Dyslexia, the Media and Tempered Gratitude

face_montage

While it is no secret that dyslexia sometimes causes struggles for many people, it is also important to remember that some people believe that dyslexia gives them enviable traits and a competitive edge in the workplace. Luckily, thanks to the mainstream success of plenty of people with dyslexia – and their openness about living with dyslexia – the media is awash with people thriving with it.  In the opinion of some people, they succeed because they have dyslexia not in spite of having it.

The widespread and well-documented success of people like Jamie Oliver, Steven Spielberg and Richard Branson, who also happen to have dyslexia, does a great deal to illustrate the fact that while some people may find the learning difference a hinderance, many find it advantageous to their lives. Furthermore, the prevalence of those who have dyslexia in the public eye supplies people with plenty of role models, which can do wonders for self-esteem.  Perhaps this information can be viewed as nothing more than common sense, but at a time where everyone is keen to promote positivity about dyslexia we would all do well to remember that such positivity is not a luxury that all learning differences, on the same spectrum and otherwise, have.

Firstly, the positive media coverage that dyslexia regularly enjoys is more often than not simply not there for other learning differences. It is doubtless frustrating when people make false assumptions about dyslexia; e.g. it’s just a difficulty with reading and writing, but what would you rather – that someone at least attempts to understand something or has no clue what it even is?  If someone describes dyscalculia as the mathematical version of dyslexia, an understanding of the latter condition is at least assumed.  Granted, it may be a simplistic one, but it’s apparent nonetheless.  In that sense at least, it’s a privileged position to be in, because some people might not have heard of, for instance, dyscalculia or dyspraxia, whereas you can bet that most people understand what dyslexia is, even if it is in the most basic way.

The media unequivocally proves that people who have dyslexia can make a success of their lives. Whether they see it as a gift or a curse, the fact that, for example, Keira Knightly is dyslexic doesn’t in any way affect the success of her career.  The same is true for Will Smith, Anthony Hopkins and Orlando Bloom.  I bet that people with other learning differences, whether or not they are in the public eye, wish they were thought of similarly.

Having said this, just because I’ve stated that there are positives attributed to the fact that dyslexia is widely spoken about in a positive manner doesn’t mean it is all plain sailing for those who have it. I didn’t want to seem biased or ignorant by failing to mention that some people see it as a label used by the middle classes to justify academic under achievement; which is of course wrong and misinformed.  On a related note, while you would be forgiven for thinking that an identification of dyslexia automatically means access to specialist support, this is not always the case, for ever-dwindling resources mean they have to be prioritised.  People are sometimes told that while they have dyslexia, they are borderline and therefore are not entitled to extra support.

Just because some famous people have dyslexia doesn’t mean that struggles don’t occur for many and we have to take care not to minimise those as dyslexia becomes even more publicised; as it has most recently, following the news that Penny Lancaster has been assessed as being dyslexic at the age of 46. It might even be that some problems, such as the oversimplification of dyslexia, occur as a result of the media coverage that dyslexia receives; but that isn’t to say that it shouldn’t still continue.

It’s only as a result of information being in the public domain that myths can be dispelled, coping strategies can be shared, and truths can be discovered; these being just three things that make the media coverage dyslexia gets to be not only worthwhile and vital, but in the main, something that should be much appreciated.

Gemma Bryant, Resource Centre Volunteer

Advertisements

Three little known signs of dyslexia

child-daydreaming

When I was in primary school, my new teacher asked everyone in the class to tell him something they thought he should know about them. I remember that I wrote something along the lines of, “If I’m staring into space, don’t stop me – I’m thinking up stories or imagining.” That’s not very surprising for someone who went on to be an author, but I didn’t realise at the time that it was probably a sign of dyslexia, too. I wasn’t identified for many years after that, but a tendency to daydream or ‘zone out’ is more common for dyslexics. Often, we don’t even realise we’re doing it, and can completely lose track of time!

There are other things that can be signs of dyslexia that people wouldn’t normally think of. Most people know that dyslexia affects reading and writing, but there are signs that have nothing to do with the written word.

Take memory, for instance. If you’re clued up on dyslexia you probably know that it can affect the memory. However, a lot of people don’t realise that the effect isn’t necessarily negative. A poor short-term memory is pretty common for dyslexics, but so is an unusually good long-term memory. Dyslexics often have a worse-than-average ability to remember names – but a better-than-average recall of faces. If you struggle to remember what you had for lunch, but you can still remember your lines from your school play, it could be thanks to dyslexia.

Emotional sensitivity is another feature that you wouldn’t necessarily associate with dyslexia. To be fair, this is probably a result of the challenges of living with dyslexia. By the time children (or adults) get help, they have often dealt with a lot of frustration and disappointment caused by something they didn’t understand. This can make them more sensitive for the rest of their lives. Again, it’s not necessarily bad news. Being more sensitive can make you more responsive and empathetic to other people. And it’s handy for an author, too!

Not all dyslexics will identify with all, or any, of these aspects of dyslexia; it’s a broad spectrum, and it affects everyone differently. But next time you arrive late for an appointment because your mind slipped through a black hole into the past or the future, don’t beat yourself up – it might just be your dyslexia!

Karen Murdarasi, Guest Blogger

Dyslexic self-esteem

“Improving your self-esteem is probably the best thing anyone with dyslexia can do for themselves”.

I found this nugget of advice in the Dyslexia Association of Ireland’s booklet ‘Living with Dyslexia – Information for Adults with Dyslexia’. It’s prompted me to share with you:

  1. The booklet’s definition of low self-esteem
  2. 3 things that have helped me rebuild my self-esteem
  3. Further information

The booklet’s definition of low self-esteem

“Low self-esteem means that the person does not value themselves as a human being deserving of respect and fulfilment”.

3 things that have helped me rebuild my self-esteem

1)    Giving myself credit

Once when I was speaking to another dyslexic adult, I told him that I’d failed a postgraduate course. He pointed out that although I’d failed it, I’d passed my undergraduate degree.  ‘You should give yourself credit for that’, he said ‘- it’s a huge achievement’.  This helped me because in my mind, my failure had superseded my success.

2)    Counselling

Until I was identified in mid-adulthood, my unaddressed dyslexia generated many problems in my functioning, e.g. relating to others, learning, and work. These problems led to negative experiences which eroded my self-esteem.

Being identified helped me understand the problems and start to address them. But I still had the negative experiences to deal with.  So I went to see a counsellor.  He told me that:

  • I can’t undo my negative experiences; I can only learn to live with them. This stopped me wanting to set right what had gone wrong.
  • Forgiving those who caused me grief would help me move on, whereas continuing to resent them would do me harm.
  • I could use my negative experiences to my advantage, by finding ways to grow from them positively, for example by learning from them.

This helped me deal with my negative experiences.

3)    Adult learning

Another thing that damaged my self-esteem was repeatedly failing to achieve my potential in learning. So in order to improve my self-esteem, I needed to prove to myself that I could learn successfully.

I now know what adjustments I need in a learning context. Using that awareness, I’ve been able to learn successfully for the first time in my life, at adult learning classes provided by my local authority. That has let me see for myself that I can learn.  

 

Further information

‘Living with Dyslexia – Information for Adults with Dyslexia’

– A booklet by Anne Hughes, with contributions from Mary Ball, Rosie Bissett and Wyn McCormack

– Published 2009 by the Dyslexia Association of Ireland

– Available to download free from Dyslexia Association of Ireland’s website  or directly from the link below:

http://www.dyslexia.ie/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Living-with-Dyslexia.pdf

– Available to borrow / consult from Dyslexia Scotland’s resource centre

– ISBN 978-0-9532427-4-0

Improving your self-esteem

·       Self-help

In addition to giving yourself credit, the booklet recommends the following. (These are all clearly explained on pages 87-91 of the booklet).

  1. Don’t be your own worst critic
  2. Don’t expect the worst
  3. Don’t dwell on the past
  4. Trust yourself
  5. Be positive

Here are 2 other self-help resources:

Wellbeing Glasgow

NHS

·       Counselling

The NHS provides free counselling. Your counsellor might find this list helpful: Resources for counsellors on counselling dyslexic adults.

How about you?

  1. Do you have low self-esteem?
  2. What do you think has caused it?
  3. What tips on self-esteem would you give yourself and others?

Please feel free to post a comment or use these questions for self-reflection.

Content in this blog post from the ‘Living with Dyslexia’ booklet detailed above is reproduced with kind permission of Dyslexia Association of Ireland.

By an anonymous adult member of Dyslexia Scotland

Faster than the speed of thought

How many different alternate realities or lives can I have played out in my mind before I decided to sit down and write this blog? The answer’s countless, that’s how my mind tends to function.

It can often be a daily grind or struggle to function in a world that doesn’t truly know how to compute my way of thinking. But with all that said, dyslexia isn’t a bad thing, it’s a good thing. Let me explain it this way – imagine being a hero, specifically The Flash from the DC comics universe.

When he runs everything in the world around him becomes slower and gets left behind.

At the age of 11 is when I was diagnosed with dyslexia. I’m sure many reading this post can identify. That moment where it feels as if a black hole formed right in front of you and pulled you in. School was difficult too, because you can feel alone and like nobody understands what you’re saying.

Is there hope?

Let me tell you, there is hope and you are not a failure or any of the negative words teachers of people have you used to describe you. I know from personal experience what it’s like to live via the negative words of lack of encouragement spoken into your life. Dyslexia isn’t a disease or a syndrome it’s a Super Power gifted especially to us and you can do the impossible and be the best you that’s possible.

What’s next?

If you feel like you need help and support then get in touch with Dyslexia Scotland and someone will be happy to chat with you or guide you, wherever you are in Scotland.

Encouragement from me to you

If you’re a creative person and dyslexic side-projects are a must and there is never an end to them. I created my own YouTube web series called Psalm Lab Go. Follow me on my adventures through life with dyslexia, Pokemon GO and I also do Tech reviews & music to encourage others just like you and me.

Visit youtube.com/psalmlab to tune in on Wednesday & Friday evening for new episodes.

Smart Hopewell, Guest Blogger

A new perspective on new year resolutions

The festive season is brilliant, isn’t it? Full of yummy festive food (one never seems to stop eating), the festive TV and movies that all have the same message (or are very depressing because they refuse to see the magic of Christmas), oh yes and all your family and friends.

This is all absolutely marvelous: but do you ever get in to the middle of that week between Christmas and New Year and completely lose track of which day it is?

Might I suggest you take some time out each day to explore how to become more yourself.

I am not suggesting a huge change right here and now. I am not suggesting that you become a completely different person in 2018. And most of all, I am not suggesting that this year you will keep all of your New Year’s resolutions.

However, how about trying the following:-

BOXING DAY (26th Dec.) = Figure out what you LOVE to do. Notice I haven’t said point out what you are good at nor have I asked you to acknowledge what everyone else says you should do with YOUR life. If you are having trouble with this, think of what you loved as a wee kid. Stuff that you had to be dragged away from. Wait, wait, stop that inner critic who is reminding you of authority figures (or role models) who told you your finished products were not good. Think of all ground-breakers :- they do not just churn out what everyone else thinks is good! Do they?

27th December = Sit down and start writing some lists, draw some mind maps or just get something concrete down on paper (or into some document(s), e.g. word-processing, publishing or any other type of software you are comfortable using). In my experience, allowing ideas just to go round and around in my head it just gets bigger and bigger and more and more difficult to put into practice.

28th December = Now you have some idea(s) about what you are dealing with, start doing some research (probably on the net). Google techniques, materials needed, practices required etc. If you are very interesting and have 2 or 3 or even more ideas, have a look into all possibilities. Top tip: don’t forget YouTube – lots of people upload lots of useful ‘how-to’ videos there.

29th December = I suggest it’s time to gather up any Christmas money and/or vouchers you received and if weather (and health) permit, head out to the sales. Or just get on the shopping websites. And see about buying the things you need to start/continue/re-start your chosen talent. Lets face it a bit of retail therapy never goes wrong.

30th December = Have a go. Try out all those lovely new things. Or try on any new sports gear you bought yesterday.

OK, OK if everything’s going just a bit too quickly: re-visit any or all of the above steps.

31st December = Make some special New Year’s resolutions. Instead of making resolutions to be someone else, to change yourself, to make yourself like celebs: make resolutions to be more yourself and to acknowledge what you love. Lets face it you will succeed if you resolve to be you: if you try to be someone else you are far, far more likely to fail.

1st January = If you are awake and have energy practice your resolution(s) and/or make plans about how you will. Enjoy this New Year where you will try to defeat self-destructive habits by developing your true self.

Doreen Kelly

Dyslexia Scotland member and volunteer

Be Yourself

10 things I appreciate about the Scottish Book Trust

The Scottish Book Trust changes lives through reading and writing. It is a charity, part-funded by the Scottish Government.  It supports me enormously as a dyslexic booklover and writer.  Here are 10 things about the SBT that I’m particularly grateful for.  They are just a sample of what the SBT offers.  I hope you’ll find something that interests you, either here or on the SBT’s website.

  1. Videos

The SBT has a wide range of videos, for example the Creative Writing Masterclass with Phil Earle and the Booktrailer masterclass.

2. Twitter feed

SBT’s twitter feed @scottishbktrust is very visual, with lots of images and video. I find it exciting, informative, and stimulating.

3. Opportunities for writers

The SBT compiles a list of opportunities for writers each month. This lets me find out about places I can submit my writing to. For example, in September’s list I found out about a poetry project, which I wrote a poem for.

4. E-Newsletter

I receive the list of opportunities in an e-Newsletter. The newsletter also includes advice and a prompt for the SBT’s monthly 50-word Fiction Competition.

5. Booklists

The SBT compiles its own booklists, for example this one.  I find these lists really helpful because they show the book covers and let me discover books to engage with. The lists are categorized by age (adult, teen, child); and type, including Scottish books.

6. Information on dyslexia

The SBT’s website has many interesting and useful articles on dyslexia.

7. Bookbug

Bookbug is an early years programme that aims to inspire a love of books and reading in every child across Scotland. As this introductory video explains, Bookbug achieves far more than that. The Bookbug programme has gift packs for babies, toddlers, 3-year-olds and Primary 1 pupils. It also has song / rhyme sessions for parents / carers and their pre-school children. There’s a Bookbug session in almost every library in Scotland. The Bookbug songs and rhymes are available here, in audio and video.

8. Book Week Scotland

Book Week Scotland is an annual celebration of books in Scotland. This year it runs from 27 Nov. – 3 Dec. There are hundreds of live events across Scotland and also a virtual festival. I’ve enjoyed a wide range of events in previous years. For example, author talks, a self-management event, and a book launch.   These events have helped me to grow professionally and personally, for example by letting me make new contacts and by exposing me to new books. Community groups and organisations can host event(s) during Book Week Scotland. The SBT provides funding and promotional materials.

9. Public participation campaign

Each year the SBT sets a theme for Book Week Scotland. This year’s theme is Nourish. The SBT invites members of the public to write on that theme, about something from their own experience. The SBT publishes on its website all the writing people submit that meets the campaign’s criteria. It also chooses some of the submissions for an e-book that it publishes during Book Week Scotland.

10. Live Literature Programme

The SBT runs a programme called Live Literature that part-funds events and residencies. Community groups / schools choose an author / creator from the SBT’s directory and run their event / residency whenever they wish.

How about you?

Would you like to share your experience of the SBT e.g. what you like about it, how it helps you, and how you take part in its work? Please feel free to post a comment.

By an anonymous adult member of Dyslexia Scotland

BWS-Logos-RGB-PinkBWS (3)

 

 

 

 

Painting Bigger, Brighter Pictures with Books about Dyslexia

Composition with hardcover booksGiven that the theme of this year’s Dyslexia Awareness Week was Positive About Dyslexia, I thought now was a really good time to highlight one of the ways in which this can be achieved. I know it’s an old, well-known saying, but knowledge really is power and I don’t think this is truer than in the case of an often misunderstood condition like dyslexia.

I was oblivious to the memory issues some people with dyslexia have before I started volunteering with Dyslexia Scotland, because that’s not an aspect of dyslexia the media really talks about. The only reason I got informed about all the lesser known bits of dyslexia was because the charity is really good about giving people as big and clear a picture as they possibly can.  But you can’t paint pictures without paint or brushes – or, more accurately, you can’t be informed without the information existing – and being accessible – in the first place.  That’s why I think the Resource Centre that Dyslexia Scotland has is really important.  Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know.  Or the right place to look.  Given that it’s likely we picked up some new members as a result of DAW some of you may not even have known that we have it.  So let’s go over the basics.

First off, conscious of the fact that different people have different needs and associations with people who have dyslexia and that people will be at various stages in their lives, we have a diverse range of resources in the hope that everyone with an interest in dyslexia can find something to suit their needs. For ease of use, the resources are split into sections e.g. “Information for Teachers” or “Further Education and the Workplace.”  Mindful of the fact that not everyone can get to our office in Stirling, there’s a master booklet detailing what we have, an electronic catalogue of resources and a troubleshooting sheet on how the process of borrowing and the catalogue works, all of which are accessible to our members online.  Should you wish to be loaned something, you have the option to collect it yourself or have it posted to you.  Oh, and provided you’re a member of Dyslexia Scotland, it’s completely free!

The hope is that by using it, people are, for a variety of reasons, able to become more positive about dyslexia. Of course, the information people seek differs from person to person, and therefore their objectives and outcomes will vary.  It could be people just want to be more knowledgeable about the condition, need new strategies for themselves, their children or their students or the want dyslexia friendly fiction.  The Resource Centre encompasses all of those things and more, and is growing all the time – the master booklet is always being updated, in the hope that we can help arm more and more people with information and be positive about dyslexia as a result.

You can find out more about the Resource Centre here.

Gemma Bryant, Resource Centre Volunteer

E-learning course: ‘How to Succeed at Work and Home as a Dyslexic Adult’

The British Dyslexia Association offers an eLearning course that aims to help dyslexic adults succeed at work and home. It’s based on research which you can find out about at http://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/news/item/page/2/name/research-into-issues-for-adults-with-dyslexia-specific-learning-difficulties

I did the course recently. In this blog post I’d like to share:

  1. What the course does;
  2. How the course is dyslexia-friendly; and
  3. Further information.

 

  1. What the course does

 

The course identifies 10 traits that make dyslexic adults successful:

  • Determination
  • Self-esteem
  • Passion
  • Finding the right niche for you
  • Problem solving
  • Creativity
  • Sociable with good verbal skills
  • Empathy
  • Effective, fluent use of coping strategies
  • Help from family and mentors
  • It explains these traits, and tells you how you can gain or develop them.

2. How the course is dyslexia-friendly

  • Interactive, concrete and multi-sensory
  • The course mainly comprises written material but it features some visual content, case studies of real people, and activities such as questionnaires.
  • It signposts to resources e.g. videos, websites.
  • There is a course discussion forum (which you can opt out of if you wish). When I did the course there were 3 other participants doing it at the same time.

 

  •  Accessible
  • The course is in electronic print so you can use a text reader to listen to the text.
  • The background is pastel yellow. The titles are in navy font and the rest of the text is in grey font. The font is non-serif (i.e. without tails on the letters). The only way you can change the design is to copy and paste the text into a Word document.

 

  •  Clearly structured
  • The course is structured into 10 chapters, one on each trait. Each chapter is broken up into a series of pages. The pages vary in length from one short screen to several screens long. When you open each chapter there is a list of the pages on the right hand side, so you can see at a glance what the chapter contains.
  • On the home page of the course, there is a list of all the chapters with a box next to each. You can tick the boxes as you complete the chapters to keep track of what you’ve done.

 

  •  Flexible
  • You can do the chapters in any order. You can choose which chapters you do. You can redo chapters.
  • You have access to the course for 6 months. There is no restriction on how often or when you access it during that 6-month period.

 

  • Companion book
  • If you wish to consolidate or overlearn any of the course content, there is a companion book which has very similar content. The book is ‘Self Fulfilment with Dyslexia – a blueprint for Success’ by Margaret Malpas, who also wrote the course.

 

 

 

3. Further information about the course

  1. Is it assessed? No.
  2. Does it lead to a certificate or qualification? No.
  3. Does it cost? Not if you are retired or unemployed. For everyone else, it costs £12.99.
  4. How long will it take to do? I don’t know how long it will take you. It took me around 50 hours. This was partly because I copied and pasted the text into a Word document so I could mark it up with my responses. That involved a lot of reformatting.
  5. Where can I find out more? http://www.bdaelearning.org.uk/course/info.php?id=86

 

 

By an anonymous adult member of Dyslexia Scotland

Blue Ribbon Yarn Bombing

Yarn Bombing has been seen in many public places in recent years. I have been inspired by these activities and Ellie’s Blue Ribbons for Dyslexia Awareness Week (6-11 Nov in Scotland) and the photograph below shows the result. I decided to yarn bomb some of the educational and organisational equipment which can cause problems for people with dyslexia.

To my fellow ‘Made By Dyslexia‘ individuals, I say never forget that your unique neurodiverse thinking can overcome the difficulties that dyslexia causes.

To everyone who is curious about diversity and how each person’s unique talents can be used to create a better world, I would encourage you to check out the wonderful resources offered by Dyslexia Scotland.

I hope Ellie’s (and my own) blue ribbons will be worn proudly by everyone and anyone. And when people see them they will be reminded to focus on each person’s talents and not their shortcomings. May they also be a reminder that equality in some situations can be anything but fair. Situations where each individual’s strengths come together and where a few reasonable adjustments are in place to level the playing field, could create magic and wonderful things.

Doreen Kelly, Dyslexia Scotland Member and Volunteer

Blue_ribbons_yarn

Tips on finding your way about

Map reading? Forget it! I have to find my way around a city by other means. When I planned a recent trip to London, I was able to find my destination and arrive there on time. There were some strategies that helped me. So I’d like to tell you about them here. I hope you might be able to use them to travel with confidence and success.

  1. I found out which bus to take, using the local travel website

I knew my journey in London would start from King’s Cross train station. I wanted to use the bus (rather than the underground) to reach my destination because you can see where you’re going from a bus, especially the upper deck.

So I needed to find out which bus route to take, and how often it ran. For that, I used the Transport for London website, which I found extremely dyslexia-friendly. Here’s the route diagram I used: https://tfl.gov.uk/bus/route/91.

To find the times you click on an arrowhead, like this > Arrowhead

And you can access the timetable from there. I was amazed at how easy I found it to read the times and timetable.

2. I located the bus stop, using a video and Google maps

Next, I had to work out where my stop was. I saw from the route diagram that it was called R. I needed to see a photo of the stop, rather than a map of it. So I googled ‘number 91 bus route + video’ and found a video of the bus route. It has a catchy soundtrack which made me feel positive about my journey!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S8lrNfUyWBk.

The video let me work out where the bus stop was, in relation to the station.

Then I used Google maps in earth view to go for a virtual walk, from the train station to the bus stop. It was quite tricky to navigate but after some perseverance I managed to see my stop. That meant I knew exactly where it was and how to reach it.

3. I found out where to get off the bus, using a landmark / Google images

The stop I needed to get off at was the terminus of the route. It should have been easy. But I still managed to get off a stop early, and I know from using buses regularly that this is a common mistake people make. So I knew I’d need a landmark. I found one on Google maps (the National Gallery). Then I looked it up on Google images so I could recognise it when I saw it. I used it to find the right road for the walk to my final destination.

Final tips

  1. You can’t pay your fare with coins or bank notes on London buses. You have to pay by contactless technology; or by Oyster Card (the travel pass for public transport in London). If you plan to pay by contactless check your bank card has the contactless icon on it.
  2. To complement any verbal instructions you are given, ask your contact for an aerial photo of the whole building with an arrow pointing to the exact entrance you’ve to use.
  3. Plan in plenty of extra time to your journey in case of delays or mistakes
  4. Ask someone for help to plan your journey if you need it. Be specific in what you ask for help with.
  5. Ask for help on your journey if you need it. If I tell someone I’m dyslexic before I ask them for help, they are more understanding and patient.

By an anonymous adult member of Dyslexia Scotland