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Now an accomplished Barrister Anthony didn’t let his dyslexia stand in the way of his dreams of law school

Thursday 25 March 2021

“I felt I was swimming against the current during my studies. Once I realised that my mind was different, it felt like a massive weight off my shoulders”

Anthony learnt his strengths and weaknesses, and focussed on his strengths. The correct support, learning strategies and assistive software helped but most importantly understanding that you are not different, your mind just works differently.

I discovered my dyslexia very late into my educational journey. Whilst I was completing the BPTC, the course necessary to become a Barrister, I decided to participate in a dyslexia screening as I felt I was swimming against the current during my studies. When I was very young, I had dyslexia screening. The expert concluded that I was not dyslexic. However, throughout my education, I struggled to impart my ideas onto paper and had difficulties with grammar. My primary school teachers, at the time, believed it could be a language barrier. The teachers also encouraged my parents to use English at home rather than their mother tongue, namely Cantonese.

My secondary school teachers said it could be due to my lack of examination time management. In many ways, I adopted those thoughts to be the reasons I struggled to achieve the higher grades I expected. Dyslexia was not a widely understood topic within the Chinese community and my parents could provide only limited support as they were not aware of dyslexia and its characteristics. During the BPTC, I decided to undertake the screening test. I still struggled with grammar and writing down my ideas coherently. When I saw that my mind had dyslexic characteristics, it felt like a massive weight off my back.

“That struggle now had a name and I could identify it”

It was difficult in the beginning. I had no explanation as to why I was performing below expectation in my written examinations. I understood the concepts and was able to discuss the ideas with my teachers in class, but I struggled to reflect this understanding in my written exams. I revised the same way many of my peers did and would put many hours into my revision to ensure I achieved the goal I desired. However, I would struggle to perform in the manner expected in the written exams. I thought I was not revising as hard as I could have and blamed myself for the underperformance. Once I realised that my mind was different, it felt like a massive weight off my shoulders. That struggle now had a name and I could identify it.

The screening test showed my strengths and weakness. It allowed me to work with the current rather than against it. I consistently performed to the level I expected in my BPTC exams. It was also a confidence booster knowing that the key to my success was to learn to work differently rather than something being innately different with me. I learnt and revised better. Though I discovered my dyslexia late, the period before that discovery meant that I developed a good work ethic, so though it was difficult, the lessons learnt were valuable. This combination of work ethic and new strategies made the revision process more efficient and effective. Revision was not as laborious as before.

The only support I had was 25% extra examination time when I was completing the BPTC. My support was limited mainly due to the timing of my results and the examination timetable. Nevertheless, this was a great help. I could draft quick plans to organise my thoughts and, more importantly, it gave me time to go over my answers for grammatical errors and understand my instructions. There are many tools on the internet that helped. Mind mapping helped me a lot to conceptualise my ideas and gather my thoughts. Proofreading software helped to point out the obvious errors I missed when writing.

With the right strategies you can reach your goals.

My greatest achievement was being called to the bar of England and Wales and practicing as a Barrister. Studying law, especially at the vocational level, required the ability to process a large amount of information into coherent chunks and ideas. My late discovery meant I used the wrong strategies to process that information. This was counterproductive. Going against all odds, being able to achieve my aspiration whilst swimming against the current for so long taught me many valuable life lessons.

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

My advice is to embrace your dyslexia. Accepting that your mind works differently to others is half the battle. By accepting that I had dyslexia, I was able to remove everything that made life harder. I stopped reciting and copying out my revision notes because my mind found it hard to retain the information that way. I adopted revision strategies that supported my strengths like mind mapping. My learning was more efficient and I retained the information better. My second piece of advice is to research the different types of dyslexia and learn how people manage their weaknesses. It demystified many of the misconceptions I held. It also reduced my fear of being dyslexic because there was now something I could name and work with rather than something in the unknown.