As discussed I am trying to do articles on top of youtube to try and get the information out there. I am currently not confident to go on camera but I have gone out of my comfort zone and spokenover a slide to discuss my dyslexia, what it is and the barriers I face.
I hope this is useful to some people. Thanks guys. 🙂
Are all dyslexics the same? No, each person will have their own dyslexic traits. Although our brains are wired up similar, are learning styles and the way we see words will differ. But more importantly we all cope with our dyslexia in different ways too.
Once you have been diagnosed it can feel like a great relief as you realise there is a cause for why you have struggled with certain tasks. Other days it may weigh on you heavy and you may feel like you are at a disadvantage then others around you which in turn can lead to some depression or anxiety.
Therefore, once you are diagnosed it is best to check which dyslexic style you are and how you cope with it as this can structure your future from early on. This is not a science and only my own observations, but there seem to be three main groups of dyslexics. Some may argue that this is just personality traits and not related at all. But I am a firm believer that our dyslexia mould our futures and therefore we need to shine the positive traits brightly.
The three main styles of dyslexia:
Are you the quiet, teacher pet that just knuckles down and works hard even if you find it difficult to read?
Well, you could be an academic dyslexic. Quite often this type of dyslexic is logical, and their brain is all about strategies. They often do not like to get in trouble mainly because they don’t want bring attention to themselves and just much prefer that ‘easy life’ and to fade into the background. This is not something you can just be. But is something you can work to if you manage your dyslexia well. I will be talking about this is later articles.
Positive traits: These dyslexics are often very proactive and will be able to achieve decent grades on their own as they are always working on their development. They will likely do their own feedback and critique themselves on their work and put a plan in place to help them have this easy life they desire. This then will help in getting and holding down jobs later in life. They will find problem solving easier as their mind works on multiple levels than the norm so they can often see every side of an argument (great for doctors, lawyers etc). They will also likely be a great people watcher due to their quiet nature and learn a person’s mood very quickly from body language and be able to use this to their advantage.
Negative Traits: They must be incredibly careful that they do not overwork themselves and burn out. As they can be extremely focused on their learning sometimes, they just forget to have fun! It is great to study but a balance is needed to lead a happy life. They may also find it is lot harder to socialise due to their quiet nature and is important to not shut people out. They will find this when they go to work – they may be able to do the admin stuff well and fast but they suck as people person and professional relationships just aren’t there. This could have impact on jobs as although qualifications are important a lot of it is from word of mouth by friends to move up the career ladder.
Are you the one acting up in class and finding other things to do to avoid learning?
These would be the kids that are labelled the class clown where they are always trying to make people laugh or the school bully where they act up wherever they can and interrupt the lesson. They will seem confident but actually it could be all front as they are trying to hide their dyslexic side as they are unsure how to cope with it. These dyslexics will often struggle in school but then excel out of school when they start to work as they gain more control over their life. For example, they may start their own business suited to their talents and avoid those tasks they struggle with.
These dyslexics are often labelled negatively but there are tonnes of positive traits which are easily forgotten about.
Positive traits: Confidence is their best trait. As a dyslexic it is an amazing skill to have and not one that is easily given to you. This trait alone helps to give a lot of opportunities for their future. Due to their confidence, they often have great people skills as they find it easy to talk and make friends. They are good at summing up a person in quick time and therefore can be quite sensitive to people’s feelings. This helps later in work life as they are probably built to be a leader, they would be able to get their points across in meetings. But they may also flourish in jobs such as being a comedian or presenter due to that confidence of only showing that side they want people to see.
Negative traits: School life will always be the toughest times. Unfortunately, we must go through to get to work life where they may flourish better. As they have no control over their studies, they will often result in avoidance of such tasks due to the fear of failure or weakness. Therefore, they then look to be destructive without meaning to be. This can cause friction between teachers and them and result in a negative impact such as misbehaving and violent behaviour resulting in exclusion or worse expelled from school. It particularly important for these dyslexics see the positive traits above and to work on these to not get into this path.
Do you enjoy art or drama the most in school? Then this would be you.
This style seems to run throughout most dyslexics. This could be any kind of creativeness such as drawing, painting, drama, music, knitting, photography etc. They may find they just have a flare for it and comes quite naturally to them. Many dyslexics have this trait in them anyway as seems to be one wire in our brains that connects us on. However, if you are not academic or destructive you may just be a creative dyslexic with a lot of imagination. This also can be a dyslexics outlet for stress relief as no wrong answers in art everything is abstract just like our minds.
Positive traits: Creative dyslexics will have the best imaginations ever. They will be able to come up with stories and designs in no time. They will often be perfectionists too and not realise that this is hard for some people to do. They often will have their own type of confidence with these tasks and have sense of calmness about them when they do creative tasks. And best all their pieces will be worth lots of money and they probably feel like they haven’t even tried that hard. They will often be able to communicate with people well too due to their imagination they can just keep the conversation going.
Negative Traits: Although they have a creative style, they may find certain areas a struggle. For example, they may be great at drama and have that confidence to perform in front of others. But they may struggle with learning lines to do this. This is the same for musicians, they may be able to create a beautiful piece from their own mind but then struggle following someone else’s sheet music. Due to this, sometimes they get labelled flaky or day dreamers as they often lack motivation and can easily give up on tasks. If an artist is not enjoying a project well naturally, they will just paint a new one. However, sometimes in life we cannot just drop things, and this is where they will struggle to conform.
As you can see there many positive in each style. You need to be honest and take ownership of your bad traits. There is no reason to feel bad about them everyone even non- dyslexics have bad traits. We just need to let the good ones shine through. As I say all the time, do not let your dyslexia control you, it’s time for you to take control and become the best dyslexic you can be.
As you can see not many articles have been going up lately. I have been struggling to write and therefore I have try new method to help all.
I will still be writing articles but I am also completing a youtube/podcast to help further. I realised quickly that my articles are lengthy and this may not help you if you are dyslexic. Therefore I have tried a very simple method of just talking over a powerpoint slide to help. I know looks very simple and very cheap to make but this was huge task for me and I am learning as I go currently. I am no on camera as yet as I am very shy and just having people hear me talk about my dyslexia is out of my comfort zone.
Please bare with me – I am still here. As true dyslexic I am just taking my own time not sticking to schedule!!
Hope you enjoy 🙂
You may have noticed that I have been a little quiet on my blog posts recently. I apologise but like it has affected everything, covid has had a big impact on me lately.
I do struggle massively with time management and normally I have a routine which helps with this. But since covid has hit, my world has been turned upside down and my head has been a bit all over the place.
First of all I should probably explain that I have actually had covid (I wasn’t tested officially as they were not testing anyone in my age group at the time – but the emergency services had confirmed I had the distinctive cough and symptoms). I am much better now but still am suffering with some of the after affects 4 or 5 months down the line such as my hair is falling out (only in parts but definitely thinning out) and my chest gets a little tighter now when cold air hits me. It was horrid and took me 9 weeks to get better. But I do not want to dwell on this anymore.
Due to cases increasing all offices in the UK are working from home and I am very lucky. I have therefore gone back to my parents so I have my support system in case we should get another lockdown.
Although there are many negatives from covid. It has helped to highlight some benefits of working from home and this has made my life actually easier as a dyslexic. Although I am finding it hard that my routine has completely changed and being flustered as I had left all my notes in the office. Now I have made myself my own desk and office area it is getting easier.
I am finding working from home improve my mental health as I do not feel nervous anymore on the phones as no one can hear me. This has made me work more efficiently. I am finding I am more focused with less distractions. I do love the socialness of my office (and I do miss this and the people) but as a dyslexic I do find I get distracted so easily. Whereas if I am on my own and I can focus so much better. Therefore, I get lots more done at a better quality.
The BIGGEST benefit is I can control my surroundings. For example, with my irlens I often find it too bright in the office but its not like I can just turn the lights off in an office. However, at home I can. And this has helped so much. I am not getting sick and not nearly as tired as I was (part of that is I am saving 2 hours a day on my bus commute). I also have access to all my outlay and not need to explain or feel silly when I stick these over my computer screens. I can now even use my talk type software for when I do letters which is much quicker for me. Whereas in an office I couldn’t really do this.
Don’t get me wrong I hate Covid and what is happening. But it is very interesting to see what technology we have and how this can be used and adapted. Just something positive to think about.
Stay safe guys – wash those hands and mask up.
Reading out loud sounds like it should be easy but if you have dyslexia/irlens it isn’t always the case. I have struggled with this throughout my life while in school as well as work. At first I used to think it was because I was shy due to what teachers used to say. But now I realise it is caused by my dyslexia as I used to get worried about looking slow or foolish if I had read something incorrect or in broken English in front of others. I never used to tell anyone that I used to get nervous but now wished I did as I think I would have had more support.
When I used to sit in my english class my teachers use to give everyone a book and then you used to go round and read a page at a time. This used to physically affect me. I used to get so nervous that I would sweat a lot to the point I had to go to the doctors who said I had a ‘nervous’ sweating condition. I used to feel my heart race and when I say race I mean hit my chest so that it hurts. Sometimes I would feel very sick and faint. And when it was my time to eventually read I used to go red, my hands used to shake and I would read so fast I would run out of breath and just want to sit down.
This is a completely normal feeling for a dyslexic. As explained in previous post we don’t see the page of writing like non-dyslexics. We can’t just pick up a book and give outstanding performance as often we miss words, drop down lines, mistake words for other words and just speak so slow its pretty much broken English. For example, I remember we were reading a army book and it was in Virginia and I once said vagina. Which you can imagine I got laughed at and it was very embarrassing. It’s that fear that causes the issues.
This has a huge impact on your education as quite often you are not focusing at all in that lesson as you are only concentrating on when you have to read out loud. Therefore, this method of teaching just doesn’t work for dyslexics. For example, When I had to read outloud in school I used to work out what page I would have to read as I could count which page I would be on and I would read over and over again to try get it right and make sure there wasn’t any hard words. If there was I would deliberately leave to go to the loo so I could skip the page.
This is not something you should do. This took me a long time realise though. I still struggle with it now but I have learnt some ways to cope but you will still feel the tummy flip I’m afraid.
Below are some ways you can help yourself to reduce the fear:
- Be calm and confident – at the end of the day if someone does laugh due to what you say – your human and just laugh at yourself. Its hard to do but it really does help to shrug off any embarrassment
- If they ask who wants to read – get it over done with. Put your hand up to go first and then you can focus for the rest of lesson or training. No one remembers who goes first anyway.
- If you have to stand and your hands shake like mine do – Just lay book on table and look down. You don’t need hold anything. I find I feel more embarrassed when I can see my page shake also doesn’t help you at all when your words are moving anyway.
- Wear something on your wrist – I used to have hairband I play with and it is easier to read with something to play with and keeps you focused
- Try to speak slowly. I used to always speak so fast that I would get told to do it again. You don’t want this do it right the first time and quicker it is to get through.
It is really hard to do this. However, you are not alone we all go through this. As I say don’t let it beat you – take control of it and work out what works for you.
While I have been in Devon due to the covid situation I have taken the time to interview my family members. Hence why I have not written in so long. This will not be like my other articles as I want to show their real responses. I hope that their experiences will help to raise awareness for relatives of dyslexics.
Interview with mum transcribed:
Me: Right mum, all the questions I ask now will be relating to the times before I was diagnosed.
Me: Considering you had Christina before me who is not dyslexic was there anything you noticed as odd about me growing up?
Mum: You could not tell the time. Very clumsy. You told me mannequins in shops moved. But I thought you just had a vivid imagination.
Me: Was I slow at anything?
Mum: You were slow to talk and fast to walk. Your dad thought you would never talk. Then you started and didn’t shut up. Haha.
Me: When you say slow to talk how long?
Mum: For example, your sister was 9 months and you were, possibly a year.
Me: What would you say I was good at as a kid?
Mum: Getting into trouble. Ummm…finding out how things worked.
Me: How do you mean?
Mum: You were always taking stuff apart and building stuff. Very active. You had whole imaginary classroom of pupils you taught presumably because you found it difficult in school yourself haha.
Me: I was more imaginative then?
Mum: Yeah very much so.
Me: Was there anything you realised I liked straightaway?
Mum: ummm…I knew you didn’t like reading (said in a mum tone). But you loved drawing.
Me: How did you know I didn’t like reading?
Mum: Haha because you refused to read. You liked books with pictures in but not very many words.
Me: When you say I refused – was I grumpy, sad?
Mum: You just wasn’t interested in it.
Me: Would you say I was a particularly happy child?
Me: What was hardest to get me to learn?
Mum: Time. Could not get you to look at a book just were not interested at all.
Me: What did teachers used to say to you about me?
Mum: They used to say you tried hard…but…you just couldn’t get it.
Me: Get the grades?
Mum: yeah. You spent the time trying…. although I am not sure they realised that.
Me: did you ever get frustrated with teachers?
Mum: When they called you stupid. Which I knew you weren’t. Called you lazy which again I knew you weren’t. I just thought they were obstructive.
Me: Was there a common sentence or phrase or feeling that I used to say but you never realised was linked to my dyslexia?
Mum: You used to say things moved but I didn’t realise how they moved.
Me: I didn’t explain it to you?
Mum: No not at all. It wasn’t until your Irlen’s test that I realised you had flashing lights and words sliding down pages. And that the reason you jumped through the door frame in lounge isn’t because your flamboyant but because it was you trying to get through before it moved again.
Me: Ok so moving onto the questions relating to after being diagnosed. What is it like to be a mum of a dyslexic when you are not dyslexic?
Mum: Confusing. I don’t see what you see.
Me: Does that frustrate you?
Mum: Yeah, it is difficult to help someone when you don’t know what the problem is.
Me: Was there any times you found particularly difficult?
Mum: Not really. Because you were born so early (3 months premature). I was just relieved you were alive. The fact you weren’t academic wasn’t my main priority.
Me: When you found out I was dyslexic how did you feel?
Mum: I felt guilty I hadn’t realised. But you don’t know what you don’t know. Relieved because It explained a lot.
Me: You were the one who arranged all my support and test for uni as I had to get re-diagnosed – can you run through how you did it. I can’t really remember what happened?
Mum: You arranged your own test at secondary school when you were 17 – 18.
Me: How did you feel about that as I didn’t tell you?
Mum: um…I was quite impressed.
Me: Was you not annoyed I didn’t tell you?
Mum: No it was quite common you didn’t tell me things. I didn’t know there was anywhere you could go to be tested they didn’t advertise the fact.
Me: When I come home was you surprised, I got tested?
Mum: No I am never surprised by anything you do (said in laughter).
Me: Did you get a call from school after I got diagnosed?
Mum: Nooo I got it all from you. You come home and told me.
Me: Oh its lucky I said then
Mum: Your uni didn’t accept the test your school did as it was out of date. And then from there we managed to book a test at a college which we went to and again you did your test on your own while I waited outside. And then they mentioned you needed an Irlen test which I had never heard of.
Me: When you got the details for South Devon College – how did you get them?
Mum: ummm…You gave the paper work to me from school. Which was dangerous because you forget to give me paperwork all the time. I then had to phone up the numbers and arrange the tests myself.
Me: Was it hard?
Mum: It had to be done within weeks because you were due to go to uni. It was quite expensive.
Me: How much as an idea?
Mum: Bearing in mind it was years ago as you were 18 and now your 27. Dyslexia test was £250 and Irlen’s test was £200
Me: That was just for me to find out?
Mum: Yeah just bear bone basics to find out if you had them to get support for your uni
Me: If I wasn’t you don’t get that money back?
Mum: You got your frames for your glasses for free with uni and your support such as laptop and scribes if you were diagnosed but if not you don’t get anything. And no if turn out not dyslexic don’t get the money back for the tests. And I had to come up with that in two weeks.
Me: I know you found it easier to sit in on my Irlen’s test. Would you have found it useful to sit in on my dyslexic test as well?
Mum: yes. But if it were affecting the test then I wouldn’t have done. That’s why I didn’t say a word in the Irlen’s one.
Me: When you saw me in the Irlen’s test what were your thoughts?
Mum: I was amazed that you were able to learn to read at all. And it explained a lot. Explained why you were so tired all the time.
Me: Was there any examples I know you said before about flashing lights. Was any of the questions surprising to you?
Mum: I was surprised that the woman who was testing you was not surprised by your answers because I was amazed.
Me: What answers were you amazed at?
Mum: When words slide down a page, bits drop down, lights come out , things go in, things move around
Me: When you looked at my face did you see me uncomfortable?
Mum: no you were just really serious trying to think.
Me: Did it annoy you?
Mum: You weren’t surprised and you thought that I shouldn’t have been surprised as you thought I see what you see. But I don’t. Like when you got your coloured glasses you said it calmed and things didn’t move as much you said to me is this what you see like? And I said well mine doesn’t move at all. And you replied what not at all? So you don’t understand my world and I don’t understand yours.
Me: you got to admit when I was younger I used to clash a lot with you. Well in my head I did. I used get so frustrated because you didn’t understand what I was saying.
Mum: yeah you used to stomp off and slam doors a lot.
Me: With the Irlen’s test was it worth me getting it in the end?
Mum: oh yeah, I wished you got it when you were around 7 would been much more useful and the dyslexic test.
Me: what changes did you notice in me once I was diagnosed?
Mum: More confident.
Me: How much more?
Mum: lots. Lots. Also you had something to work on as you then started to get help. Before you would say you couldn’t do something and someone would call you stupid or lazy. So in the end you never went and asked. Because you just got blocked.
Me: So I kind of just gave up?
Mum: Yeah. You ask several times and you don’t get help you stop asking.
Me: In your opinion what is the best way to help with dyslexics education as a mum. Like if they have homework?
Mum: umm…don’t badger them…because they are really trying if they cant get it its not laziness or not trying it’s because they just can’t get it
Me: Any hints you can give a mum?
Mum: Read up on it. Go on the internet. If you get examples of other people and you suddenly see it and remember bits you have missed before.
Me: Did it help?
Mum: it made you feel stupid that you didn’t pick it up but again if you don’t know to look for it you don’t see. Also you used to cover really well.
Me: what do you mean?
Mum: You never let on to all the problems you were having?
Me: I don’t think I told you until uni what I did or what happened in school…
Mum: No I had no idea.
Me: I don’t really know why I never told you…like when I hid my grades – because I did use to hide them from you.
Mum: yeah, I didn’t see it
Me: What is your opinion on schools and dyslexia could it be better?
Mum: (Rolled her eyes) yes!
Mum: Schools need to be taught about dyslexia. I thought I knew what it was but it is way more diverse than I thought. And I think the stuff I found online even if they just have that to share would be nice. I had no support as a parent.
Me: What things did you find online? Were there bits you didn’t realise that was dyslexic?
Mum: I didn’t know everything moves around. I just thought words would change places but still. I didn’t know they moved. I certainly didn’t know realise that crowds would be a problem for you.
Me: That’s probably more my Irlen’s the crowds.
Mum: Bright lights and daylight, white, cartoon figures….none of it
Me: Some mums I have heard from have said they didn’t know as they thought it was just because they were a teenager.
Mum: Yeah because also as I was learning about you – you were 18 so you were a teenager. You were doing daft things and having tantrums anyway without dyslexia in the mix.
Me: Was they worse than my sisters?
Mum: ummmm….no not really you both have Italian temper. You used to flounce off.
Me: What was the most frustrating for you?
Mum: I couldn’t help. As a mother you try to find solutions.
Me: But you did help. I don’t think you realise how much you did help me.
Mum: But most frustrating time was when you were 8 or 9 when you trying to learn the most and you used to be practically having a breakdown every time there was a test.
Me: When I had a mood how did you calm me down
Mum: left you alone…no reasoning with you best to leave you and come back haha.
Me: I remember student finance for uni being a big issue. As I remember something going wrong and we clashed and my sister had to become the mediator. As you were not good on computers, but you needed me to tell you the information. But for me to read the info I need to shake the mouse up and down so screen moves but you then couldn’t put the info in.
Mum: yeah….well you decided you wanted to do it yourself. But you read the wrong year and ended up putting it in and having it returned. And I said I would do it and you would talk over my shoulder but then you were flicking it back and forth and I said for god sake keep it still.
Me: obviously with dyslexia my memory is not that great. Do you have any examples of when I am distracted?
Mum: You can be talking to me and you suddenly change topic and go off on tangent and I have to stand there and wait and then remind you that you were talking about something entirely different before you come back to me.
Me: Is that annoying?
Mum: Just used to it now.
Me: As a parent was there any worries for my future that you had
Mum: Concerned you wouldn’t learn to read. Worried for you to look after self and live on your own. Like you couldn’t read a bus time table and no car so how would you get to places.
Me: Was you nervous when I moved from Devon to Cheltenham for uni?
Mum: yeah! You were 3 hours away and if there was a problem, I can’t help you
Me: yeah, I used to get lost all the time and call you – mum can you street map me I don’t know where I am.
Mum: Yeah haha.
Me: Sid you get any bad reactions. For example, I know when I got diagnosed I had people go you get good grades anyway why do you need help. Did anyone say anything to you?
Mum: I used to get quite angry how people didn’t see how hard you worked even though you couldn’t achieve probably as much. Like that teacher rang me and said you were unreliable, and you have been sat behind me at the dining table working for 3 hours straight after school over your books and homework
Me: On an average school day for me what would I do?
Mum: Go to school, you would eat and then you would crash. Quite a few hours. Then you get up and you would be working in your room but for hours! Homework should take you two hours at the most but you would be there for 6 hours. And still not have got it.
Me: I remember you trying to clear the table for dinner once and I shouted at you because I hadn’t finished.
Mum: Yeah, I remember that.
Me: Now you seen me go through school, uni and I work – what would you say is the most important thing?
Mum: Getting diagnosed. Once you have been then you get the help. I feel like schools should do a dyslexia test out of routine and if found then check for irlens too on entry to primary to give an idea.
Me: Would you say dyslexia is good or bad?
Mum: It makes life harder for you but it makes you think in different way. Like for your criminiology degree you gained because you think in different way. But made life difficult for you because you can’t write, read or do the same as others. And the world is designed for non-dyslexic people.
Me: What advise do you have for a parent just generally?
Mum: Try to find out more but don’t always go through school. If you think they are just call dyslexic association.
Me: Would you encourage to be open about it?
Mum: Yes, what is there to be ashamed about.
Me: oh one thing spec savers.
Mum: oh god yeah.
Me: so, we went to opticians and warned I may not be able to read the chart and the optician said dyslexia didn’t exist.
Mum: Yep I could have punched him. Haha. I went in there expecting him to help. But we got you another one who had a friend who was dyslexic and he tested your eyes in different way. You had perfect vision. The teachers who helped you all had relatives or were dyslexic themselves. So, they had experience of it.
Me: Thank you mum.
Mum: Happy to help.
Apologies that this is such a long article but I hope this helped any parents who may be going through the same feelings.
Next two articles will be an interview with my sister (7 years older) who is a non-dyslexic and my dad who is dyslexic (but undiagnosed).
Keeping reading and stay safe guys.
What are exams? Exams are a memory exercise of what knowledge we have learnt. However, if you are dyslexic and have a poor memory like me, it’s actually more of an exam of how dyslexic you are. It is totally normal to feel nervous, worried, or even angry leading up to this. It may even feel like your brain is full. I remember I used to explain to my mum that it was as if my brain was a wardrobe with lots of drawers. Each drawer was a subject I was trying to hold information in. But quite often not all the information would fit and I used to get frustrated trying to squeeze drawers closed. You won’t have this feeling for long. When you are an adult you will find a lot of this knowledge isn’t really needed and you will get better at organising that wardrobe in your head. You will still have exams you may need to do but you will only have one topic to learn that is normally linked to your job. Whereas in school you are probably trying to cram in 14 different topics in your head. This is a lot for anyone let alone someone with dyslexia/Irlen’s.
How do I close that wardrobe I hear you say? Well, you won’t like this answer – but you need to organise yourself. One thing I cannot stress enough is organise your own learning – do what suits you not others. School no doubt will be boring you to death with revision, revision, revision – I know mine did. But annoying as it is, they are right – it does work! If you are dyslexic this is a must for you to be successful in your exam. I will be writing another article on the tips for revision which will help you organise.
However, lets focus on what you can do when your exams start:
Tips for before the exam week starts:
- Prepare your ‘exam kit’:
This is the time for you to get savvy with your equipment. If you are like me and loose stuff all the time, now is the time to prepare. Get a clear pencil case and treat yourself to new pens, pencils, rubbers, and anything you may need in an exam. Keep this in your bag the whole time separate from the rest your everyday school pencil case. You will then have no worries on running low on pens or not having something in the exam. Small but highly effective in not going crazy before the exam realising you only have a pen with no ink. If you have Irlen’s keep an overlay in there – you can cut a A4 one into strips to fit in the case. This can also double up as bookmarks for going back to pages in your exam where you may need more time to focus. If you do not have overlays a pens can also be used to save your place.
- Trouble focusing? Plan a treat for the end of exams:
One of my main barriers is that I struggle to focus or if I know I will struggle with a task I try to avoid it at all costs. For example, I have not been very motivated due to covid lately and this article should have been on my blog 2 weeks ago. But I have been doing silly tasks like decluttering my room and dying my hair every shade of a rainbow to avoid doing what I should/want to do as I know I won’t be having fun looking at screen with wiggly words. Do not push revision or get lazy in your exam. One way around this is to plan a treat. It doesn’t have to be a big treat for example at work I will say to myself you will work non-stop for hour and then you can go and get a biscuit and a coffee. In school, I used to be so focused on revision that I used to push friends away by accident however, I would purposely arrange a big meal or day out after exams finished to relax and reconnect again with them.
- Get an early night:
When it is the night before the exam you should have already done all your revision weeks before. Therefore, take this time to relax and save your energy. I know some parents will hate this as they will say you can squeeze some more revision in. However, if you haven’t learnt it by now you won’t. Take this time to have some fun and relax – have a movie night with popcorn. But most of all make sure you get an early night and have some sleep. Tomorrow will be a stressful and tiring day for you, and you need to be rested and alert to get that grade you have worked hard for and deserve.
During the exam:
- Don’t panic – Just try your best:
One main point is do not panic. I cannot count how many times I walked in and found my sit and then I just went to pieces in my exams. This does not help anyone. When your bum hits that chair just zone out into your exam bubble. Ignore everyone around you and tell yourself you’ve got this. You have been revising for ages for today and now you can show that exam marker what you know. Think positive. As my mum used to always say just try your best as that is all you can do and once you get your grades be proud of what you have achieved.
- Extra paper for brainstorms:
One thing school never tells you is that you can ask for extra paper. I only learnt this in my A-levels. As soon as you get into your exam ask for extra paper to brainstorm. I am currently using one now to help write this article. We often have so many ideas held in our head we get scared we will forget them. We then write so fast to try get them out that nothing makes sense on the page. If you ask for extra paper, you can get all your ideas out simply and you can then structure your answers better. You then can take your time and get the detail the exam markers are looking for AND they can read your writing. This is properly the best method for English exams. At the end of your exam, slot your brainstorm into the exam paper. If you run out of time the marker can see your ideas and where you were going with it. It won’t get you full marks but it may win you a couple.
- Work your exam paper back to front:
This is often what I did in science and maths exams. They tend to place the bigger mark questions at the back of the paper. When I was in school, I found the one-mark questions that teachers said where simple more difficult. Typically, the marks show how much time you should spend on a question. A one-mark question is meant to take one or two minutes to answer but I used take 20 minutes and run out of time to answer the higher mark questions. To combat this, I would just turn my exam over and start the bigger marked questions first which I used to find easier to answer. You do not need follow everyone else – Work your exam however, you find the easiest.
- Pick out the easy questions first:
Try to pick out all the questions you can answer straight away first. If you hesitate on a question just move on to the next and come back to it. You may even find the answer pops in while you answer another question. Mark it on your extra paper and go back to it so you don’t forget.
- Take a break if you need one:
If you find you are getting tired and need rest your eyes because the words are whizzing around. Then just take 2 min break. Just close the exam paper and sit back then go back to it. Obviously do not be like that for the whole exam but just give your eyes a rest. No one is going to take that paper away from you until they say it is the end. I used to hide my face on the desk in my arms as if I were sleeping to make it dark (in days of me not knowing I had Irlen’s). I would feel so much better and then I would continue with my exam. Don’t worry about what people will say if that’s what helps just do it.
- Proof read:
I hate proof reading so much as I find it difficult. However, it is important as you will miss words and your spelling will not be amazing. Spelling and grammar will count for 10% of your final grade. You can do it while you are doing your exam. Quite often you will find you have spelt a word wrong and know you have but you can’t get the right word. Don’t waste time worrying about it just underline it and move on. When you have extra time at the end just come back to it and then try to figure it out.
These may not seem like much but these all helped me and reduced my stress. At the end of an exam I could say I tried my hardest. When I got my grades, I was proud of them no matter what they were.
Don’t let your dyslexia beat you – its time for you to be in control for once!
What is Irlen Syndrome:
Irlen syndrome is one of the hardest topics to explain. It is a condition that is linked with dyslexia and can affect 8 out 10 dyslexics and they may not even know it. I find this condition the hardest to cope with as it make you feel physical sick. It can also explain a lot of the behaviours a dyslexic will display that people will shrug off and say they just being a teenager or trying to avoid something.
This condition affects the way we process visual information. The easiest way for me to explain is that anything to do with light, brightness and glare will kick of our Irlen symptoms. Therefore, if we have a white background, which is all these things, we have a hard time to cope. This is not just reading white paper; this can be anything that is white or that sun glares off. For example, any classrooms, meeting rooms, my workplace, hospitals, dentists, doctors, supermarkets, airports – anything that is white I will struggle with. When I walk into one of these places my brain can not cope and your first thought is: Holy crumble its bright in here!
Background on my Irlens and what I see:
I had to have a further dyslexia test for uni and the lady that tested me realised I had the irlens condition but she assumed I was already aware as I had a tint on my glasses already. However, after a comment was made to my mum, she realised we were unaware of this condition completely. As she was qualified in this field, she tested me the next day. I am so happy that this comment was made as I probably would have not got through uni without having this condition diagnosed.
My mum sat in with me on this test (the first one I reluctantly let her sit in on). After the test one of the first things she said was “how on earth have you managed to get your grades in school?”
One thing no one ever asks outright is: What do you see when you look at this? This is the main question they ask through this test while holding up cards. My mum was so surprised when I said:
- Lights that look like stars behind the words
- The words go in spiral effect on the page
- The words that I can see through on the back of the card are pulling forward over the words on the page I am meant to be reading from
- I’m seeing squares when there are no shapes on that page
- When I focus on one line the rest of the words move off the page entirely and its as if my eyes have to catch them
- The background is flashing from white to black to white again – constantly. But if you shake the page that will stop.
Although my mum found the answers hard to hear she mentioned she found it worse looking at me trying to concentrate and seeing the discomfort I was in trying to focus and answer the questions. This test was only 20 mins but for me it felt like an hour and I was tired and irritated by the end of it. This is the part where Irlen’s really kicks in and affects you due to the above.
How does Irlen’s affect you?
When you are having a ‘Irlen’s day’ and you are seeing all the above when you read it can almost make you feel like you have sea sickness or dizziness. A common problem I had from a young age was I would find everything around me would go superfast such as people walking, trees moving, cars and people talking. I then would feel like I was in slow mo. This then made me feel dizzy and I would panic and I would crawl up on the floor or put my head on the desk as darkness felt better. I used to get this more when I was outside in a crowded place when it was sunny.
Lack of concentration, distracted, fidget bum:
As we see the above, we often find it hard to concentrate and get distracted easily. I used to find it extremely hard to concentrate if I was placed near a window in school as I would daydream out of it. Not because I was lazy but because it was lot more relaxing than trying to read my textbook. I also used to find it incredibly hard to stay still as I would be trying to follow the words and sway, or I would just be very uncomfortable and couldn’t wait to get out of the classroom.
All my friends and teachers would describe me as a happy, bubbly but quiet girl. I think I am quiet because I was actually quite an angry child due to the stress of all of these symptoms. I used to do well to hide it in school but when I got home I used to unleash my temper on my family, rip my room apart or just cry because I felt so poorly and didn’t understand why. This is a common issue as we feel safe in doing this. However, can be very confusing for a parent if you do not know why they act that way and think its them just being a teenager. One way to describe Irlen’s is that it is like the snickers advert. Elton John is being diva and all irritated because of his Irlen’s but when he gets his nutty chocolate bar he feels better and calm. This is what darkness and rain is for me – it is a snickers bar and I feel much happier when I have it rather than white rooms and sunlight.
As we link school and places above to illness and discomfort, we can make ourselves very anxious to go there. My friends used to say there was school kate where I was quiet and serious and then outside kate where I was all fun and jokes. This wasn’t because I was a geek and enjoyed school like they thought – it was actually because I was really struggling.
We need to raise awareness!
Since writing this blog and just mentioning Irlen’s I have had 6 people state they have never heard of this and think either they or their child may have this. Therefore, it is so important we share this knowledge as there is not enough information out there about it. A doctor will not pick up on this only someone who specialises in dyslexia will.
I will be discussing ways to combat this in further articles. However, sources that have helped me to understand this area better is Irlen.com and a documentary that Kara Tointon did on her dyslexia and irlens which you can find on youtube. This shows how it affected her and you see how much better she is with the aids they provide. This also helped my mum to understand bit more of what I was going through in school which really helped.
So spread the word now!
I apologise dyslexics for the length of my articles. I am currently looking into possibilities of podcasts as well so it is easier for you to get this information too.
Most people think dyslexia just affects reading and writing and sometimes they underestimate how challenging it can be for us.
We often get branded lazy and slackers which then lowers our confidence. If you ever hear this from someone just point them to this article and see if they could cope with all this going on while living with the normal dramas of day to day life. I bet they would be tired too.
I have listed a few things I struggle with to highlight this. This is not all my barriers, but they are the most popular. I tend to have flare ups as well so I could have a really great day with one of two of these or I get all these barriers in the one day and I just want to curl up under my duvet and sleep.
I will be elaborating on these points in future posts but here is a taster of a dyslexic’s mind and the barriers we face.
- The head fog – The struggle to get an idea on paper:
Quite often I get a head fog (I get it while writing this blog now). You have so many ideas in your head, but you struggle to get them out onto paper or even say them correctly when talking. This makes your head feel cluttered and often causes stress and frustration as people do not understand what you are trying to say. You also get very tired because of this as you use the extra energy to concentrate more.
- Telling the time:
I was unable to tell the time until I was 14. I was much better at telling digital time as it is one straight line of 4 numbers. But I cannot tell the time of normal clock face with arrows as the numbers move around so I cannot see what the arrow points too. This affects me a lot in exams as quite often I cannot see how much time I have left. And have you ever noticed what clock is normally in an exam room? It is not a digital one I can tell you and you’re not normally allowed to bring one in.
- Organisation and time management or the lack of it:
A lot of my friends would argue that I have no issues with this however, I really do. I am fine now as I have coping mechanisms in place to help me but before I was diagnosed, I would stress out about this. This links to head fog as we have so many ideas and cannot express them it makes us quite chaotic people who get distracted easily. Due to this my time management was not good as I would desperately try to focus on one task that it would cause me to run out of time to do others. Which people would then label me lazy.
- I struggled with ‘simple’ tasks rather than difficult:
If you are dyslexic you may find that you struggle with the ‘simple work’ but when you get given harder work you get better grades (that is if you can get them to give you the harder work in the first place). This is because your brain is wired differently. For example, in maths I would struggle to complete a 1 mark question for reflecting a triangle on to a graph which the teacher would say was easy marks and to never miss out as they only take a minute to complete. Well that would take me 20mins because the squares and lines on my graph paper move around. But Algebra, where you find the value of something that isn’t there and 10 marks – oh I was great at those! I could complete one of those in 2 mins.
I don’t really need to say much on this. My spelling is shocking. I spell so bad that not even google can recognise it sometimes. I often spell by how I sound a word. I struggle a bit too when it comes up wrong on spellcheck but I do not know which word is correct because I don’t know how it is spelt in the first place. I will be giving a list of words I can’t spell soon to show you how a dyslexic spells and why.
- Saying the wrong words:
I do this so much and I’ve just learnt to laugh at myself now. Before I used to get upset and think people were laughing at me. As your brain is so busy you often will say the wrong word when you talk or type. For example, I once noted some foods on my mums shopping list and confused her when I was meant to ask for pears, but I wrote polar bears. This can be quite embarrassing and most of the time you wont even notice you have done it – not even when you read it back to yourself.
- Lack of punctuation and words missing when you write:
This is major barrier of mine and I get told I’m lazy so much because I haven’t proof read. I have checked this article 12 times and bet some of my book reader friends will wince while reading this. Because it is an effort to write correctly and spell correctly, I often forget to put in punctuation. Because our brains are used to trying to unjumble letters, we automatically place punctuation and words in when we read. The amount of times I was told to proof read was frustrating. This often happens when I text now for example, I miss out the word ‘and’, full stops and commas all the time. My friends will be like “what? your text doesn’t make sense Kate”. But when I read it, it does. (I hope I used those speech marks correctly).
- Poor short term memory:
You know that phrase if you can’t remember what you were going to say, it can’t be that important. Yeah, that is not correct for a dyslexic at all. We struggle to keep information in our head. The amount of times I used to scare my mum by going “mum! I have that school trip tomorrow; I needed the money 2 weeks ago”. This then links with other issues like not understanding instructions and not completing work on time.
I am very bad with directions. I can get lost so easily its unreal. I used to get so nervous for my uni exams as I was more concerned on finding the place than the actual exam. I have got lost at work before looking for a coffee machine as our one on our floor broke (Bear in mind I had worked there for 3 years at this point and there was only 3 floors). I got the coffees fine but I couldn’t remember the way back to my department. So much so I had to text my colleague and ask her to come find me which as you can imagine went down as right laugh in the office.
- Lack of confidence:
All through my life I have been told I’m not confident and have been described by a teacher as ‘a bunny caught in the headlights’. This is totally true I am, and this will reflect in my blog writing. I am a person that apologises all the time however, I have come a long way as I was so much worse when I was younger. The key is too pretend you are confident (as it is just one thing you won’t fully be as a dyslexic). Once you realise actually I have things the non-dyslexics cant do which gives you so much more power it’s a lot easier to show.
These are just a taster of what this blog will discuss. Please also note these are only the effects of my dyslexia. I haven’t even shown you the effects of my irlens on top this and I feel irlens is harder than dyslexia is sometimes. And remember 8 out of 10 dyslexics will have that condition too.
Something to think about.