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#MyDyslexiaStory: Lindy Orchard

Tuesday 21 December 2021

At school I could never work out why some things were really easy, and I could comprehend anything the teachers said but I always struggled to do 'simple things' link reading or writing legibly or spelling. It wasn't until I started my degree at 29 that one of my lecturers recommended I got an assessment

“I tackle problems from a different perspective and often innovative ways”

I tend to spend a lot of time chuckling to myself because a font or a word I've spotted spells something rude or funny! I also tackle problems from a different perspective and often innovative ways. However, the worst question I get asked is how does your dyslexia affect you, or you can't be that bad you're studying for your PhD! I have no real idea how 'bad' things are or what my difficulties are as I've never not been dyslexic, I don't know how easy I'd have found things if I'd not been dyslexic but also all the opportunities I'd have missed. Oh and learning to read music is a whole new experience - I have to sound out every bar (just like when I learnt to read and still do for polysyllabic words) for context I play at grade 6 (equivalent to A level ish)

Try different support tools to find which one’s work for you.

I was given no support until the second year of my degree. I was given a laptop, printer, scanner, unlimited time for books from the library. Software was the real bonus, initially I had 'Dragon' which should have been brilliant - but I also stutter and slur my words, so I always needed someone to double check my work. But I type reasonably well and most of the time my fingers have learnt to spell what my brain can't. I also used a Dictaphone in the early days which to be honest I hated!

I hid everything during my 2 teaching qualifications as I didn't want people to know, which now seems awful, but having had (lecturing) colleagues since who have described dyslexia as 'middle class laziness' I'm quite glad I did.

I also have software like Read/Write which was great, but now most PC's have screen readers which are better, and the word predictor bit I don't use much, then there is MindView, mind mapping software, this was great for my BA, and MEd, however the programme isn't up to the job of my PhD.

The best bit of kit by far I have received is a LiveScribe pen, which uploads directly to my Laptop, and records audio - so I can indicate important passages and then play back the audio for those specific bits.

Support in the way of mentoring, study skills, etc I've always shied away from, I've had some 1:1s and always felt patronised and belittled by the person assigned to work with me, the latest being someone who (having admitted they didn't have an educational background) told me that my topic for my PhD wouldn't work and I only needed 1 reference per paragraph!

Oh and coloured reading glasses are the best! Grammarly! (free as well as bought is great!) I always found workarounds, always used a laptop or got someone else to read. When I was teaching my son to read we used audio books a lot for fluency.

You can achieve great things!

I've taught for over 15 years, in both the early years and as an FE and HE lecturer, in that time I've seen many students hide their difficulties and feel shame for them. Recognising that I was doing the same I started including the ‘oh and I'm dyslexic’ in my introduction to new students. I also off 1:1s for any student interested in HE but feel that their learning need will hamper them. I'd like to hope that by sharing my experiences in an open and frank manner some have had the confidence to continue.

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

If you didn't have legs you wouldn't turn down prosthetics or a wheelchair would you! I'm not thick! It's not just laziness and poor spelling, no I can't just learn to spell the word - I have spelt attendance differently wrong 4 times in 3 sentences! My memory for names is atrocious this doesn't mean I don't remember great facts about you! I have no sense of direction, like none at all!