Before the diagnosis I was just a bit thick. Or so my teachers had me believe. Over the years I’d been called stupid so many times that I accepted it as fact. I wasn’t going to do well in my exams, and my dream to become a writer was considered a joke.
Going to school was like riding into battle. I constantly felt on guard, ready for the next jibe made at my expense (the teachers were as bad as my peers) and dreading the moment I was asked to read out loud or worse, write on the board.
My self-esteem was low, but there was still a part of me that hoped to do better. I asked my mum for help and she found a private tutor. During our first session, my tutor, Faye, tested me for dyslexia. The results were life-changing.
Dyslexia explained everything. All the things I struggled with; reading, writing and spelling (still my personal nemesis) were difficult because my brain was wired differently.
My new tutor helped me learn things in a new way, but more than skills, she gave me back my confidence. I wasn’t stupid anymore – and really knowing that gave me the conviction to hold my head high in the classroom.
I was lucky. My diagnosis came via a private tutor that I was fortunate enough to have access to. Without Faye I might have reached adulthood still believing I was just a bit thick.
For many years I saw dyslexia as something that I had to overcome. I’ve gained a lot from that – when I set myself a goal I am ruthless in my determination to see it though – and that determination comes from my younger self – a 13-year-old girl who had to show the world she was worthy.
In recent years I have started to see my dyslexia as a positive thing. It is part of who I am. I can’t spell, add up or touch type (I’m writing this with one hand) but I’m creative and bursting with ideas (way more important than spelling for a freelance journalist).
We don’t know why dyslexic people think differently – it could be the wiring of our brains, or it could be that years of conventional education has forced us to look for alternative ways of doing things. Either way, dyslexic people often have amazing problem solving skills and buckets of imagination.
Dyslexia should be a celebrated difference – but sadly, many people still see it as a huge disadvantage. This is why parent-led campaigns such as My Red Letter are so important.
The My Red Letter campaign asks dyslexic children and adults to write a letter (in red text) to a person who has helped them see dyslexia as a gift. The aim of the campaign is to raise awareness and to help dyslexic children struggling at school (in an education system that doesn’t work for them) to embrace their dyslexia. Why red? Because many of us had our schoolwork returned covered in corrections and criticisms in red pen.
I’ve thought a lot about my dyslexic journey and I’ve decided to write my red letter to Faye, the tutor that diagnosed me.
Teachers told me that I was stupid and lazy so often that I started to believe it was true. I’d stopped trying so hard – what was the point? My efforts always ended in brutal humiliation. I was close to giving up altogether.
I vividly recall the moment you explained dyslexia to me. It sounds like a cliché to say a great weight lift from my shoulders, but there isn’t another way to describe the feeling. Suddenly there was a reason that I was struggling. I wasn’t stupid or lazy – my brain was just wired differently.
I floated out of your office with a new hope for the future – my dreams were not lost after all. The next day I walked into school with a new conviction. My diagnosis was like a superpower – it gave me the strength to fight back.
My school days are long behind me now, and I’ve stopped fighting. I still can’t spell (my kids ask Siri when they need a word spelled out) but I am writing for a living, just like I always wanted.
Thank you for explaining the gift of dyslexia to me.