We’ve all heard the phrase, ‘oh I’m dyslexic I can’t do that’, and I’ll admit I’ve used that phrase a few times, sometimes as a joke, sometimes for real. But, in reality, I know I am not defined by my dyslexia and I am here to convince you of the same.
My dyslexia wasn’t picked up for a VERY long time. Junior school spelling tests were horrific; year 5 seems to stand out in my memory as a particularly bad year. I would try so hard but just couldn’t seem to remember the spellings of words. It felt like I was constantly failing and having to do the retests. It was humiliating and depressing.
I remember my mum trying to help me but I just couldn’t ‘get’ it. The trauma is balanced out with a glorious memory of getting 19 out of 20 one time that year. I remember how happy it made me to finally feel like I could keep up (and not loose my lunch break to a retest!).
The rest of my school performance was okay, in fact I was a nerdy child who would enjoy working hard in projects and assignments so over the years my horrendous spelling issues were forgotten and weird sentence structures were glossed over by my teachers and even by myself. No one knew there was a bigger piece to the picture.
I am a creative person; I have always seen the world in a form of shapes and colours so I started to remember words by their shapes and moved on with my life.
As my A-levels were approaching it was becoming more apparent that I couldn’t compute words as fast as others. It transpires picturing words as shapes is all very well till you are at the height of your high school career acting under time pressures!! It was at this point when I was writing applications for university and filling out forms that my family and I realised that maybe I had dyslexia.
At the age of 17 I sat down and took a test that most people take when they are 11. Deep down I knew that I was different when it came to language and I wanted this test to confirm it. I wanted a label to hide behind and excuse the fact that I often wrote ‘name’ instead of ‘Naomi’ on forms.
The test came back as slightly dyslexic, but not as dyslexic as I felt. The teacher who tested for learning difficulties understood when I explained to her that I had spent the entirety of my school life learning to cope and suggested that I had high-functioning dyslexia. Just like high-functioning depression this means it is often harder to diagnose.
I did a more expansive test and sure enough that did highlight the extent of my dyslexia. There was no space to hide when you’re having a 1-1 test. The rigorous testing system is daunting yes, and lengthy, but it meant as I moved into further education I had a label.
I was dyslexic.
The label made my life easier. Tutors at university were more understanding of my bizarre sentence structure. And in my first degree there was even a specialist who was there to help me with my written work if I needed, something that was lacking in my second degree.
The label also made my life harder. I would use the label as an excuse. Having spent years working hard to disguise my dyslexic traits, I now had an official label so was no longer embarrassed by my bad spelling and so at times I became lazier. I put in less effort than I had in the past and sat on my laurels.
But eventually I became tired of using my label as an excuse. I wanted to express all my thoughts in the most fantastic and perfect ways, and that meant I would have to work hard. I enjoyed reading and yet had stopped because I convinced myself that it was harder because I was dyslexic, but that had never stopped me in the past.
I choose to not let my dyslexic label limit me
I took my label, I took my knowledge and turned it into my fuel not my limiting label. I am dyslexic but once upon a time I hadn’t been labelled as such. I choose not to let my label limit me, but I do let it comfort me. Sometimes my dyslexia makes a mockery of me, but now I know why spelling is harder for me and I can feel confident that it is not that there is something wrong with me. It is okay if it takes me 3 attempts to fill out a form when it takes others 1. It is part of me, a part of me that influences how I live, but it does not and will not limit me.
I will read 2 books in a week, misread a 24-hour clock, use extravagant words, and forget how to spell Saturday. But you know what, that is okay, that is how it is, but it doesn’t mean I’ll stop trying to push my boundaries.
I defied dyslexia for most of my life and who says we can’t all defy dyslexia. Believe that it doesn’t define you, but know that it does shape you.