The Choices We Make – the Life it Shapes Part 2

In my last blog ‘Part 1’ of this, I told the story of being moved from one school to another, to get help with my dyslexia, and how that move made a huge positive difference in terms of my literacy skills. On the other hand, the school move led to 7 years of bullying, and it destroyed my confidence and outgoing personality.

I ended my last blog pondering, if I could do it all over again, would I pick changing schools and get vital help for my dyslexia, or would I stay and grow up potentially heavily dyslexic, but with friends and confidence?

This is part 2, because the thing about regrets or wishes for ‘do overs’ is that they’re based on 20/20 hindsight and a presumption that life would turn out differently – better – if we’d followed a different path in our lives. But there’s no such guarantee, now is there?

I often have these ‘what if’ conversations with my partner. He grew up with confidence and friends and no learning (or other) difficulties. He got a ‘sensible’ (but not passion-felt) degree. He moved to a small Scottish town, he bought a flat, he got a safeguarded job, which he’ll be in until he retires. He never travelled. He isn’t ambitious. He doesn’t have a drive towards anything other than an easy life and financially safe retirement. And there’s nothing wrong with that! But not terribly exciting, in my opinion.

Whereas, I had learning struggles and so I studied hard to overcome the worst of my dyslexia. My bullying led me to desperately wanting to understand human behaviour and developed my passion for psychology. I fought my low confidence and self-worth for decades, constantly forcing myself to push beyond my boundaries. I left my business degree and the chance for a reliable book-keeping career behind, and moved to London. I then moved to Australia and New Zealand. After a bad break-up, I finally moved to Scotland, and I got my dream degree in psychology, despite critics telling me I couldn’t make it. With each step I took down my unorthodox path, I grew a little bit more in confidence and spirit. I walked away from another long-term, but bad relationship, ignoring the fear of being alone, or to be found unwanted, and I found love again with a supportive, accepting and great man – but not until I’d come to accept and love myself, flaws and all.

I’ve now set up a private counselling practice, despite my fear and embarrassment that my website, Facebook posts or contract might be riddled with spelling mistakes. I can still feel overwhelmed with a sense of ‘I can’t do this’, ‘I’m a fraud’, ‘I’m not as good as everyone else, so I shouldn’t be doing this’. But I won’t let my fears or inner critical voice stop me.

So, was I to get a do-over when it came to picking schools, I might have wanted to stay put and hope to have grown up with friends and more confidence. However, I know that the struggles I faced, the emotional turmoil, and the confidence battles I had to fight with myself, made me a stronger person, made me determined and stubborn (for better and worse), made me ambitious and adventurous. I made me someone who practices compassion in all encounters, knowing what it feels like to left out, ignored, or (mis)treated for being ‘different’; and it made me someone who wants to help improve other people’s lives. Had I had an ‘easy’ life growing up, I probably wouldn’t have developed such strengths.

What about you?

Terese Smith, guest blogger

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5 ways to present information visually

I benefit from information being presented visually. So in this blog post, I’d like to share with you 5 ways to present information visually, and the purposes I use them for.

1. Spider diagram

What’s a spider diagram?

A diagram that has a main idea in the middle and key points around it. Spider diagrams don’t always use colour and have no specific structure.  In other words, you can position the key points wherever you wish.

I use spider diagrams to:

a) Brainstorm for a piece of creative writing

b) Plan a piece of non-fiction writing. I write my key points on post-it notes because this lets me move them around once I have them all down. Having my content all on one page lets me make connections between points.  For example, often I realise that 2 or 3 points that I thought were separate are actually examples of the same thing.  That lets me group them.  Moving and grouping my points generates a structure.

c) Learn and give talks. When I’m using spider diagrams for talks, I add pictures because they help me memorise the content. I chunk my talk into sections and for each section I make a different spider diagram on a different colour of paper

2. Mind map

What’s a mind map?

Like a spider diagram, a mind map is a diagram that has a main idea in the middle and key points around it. However, mind maps also show how the points relate to each other, and use colour, symbols and pictures.

Here are 3 resources on mind mapping

a) Audiobook: Mind Mapping – How to Liberate Your Natural Genius

b) Step-by-step instructions: ‘Understanding Dyslexia’ pages 68-75

c) Software:  I Have a Writing Difficulty, What Can Help?

3. Illustrated text

What’s illustrated text?

Text and complementary images presented together to convey the same information. I make a simple table in Word with 2 columns. I put one point in each row, with an image on the left and the corresponding text on the right.

I use illustrated text to:

a) Learn talks I give

b) Learn stories

c) Summarise recommendations I make in a talk (I hand out copies to the audience)

You can find sources of images in

a) CALL Scotland’s Guide to Picture and Symbol Sets for Communication and

b) Our top 5 sites for sourcing great images and photos on your iPad.

4. Sketchnote

What’s a sketchnote?

A record of something in words, pictures and other visual elements e.g. colour, frames, callouts. The text and visual elements combine to make an integrated whole.

I’ve made sketchnotes to summarise the main points of talks and blog posts I’ve given / written. And sketchnotes by others have helped me to learn stories and to find out about a network group.

For more information see Sketchnoting for Teaching and Learning.

5. Timeline

What’s a timeline?

A line that shows the events of something in chronological order.

I made a timeline to remind myself of a correspondence I had with an organisation.

Manual or electronic?

I use a pencil and paper to create some visual presentations of information e.g. spider diagrams; and a computer for others e.g. illustrated text.  If I’m presenting the information to others, I create an electronic version.

Further information

You’ll find a summary of this blog post here, along with some worked examples.

By a member of Dyslexia Scotland.