The Choices We Make – the Life it Shapes

When I was 7, my mother asked if I wanted to change school. I was at a public school and was struggling with my reading and writing. It was suggested I was dyslexic but there was little extra time to give me at my current school to help me improve. My mother had found a place for me at a private school, where the money spent would go towards a smaller class size with (in theory) more time for the individual student and extra, private tutoring after school. I was excited about the idea. I loved change. So, after the summer break I started at a new school. So far, so good. I made instant friends, being chatty and outgoing and even felt comfortable (shamefully) ignoring the less popular girls to hang with the ‘cool kids’ – I’d never been a cool kid before myself!

However, shortly after starting at the new school, there was a school party. I went. I hung out with the cool girls and we shared dumb stories about boys. The following Monday I walked into class with confidence and joy… but things had changed.

As an adult I can try and analyse what had happened. Had the cool girls become jealous of my elaborate stories, or resented me for clearly lying, or were they simply looking for a new girl to pick on, bored by the old selection?

I don’t have the answers. I once tried getting it from one of the bullies as an adult, but she denied it had ever happened though it hadn’t stopped until I left school altogether.

I’m now an introvert. I don’t want to be the centre of attention and would prefer staying at home with a book, to going to a party. I’m not outgoing nor sociable. I’m happy with who I am (most of the time) but there are consequences to being a quiet person both socially, romantically and career wise.

I’m still dyslexic, of course, but I can mostly get by without anyone realising (thank goodness for spell check and autocorrect). In my spare time I write (unpublished) books and blogs and I love reading too, so, naturally, most people are surprised when I tell them I’m dyslexic.

Then, the other day I was talking to my mum about my outgoing, chatty 7-year-old niece who may need to move school soon due to moving house. My mum was worried. What if she faces the same problems as me, being removed from her life-long friends? Why would she? I asked. She’s confident and happy, I argued. So were you when you were that age, before the school change, my mother reminded me.

I was stunned. I’m 35 and I’d forgotten this fact about myself as I identify so strongly with being an introvert. I desperately wanted to change as a teen and in my 20s but failed. Clearly I’d always been a person in need of peace and quiet… but apparently not.

I was left wondering – if I could get a do-over and not get the intense help I did as a child for my dyslexia, risking being very badly dyslexic today, but had instead grown up among friends, and stayed confident and happy, like my older, very sociable, popular and dyslexic brother, who avoids emails, still embarrassed he might make mistakes, would I make a different choice…?

After all, it wasn’t my dyslexia that ruined my confidence but my peers and teachers.

I think I know the answer. It was difficult for me to admit.

What would you choose if it was you?

By Terese Smith (guest blogger)

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Dyslexia Scotland’s Youth Day is Always Full of Stars!

DK_stars

As the annual Youth Day is just around the corner once again, I thought I’d let you all know about my experience at last year’s youth day.

I had a stall in the foyer with my paper crafts (see the picture above). I had some complete items for the young delegates to pick up and keep and some packs for them to make up themselves (either at the youth day or later at home).

I believe that these star cards are fantastic illustrations of the hidden nature of dyslexia. I wanted the young people to learn from them that their label needn’t be, “I’m dyslexic” but “I’m A Star, with dyslexia”. I provided many colours (and patterned papers) to illustrate the individual nature of dyslexia, and how individuality should be embraced.

I enjoyed watching the young bright stars who came along to take part in the event and how they interacted with the wonderful volunteer stars (who helped them all to have as good a time as possible [given it was a Saturday]). I hope this event and every subsequent annual youth day allows young, and the slightly more experienced, to learn from each other.

I believe there are 2 main points everyone needs to learn (and re-learn) and remember:-

  • We cannot hide our ‘star’light under a bush or under the disabling effects of dyslexia (or whatever our problems are)
  • Mistakes are learning experiences. More Mistakes = More Learning

I hope that through the Youth Day the young people will gain some “wisdom” / “well-being”. I hope the next generation of dyslexics will be strong advocates for themselves and others. It’s through strong and nurturing people like the workshop speakers and facilitators, that this world will become a better place for everyone; and hopefully help the human race make use of its diversity and allow everyone to live better and more fulfilled lives.

There is something else I would like to suggest to the Dyslexic Community. I wasn’t overly involved in the dyslexic community (other than through support at school and university) when I was young. Because of this, I blamed all my muddled thinking and confused cognitive processes on my dyslexia.

It was only through attending the Adult Network meetings and my involvement with Dyslexia Scotland, that I realised that I am an anxious person (and that my mood can be affected by the weather and seasons). I have found my dyslexia has been much easier to control now that I have sought help with controlling my moods.

Therefore, I would suggest to everyone living with dyslexia: to find out about it. Knowledge (however you input it) is power. Understanding gives control. Control fights monsters and lets the light shine brightly.

Doreen Kelly, Dyslexia Scotland member and volunteer

Learning styles and strategies

This blog post looks at learning styles:

  • What are learning styles?
  • How can learning styles help dyslexic people?
  • How can you work out your own learning styles?

And then at strategies:

  •  Some approaches and strategies I use to learn things by ear
  • Some books that offer approaches and strategies.

What are learning styles?

Learning styles are the ways we prefer to learn things. Just as our personalities vary from person to person, so do our learning styles – they are in effect our characters as learners.

There are many different types of learning styles.  For example:

  • sensory (learning through seeing, hearing or doing);
  • cognitive (how you think and deal with information); and
  • environmental (e.g. learning on your own or with others).

 

This interactive pictogram shows one set of learning styles.

How can learning styles help dyslexic people?

Learning styles provide a framework you can use to work out how you learn. Then you can choose approaches and strategies that suit you.  For example, if you learn better through pictures than words, you can choose approaches and strategies that will let you learn through pictures.

How can you work out your own learning styles?

I recommend the questionnaire that is no. 2 on this list as a starting point.

3 approaches / strategies I use to learn content by ear

My school Modern Studies teacher was wont to say ‘OK everyone, put your pens down now and listen. This is a really important point’.  Then he’d tell us something that he wanted us to grasp.  However, I couldn’t take it in by just listening – I had to write it down in order to keep focussed on it.  But even writing it down didn’t make it ‘go in’.

By contrast, to break up the lesson he would tell us stories that had nothing to do with Modern Studies. They have stuck in my mind, yet I never wrote a word of them down.

So although just listening didn’t work at all for Modern Studies, it worked a treat for stories.

Since then, I’ve discovered that taking visual notes while I listen helps me learn Modern Studies-type content (abstract and factual). I make my notes more visual by using visual recording techniques and spider diagrams (see no. 6 on this list).  I use this strategy for taking in the content of church sermons.

Doing something else at the same time as listening also helps me take in fictional audiobooks. In this case, though, the other activity needs to be something mindless, like washing up.  You could also try knitting or squeezing a stressball.

So to summarize, here are 3 approaches / strategies I use to learn content by ear:

  • Just listening if the content is short stories e.g. a few sentences.
  • Taking visual notes if the content is abstract and factual e.g. sermons.
  • Doing something mindless if the content is long stories e.g. audiobooks.

Books that offer approaches and strategies

The following books suggest approaches and strategies suitable for each different learning style. They are all available to borrow from Dyslexia Scotland’s Resource Centre. You can also make up your own strategies and approaches.

  • ‘Making Dyslexia Work for You’ by Goodwin and Thomson
  • Living with Dyslexia’ pages 56 – 57
  • ‘The Dominance Factor’ by Carla Hannaford
  • ‘Dyslexia and Learning Style – A Practitioner’s Handbook’ by Tilly Mortimore
  • ‘The Dyslexic Advantage’ by B and F Eide chapters 8, 13, 18 and 23.

How about you?

  • What sticks in your mind?
  • Can you work out why?
  • What strategies and approaches help you learn?

By an anonymous adult member of Dyslexia Scotland