Updated: May 12
I discovered that I have dyslexia when I was 8 years old. In those days dyslexia was not always picked up in schools and I was lucky that my year 3 teacher knew the signs because she had a close relative with dyslexia. This teacher arranged for me to be tested and the results came back stating that I was definitely dyslexic although not behind in most subjects due to having developed good coping strategies. For the next couple of years I had good teachers who supported me and I made excellent progress. Then came year 6.
The year started badly when my teacher sat the entire class into tables based on 'ability'. There are a lot of problems with judging a child's ability at age 10, letting the children know those judgments and then using that to determine the level of work they are given for the whole year across all subjects. I hope that no primary school teacher today would get away with something so lazy and harmful.
I was a very bright and hardworking student, I was also on the special needs register and had poor spelling and handwriting. Can you guess what group this teacher put me in? The bottom group. It was soon apparent that this was utterly inappropriate for most subjects. I was often asking her questions she didn't know the answers to or answering other students when they asked questions this 'teacher' didn't understand. None of this made me popular with her as you can imagine... Eventually she spoke to my parents and told them that it was wrong for me to be on the special needs register as I did not need support or deserve 'special treatment'. My parents agreed with her and I was taken off the register.
For a very very long time I totally believed the idea that I was not special and didn't deserve support. Kids tend to believe what we are told, if your parents and your teacher are giving you the same message then it's very hard as a kid to understand that they might be wrong. As far as I was concerned my struggles with dyslexia were something I needed to hide and deal with on my own. I had no support for dyslexia during secondary school, sixth form or at university where I got a grade two grades lower than I deserved because of my 'poor exam technique'.
While my story is unique to me, I have met many other neurodiverse people who are amazingly talented but constantly undervalue their strengths and have low self worth. Now it's my mission to show everyone who has dyslexia, adhd, autism or another neurodiverse condition that they are special and help them learn to thrive by using their special skills. I offer 1-1 coaching in person or by video call. I speak and write about how to support neurodiverse people and I offer training to businesses.