliant at art. She is kind and caring and nurtures people. She is inclusive to difference and accepts individuality.

Her passion is in animals and she is a keen horse rider. Imogen loves to be practical, outdoors and busy, but works hard at every challenge she is given to excel and reach her potential. I could not ask for anything more.

Her positive outlook is her biggest success as I know she will manage to achieve whatever she sets her mind to do!

My advice for someone who has recently been diagnosed with dyslexia:

To not use it as a definition for yourself but a tool to highlight how you learn and think in a different way. The skills and abilities in divergent thinking that people with dyslexia have is amazing so look for what you do well and keep doing it and find strategies that help support your challenges.

Dyslexia does not define a person - the person defines dyslexia.