This is a guest post. Recently, I spoke with a friend about her dyslexia and the impact it has had on her. I encouraged her to write about it, and she did! Here she shares her experience of growing-up dyslexic and her enthusiasm for lifelong learning, together with her determination to succeed:
I’m coming to the end of a long hard seven years, but what an amazing seven years it’s been!
In 2011, I made the decision to return to formal education, not for career development but for personal enlightenment and satisfaction. I did it with the determination to show what I could do to everyone who put me down when I was growing-up. To all the educators who called me thick, stupid and lazy – you were wrong!
This summer I will graduate with a BA (Honours) from the Open University. When I started school in 1966, I didn’t hear the word ‘dyslexic’, I heard ‘she’s not academic’, or ‘she keeps herself to herself’. That little girl wanted to scream out ‘I want to read but I can’t make sense of it!’ After struggling through school for a few years, I was entered for the Eleven Plus examination, together with my classmates. Failing that examination, as I was bound to do, meant that I was sent off to the local secondary modern school, straight into the special needs department. Once there, I fell in love with any practical skills work I was given – metalwork, cookery, woodwork, needlework. But…I still wanted to learn those academic subjects.
Life became harder when I turned 13 and my mum and dad separated, so I had to move house and school. But, at this new school, I wasn’t sidelined into a special needs department, I was kept in mainstream education. Even better, I had a fantastic English teacher who helped me to achieve four Certificates of Secondary Education. I was able to go to college and follow a secretarial course. From the age of eight, all I’d ever really wanted to do was follow my dad into the Royal Air Force, and soon I was able to do this, too. I was 17 years old and wanted my dad’s praise.
Later, when I’d had children, I took jobs in retail to fit in around childcare. I continued to take every opportunity I could to study and to learn, taking courses in IT, employment law, and health and safety (to name a few). But I still wanted to do more and still felt the need to show my mum and dad that I wasn’t thick, lazy or stupid. This brings me to 2011, when I took the decision to start studying for my university degree. I started with the humanities – history has always fascinated me, I shared that interest with my mum. I soon changed to an open degree so I could study many more diverse subjects.
Not long after, I was finally statemented as having dyslexia, this opened the doors for so much support. Financial assistance followed, so did practical help – I now have the use of assistive technology, including software which has helped me write this blog post through dictation. What I want to say here, my message if you like, is never give up! Always go for your dreams, don’t let anyone put you down! Now, I can say to all those educators who pushed me aside, ignored me and failed to help me ‘Fuck you! Look at me now!’
I cannot wait for my graduation ceremony this summer, even though I’d love to share it with my mum and dad and they’ll be missing…