Dyslexia Awareness: Moving Mountains

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Dyslexia Awareness Week in Scotland is here again. In the past 5 years or so, Ellie’s blue ribbons have gone from strength to strength. Therefore some of us might be beginning to take Dyslexia Awareness Week for granted and finding it all a bit too much work.

However, I remember the bad old days when I would tell a teacher (or employer) that I was dyslexic and get a blank look in response. And they weren’t even the worst of the dark ages, at least I knew I was dyslexic and not just thick or slow.

I have written the poem below to try to encourage myself and others to continue to raise awareness.

In “The Prince of Egypt” there is a lovely song called “When You Believe”, I find the following lyrics extremely inspirational:-

“we know there’s much to fear
We were moving mountains
Long before we knew we could”

I suggest that we look back from the shoulders on which we stand at the mountains that have moved. And continue to use Dyslexia Awareness Week to make mountains move still further.  REMEMBER mountains move slowly: they are extremely big and heavy after all!!!

Brilliant
Dyslexia Scotland
My Wider World
Wear Ellie’s Blue Ribbons
Excellent

Don’t hide away!
Allow everyone to see
Win the fight!

Together
We battle
No longer hiding
Disabling society, is learning
Communication

Decide now!
Action against fear
We are shining a light

Enlightened
We stand
Together we teach
Together we learn how
To succeed

Difference is great!
Always embrace diversity
Weakness is not found in difference

Strength
Is difference
Talent is unique
Genius does not follow
It leads!!!

Doreen Kelly, 

Dyslexia Scotland Member and Volunteer

*Blue ribbon word cloud created using Shapego

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Dyslexia, Reading and Visual Stress

Doreen Dyslexia Awareness Craft Maker Creative

This year as I am approaching 40, I finally have tinted specs for visual stress (sometimes people use the terms visual difficulties or Meares-Irlen). I had been tested at least twice before. Once as a kid, just after I had been identified as having dyslexia and again around 5 years ago.

Before going for a coloured overlay test about 5 years ago, I had not been reading in my spare time and especially not for enjoyment. I was sent away with a yellow reading ruler and told to read with it, so I did and read most of a detective novel before going back for the next appointment. I even sat in the waiting room, reading my book. Unfortunately, all that practice meant when I was tested again my reading speed was very close to normal. I was told to ‘take the overlay and use it to read: as I was reading now due to the overlay’. This was far from the truth: I was reading because I had been told to. After I left that appointment I stopped reading in my spare time and never finished that detective novel.

So, to more recent times – I was getting really embarrassed about not reading and how slowly I read, especially in the work place. So I decided that I would use my spiritual and religious life to give myself a reason to read at least a few pages every single day. Luckily there are a number of publications of daily prayers and meditations that are perfect for this.

Then when I became extremely sensitive to light and began to get a large number of headaches, I decided to get another visual stress test; I did not go back to the same optometrist. Luckily this time my visual stress was caught and I got orange coloured glasses (they are expensive and took 6 weeks to be manufactured).

It wasn’t until I first wore my orange specs that I realised what I’ve been missing. I could suddenly see (words) clearly. However, I’m fairly sure I still have tracking issues and still need to use my fingers fairly often to keep my place. Sitting down and reading a novel is still far from the top of my list of favourite things to do. I’d rather pop on an audiobook, while being creative or doing the housework.

I have realised that I need at least 15 minutes “recovery” time after pure reading. Studying (i.e. reading, taking notes and deliberately learning) is a completely different story, and for me doesn’t require as much “recovery” time before I can safely face other people.

I am an anxious person with periods of low mood; and to take this a little further I think I would say I am socially anxious. I have noticed that if I try to avoid mixing with people before an event by reading, I am quite withdrawn and socially prickly when I try to take part in the event.

This new aspect to the dyslexia monster’s attacks (perhaps a little like those of the black dog of depression) has only become obvious to me now that I have another weapon in my arsenal to fight it. However, I am extremely dismayed that as I get closer to defeating it, the monster fights dirty and tries to destroy my support networks.

Here is a poem that I wrote recently about the dyslexia monster at a Glasgow Women’s Library creative workshop:

Be afraid!!!

Do you hear me dyslexia monster?

Afraid. I said “Be Afraid!!!”

Now after living a lifetime bowing and scraping to you: I am drawing a line!

Be afraid!

Be very afraid!!!

Each day I am going to force that line closer and closer to you!

 

You have been in control for too long. No more!!!

Your sphere of influence has grown too big.

I have been afraid.

But no longer, this is the beginning of the end for you!

Be afraid!

Afraid!!

Be very afraid!!!

 

You know what they say about the shrew turning.

I am an avenging angel !!!

I am coming …

Fear awaits you dyslexia beast.

 

I will pry those big fat talons off that fairy butterfly you have entrapped.

Then I will chop them off one-by-one.

And as you scream: that beautiful, creative and colourful creature will spread her wings and fly away.

Be afraid!

Be very afraid!!!

 

Your time has come. Your time is over. Your time is ending!

Be afraid!

Be very afraid beast!

As Beauty’s time to rule has come!!!

Doreen Kelly, Dyslexia Scotland member and volunteer

Attention teachers! Professional Learning opportunity

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We’re delighted to report that Dyslexia Scotland has recently been awarded the GTCS Professional Learning Award for Organisations. The Award is issued by the General Teaching Council for Scotland to recognise organisations that support and promote professional learning for teachers.

This Quality Mark means that the organisation has been assessed through GTCS’s independent quality assurance processes.

You will see this ‘Quality Mark’ on all our learning programmes (our Education Conference, Dyslexia Awareness Training, Tutors’ Seminars, Masterclasses, Dyslexia and Inclusive practice modules, Addressing Dyslexia Toolkit, Educational membership).

Our next quality marked event is our annual education conference which attracts around 250 teachers, head teachers and support for learning practitioners each year.  We use feedback from the previous year’s delegates, to ensure that you’ll always learn something new and relevant to dyslexia practice in schools. This year, our theme is ‘Dyslexia: My Wider World’.  Did you know that dyslexia is not just about reading and writing difficulties? Come along and learn more about the other aspects of dyslexia, including some of its superpowers.

Our Education Conference takes place on Saturday 27 October 2018 in Glasgow. Places are filling fast, so to get the best out of the day, register as soon as possible. The registration form and all the information you need is on our website. At the end of the day, you’ll receive a certificate with the GTCS professional learning award stamp, which you can use towards your professional update record. Hope to see you there…

Helen Fleming, Conference Co-ordinator

The challenges of becoming a parent and being dyslexic!

parenting

As a little girl, I had an image of becoming a Mummy.  I imagined cuddling and playing with my baby, long walks with the pram and a general feeling of fulfillment. However, being an unidentified dyslexic adult, my experience of becoming a parent was far from what I had imagined.

Although all new parents face similar challenges, the aim of this blog is to raise awareness of the specific challenges that dyslexic parents can face when new to parenthood; and hopefully help them to identify areas where they may need additional help and support.  I hope to also raise awareness with health professionals of the impact that dyslexia could have for dyslexic individuals in their care.

The challenges:

  • Learning and remembering the pregnancy stages, attending ante-natal appointments; lots of form filling; including for maternity leave and pay;
  • Working and being pregnant. You can be expected to achieve the same standards at work and cope with the additional factors of nausea, fatigue and sleep disturbances;
  • Learning new routines and caring for a new-born baby, including monitoring milk intake; remembering when a nappy was last changed, sleep patterns;
  • Trying to organise myself and the baby to get out the house;
  • Adapting to my new role – I compared myself to other mothers who appeared to cope so well;
  • No structure to the day/night;
  • A feeling of being dependent on others to help, especially my mum and husband;
  • A feeling that my house was very disorganised. I felt stressed when health professionals and unexpected visitors visited;
  • Constant decision-making – sleep patterns, teething, milestones, weaning, behavioural management of a toddler;
  • Returning to work after maternity leave. Organising childcare, the emotions, trying to focus at work after a sleepless night;
  • Low self-confidence and self-esteem issues.

Seeking Support

I sought help and support from the health visitor and GP. They felt my children’s needs were being met, but I had low self-confidence. They tried to give me advice and coping strategies in the areas that I felt frustrated with.  I showed strengths in some areas and weakness in others. Some days I would cope well and other days not.  If I had known that I was dyslexic, I could have managed my life differently and been more accepting of my difficulties; and the health professionals could have taken a different approach in supporting me.  I could have benefited from discussing common issues with other dyslexic mothers and sharing coping strategies with them.

Finding peace…

I found peace at a local nature reserve.  My children and I could explore the reserve and it was calm and quiet.  We enjoyed our times there, watching the wildlife in each season of the year.  The children could run and explore without the worry of roads etc. It was refreshing and we have lots of happy memories of these times.

Raising Awareness

This was my experience of becoming a mum and I am sure not everyone will experience this in the way that I did. I would like to think that there are dyslexic mothers who embraced parenthood and put all their creativity and imagination into it! I aim to encourage people to talk about being a dyslexic parent and sharing coping strategies and ideas to help other mums to embrace this chapter in their life, for the benefit of themselves and their children.

I also aim to raise awareness with health professionals to be more aware of the signs of dyslexia.  I would encourage them to deliver care and information specific to the needs of the individual with dyslexia, help them to overcome the challenges and identify coping strategies specific to them.

Being identified as dyslexic has allowed me to become more self-aware. I now have a better understanding of how dyslexia affects me, giving me strengths and weaknesses. When faced with a major life event in the future, I will be empowered to seek appropriate help and support to allow me to cope with the challenges it brings and take ownership of my dyslexia. What are your experiences of being a dyslexic parent?

Thank you for reading my blog, Emma G.

 

Discover your own way to revise with dyslexia

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With so much pressure on students to achieve high grades these days, it’s not surprising that 60% of Scottish students are ‘very stressed’ about exams. If you are also dyslexic and have difficulty reading or concentrating, this can add to your anxiety while revising for final assessments.  Before you start your revision, ask for support and advice and make sure you take advantage of all the resources for dyslexic young people that are now available.

Getting organised

You may struggle with organisational skills, but if you take the time to make a revision plan, you will find it much easier to stay on top of your work. This is just one of the many useful skills that can help manage dyslexia. It will also ensure that you don’t leave revision to the last minute. Cramming the night before an exam is rarely of benefit to any student, especially if you usually need more time to process information. If you find it difficult to remember what you have learned, natural supplements may help with memory and eating well, exercising and getting a good night’s sleep will all mean your mind is performing at its best.

Creative revision

Once you’re ready to settle down to work, look out for different ways to engage with revision material. Simply reading the text and copying out information isn’t always the most effective way to help material sink in. Exploring unusual and diverting educational materials like comic strips or creating colourful mind maps can keep your attention and help you to retain more information. It may be that you use a laptop or tablet for your studies and there are many revision apps available that you might find useful.

Listening and speaking

If you write slowly, asking someone to test you verbally is a quick way for you to check how much you have learned. Having to explain a topic to someone is also a great way to fix that information in your mind. Resources such as podcasts and short internet lectures are an invaluable way to absorb new material and revise without having to read or concentrate for too long.

Revising for exams is difficult for everyone but it’s important to discover a method that works for you. Finding the best way for your mind to absorb and retain information and accepting any help with revision techniques can ensure that you fulfil your potential during your exams.

Jennifer Dawson, Dyslexia Blogger

Bear with me

bearwithmeweb_lcaveBear with me as I fumble for words,

it takes time, which may seem absurd

 

Bear with me as I doodle and draw,

I have the feeling I just can’t write anymore

 

Bear with me as I go for a walk to clear my head,

to try and lift this feeling of dread

 

Bear with as I get myself back on track,

to meet this deadline which I know I can crack

 

Bear with me as I doodle and draw, my head is full,

I can’t think straight anymore

 

Bear with me as I take my time,

find a pace that suits me fine

 

Bear with me as I pick up the pace,

I feel I can win this deadline race

 

Bear with me as the words transpire

Woohooo look at me I am on fire

 

Bear with me as my fingers tap away,

I am nearly done it’s the end of the day,

For this little rhyme,

it took a huge amount of time,

 

Bear with me as bring this to a close,

Scraping through by the skin of my nose,

As I sigh with relief,

I will keep this brief

 

Bear with me is my mantra in life,

its kept me out of certain strife,

Knowing I need that extra time

letting people know I am Dyslexic is fine

Dyslexia is part of me

so please bear with me and let me be me

Words and illustration by Laura Cave-Magowan

If you would like to hear more about Laura’s illustrations, she will be doing a talk at our Members Day and AGM on Saturday 17th November.

Dyslexic autobiographies

Here are some life stories of dyslexic people that I’ve found helpful.  The first 2 are podcasts.  The others are books, 2 of which are available in audio.

Podcasts

Anthologies

  1. ‘Dyslexia and Us’

Dyslexia_and_Us_book_cover

Published 2011.  Available in print.

Dyslexia Scotland produced this book in collaboration with Edinburgh Libraries.  It gives over 100 personal stories of dyslexia by people of various ages, from a wide range of backgrounds.  I identify with many of the people who contributed to this book because many of them remained anonymous and most of the ones who didn’t are not famous.

One story helped me to understand people’s responses to dyslexia.  It taught me that people’s expectations are based on what is usual.  But dyslexic people are unusual because there’s a wide difference between their strengths and weaknesses.

It also taught me that humans instinctively fear difference.  This fear can make us reject people we perceive as different, and behave aggressively towards them.  People don’t like admitting to this behaviour so they blame others.

2. ‘Creative Successful Dyslexic – 23 High Achievers share their stories’

By Margaret Rooke.  Published 2016.  Available in print.

This tells the stories of 23 successful dyslexic people.  Most of these people are in the public eye.  Each profile starts with 1 or 2 photos of the person and the gist of their story.  Then the person tells us about their career.

I found the stories engaging and accessible.  I found it interesting to discover how people had entered and progressed through their career.  In many cases, their journeys were creative and unconventional.

They also describe specific ways that their dyslexia affects them in their work.  For example, footballer Steven Naismith describes how he’s good at being in the right place at the right time, as you can see here.

Book-length autobiographies

  1. ‘The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah: the Autobiography’ (poet, activist, lyricist, writer)  Published 2018.  Available in audio and print.

This taught me about performance poetry, social issues and the positive influence writers can have on other people’s lives and society.  Benjamin talks about the transformative effect that poetry and martial arts have had on his life.  He also describes how his mum would speak in rhyme at home; how his performance poetry career started in a church context; and how he once pitched a radio play to a producer by performing the words, music and sound effects.

2.  ‘Pour Me – A Life’ By AA [Adrian] Gill (critic)                                                                     Published 2015.  Available in audio and print.

This book is extremely eloquent.  Although it deals with some difficult experiences, the writing is so rich that I found it a pleasure to read.  I was particularly struck by Adrian’s account of how he became a journalist: to paraphrase him, he’d tried everything else.

3. ‘Jo Malone – My Story’ (entrepreneur)                                                                                  Published 2016.  Available in print.

The most significant point of this book for me was when Jo managed to talk her way into a perfume laboratory in Paris.  This was highly irregular – only the perfumers were allowed into the lab.  And yet, it was a pivotal point in her career because it’s where she discovered her gift for smell.

Some themes I noticed in these 3 people’s experiences were: they benefited from opportunities to learn and develop their skills outwith formal education (e.g. family, church); they used original approaches to harness opportunities that grew their careers; and they managed to change their behaviours and / or overcome external barriers.

By an anonymous member of Dyslexia Scotland

Let’s Use Blue Ribbons To Show What Dyslexia Can Do

I was watching a BBC 1 program about the marches commemorating 100 years since women were given the vote. One of the commentators quoted women like Marie Wilson (from The White House Project) “You can’t be what you can’t see”.

This got me thinking – this quote is as relevant to dyslexia as to the suffrage movement, as dyslexia is a “hidden disability” for lack of a better term.

Firstly, and most encouragingly for those who feel that they are losing the battle with dyslexia, we cannot be only dyslexic, as no one can see it. Others see the stellar person who contains the learning/thinking difference we call dyslexia.

Secondly, I think part of the problem with our disabling society as that it cannot be understanding and accommodating of dyslexia if it cannot see it. Obviously no one will ever manage to make dyslexia visible and I’m not entirely sure we want it to be (because we should not let dyslexia define us).

However, I believe a good way to make dyslexia visible to society is to showcase our dyslexic talents and then say to people “and did you know that I am dyslexic and this is how society disables me”.

I believe this is especially important as dyslexia is sooo diverse. If you are a frequent reader of Dyslexia Scotland’s blog you may know that I am very creative and have begun making blue ribbons for the annual Dyslexia Awareness Week (each November). You may also have noticed that my use of the blue ribbon has changed and evolved over the months and years. One of my latest creations is in the photograph below.

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I decided to knit these large ribbons so that they would be more visible at Dyslexia Awareness Week displays. Also I thought they could be worn by school ambassadors (possibly as a sash) perhaps even with badges attached (in order to aid in distribution).

However, this one is multi-toned partly to make what is essentially a bit of a boring scarf (ask any long-term knitter, they’ll tell you how soul-destroying such a project can be) a bit more interesting for me: but also to show how multi-faceted dyslexic traits can be (but how they are all part of the one thinking/learning difference)

Returning to the battle for equality and how women banded together and used their united cause and sheer numbers to gain the vote – if we start talking about dyslexia we can identify each other. Because,  We cannot be united when we cannot see/identify each other!

Thirdly, I’d like to ask a question of parents, teachers, tutors and employers = “How can someone be working towards success if they cannot see achievement? For example,

  • If they always see red crosses all over their work that has received a failing grade? You could use that very same red pen to write in the correct spellings and punctuation (or “I don’t understand what you mean). Also, why not add marks beside each section/answer to show where marks are won and lost”?
  • If they never get an award or certificate for anything, then certificates could be given out for creativity, showman/showpersonship and teamwork as well as academics.
  • If someone is always told “you’re bringing the team down”?  Why not try the following magic word – “THANKS”? The workplaces (I have experienced) where “thank you” is liberally used have high morale.
  • If a child is told “you cannot ever work on your passion because you really need to work on all this stuff you struggle with”. As far as I can see successful people are at the top-of-their-game because they are doing what they are brilliant at and getting others to do what they can’t. How can any human being survive, thrive and succeed: if all they seem to do is fail?

Therefore,  I suggest that everyone lets their (guiding) light shine. Don’t hide it under a bush and don’t blow it out. Hold your brightly shining light high and take it around the world and aim for the moon (even if you miss you’ll end up among the stars)…And wear dyslexia blue ribbons during Dyslexia Awareness Week (5-10 November 2018)!

Doreen Kelly, Volunteer and Member of Dyslexia Scotland

 

Growing positively from trauma

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(Image standard copyright Dyslexia Scotland)

Several years ago, I had some negative experiences in employment.  These were caused by my dyslexia and people’s unhelpful responses to it, both before and after I was identified.  In this blog post, I’d like to tell you about 7 things that have helped me grow positively from these negative experiences.

1)    Counselling

About a year after the experiences, I started having flashbacks.  I didn’t know what they were – I was afraid I was losing my mind.  So I went for some counselling.

This gave me names for what I had experienced (trauma) and what I was experiencing (Post Traumatic Stress).  It also let me see that we can’t undo the past or forget it; but we can grow positively from it.  I started to see myself as a survivor instead of a victim.  This let me start to gain control over the traumatic experiences.

2)    Stress Control

Stress Control’ is a course that tells you how to manage stress.  I attended one presented by some psychologists from my local NHS trust.  There was a question box.  I asked ‘Is Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) different from “normal” stress?’  The short answer was ‘Yes, PTS is different.  But it’s treatable, by talking over the traumatic events in a safe environment’.  This reassured me because I’d done that in counselling.

3)    Independent research

Once I knew I’d experienced trauma, I was able to find self-help material on it.  Here are some resources that have helped me.

Trauma is Really Strange’ – comic book.

Making Sense of Trauma – How to tell your story’ – tells you how you can use narrative to grow positively from trauma.

The Forgiveness Project website and book – share people’s stories of forgiveness and photos.

4)    Ongoing support and self-help

I’ve gone to a mental health drop-in twice.  This has given me the chance to talk to mental health professionals about whatever I want help with.  They’ve been calm and non-judgemental and have helped me well.

I also asked a mental health organisation to recommend self-help resources on workplace bullying and emotional healing, which they did.

5)    Creative arts

Writing, singing and photography all boost my mood and keep negative thoughts out of my mind while I am doing them.

Attending some adult learning and Dyslexia Scotland Adult Network prompted me to start writing for publication.  My first piece was very cathartic because it let me make something positive out of my negative experiences.  Since then, writing has been a therapeutic and rewarding constant for me.

I sing in a couple of groups.  The beneficial effect of this lasts long after our practices and performances because the music we’ve sung replays in my head.  And I find myself singing it at odd moments.

I take photos of nature, for example the butterfly above.  I enjoy looking at the photos afterwards.  I often marvel at the beauty and detail in them.

6)    Lovely people

I attend an organisation weekly.  I greatly benefit from being part of it because the people there are good to be with.  They smile at me and call me by name.  They talk to me and respond to my dyslexia sensitively and intelligently.  They encourage and support me.  They are accepting, positive and kind.

7)    Being proactive

Doing things to protect other dyslexic adults from trauma has let me use my experience to help others.  For example, I wrote to my employer telling them how they could improve their management of dyslexia.

How about you?

What’s helped you grow positively from trauma?

By a member of Dyslexia Scotland

Dyslexia and mental health

Our 9-year-old daughter is dyslexic.  Dyslexia runs through both sides of our family although myself and my husband are not dyslexic.  When we started to realise that our daughter was finding reading, writing and spelling difficult at school, we panicked.  We wanted school to solve this for us straight away.  As we have learnt more and more about dyslexia over the past two years we realised that dyslexia is life-long but that most people develop strategies to overcome the barriers.  Our daughter is wonderful, creative, inventive, artistic, considerate, kind, intelligent and hard working.  All those traits will set her up for a wonderful life.

However, we know school is going to be tough, but we continue to focus on the positives and we always talk of dyslexia in a positive way to our daughter. One of my main reasons for this is that our family also has a history of mental health issues.  I can see that my dyslexic daughter is sensitive and has already been doubting herself because she is dyslexic.  I want her to know that dyslexia is not a disability, it is a different way of thinking and that being able to think differently is actually really rather wonderful and makes her unique.

I became a member of Dyslexia Scotland in 2017 and joined the Moray Firth Branch Committee in 2018.  As a result, I was able to attend a recent residential weekend for all branches in Dunblane at which committee members from the various branches across Scotland came together to share their learnings, to meet and talk to each other and gather information from Dyslexia Scotland about new projects and resources and work being done to promote awareness of Dyslexia Scotland.

At the residential weekend, I met adults with dyslexia and parents like myself with dyslexic children, there were also teachers and people from business.  Whether they were looking for support or offering it, everyone was there as a volunteer.  Speaking to people either in the same situation as myself or having gone through something like what my daughter is going through, was so enlightening and so inspiring. These people have had such wonderful varied lives, they have had some fantastic careers and experiences. There were artists, teachers, business owners, civil servants, office managers and more.  All had experienced periods in their life which were challenging and many had experienced periods of mental unwellness largely through their years of education when times are really tough for dyslexics.

We were lucky to have Eugene Adams of Our Mind Matters come and talk to us about mental health and self-esteem in children and his work in the education sector trying to assist children who need support and assist teachers in providing that support.  Children (and adults) with dyslexia are highly susceptible to have low self-esteem and possible mental unwellness and although Eugene was not talking about children with dyslexia specifically, it was good to hear Eugene talk about how to support mental health in children.  For me the key things were to listen, be positive and promote being active.  I will ensure that I always talk to my daughter about dyslexia being a positive thing, I will try to always listen and make sure that she knows she can come to speak to me or someone else she trusts at any time and I will always encourage her to be active whether that be in sport and physical activity or participating in something she enjoys such as arts and creative activities.

Mental health affects everyone not just people with dyslexia although the evidence does suggest that people with dyslexia are highly likely to suffer mental ill-health at some point and most probably during their education years. We need to remove any stigma associated with both dyslexia and mental health.  I want to encourage the 10% of the population with dyslexia to feel strong enough to say, “I have dyslexia and I am not stupid”.

By Mandy Clinch

If you need help and support, call Dyslexia Scotland’s Helpline on 0344 800 8484 or email: helpline@dyslexiascotland.org.uk

For more information about dyslexia, please visit our main website:

www.dyslexiascotland.org.uk

Or our website dedicated to supporting children and young aged 8+:

www.unwrapped.dyslexiascotland.org.uk

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