When you read a blog, you want to come away more knowledgeable about a topic, gain a new perspective or at the very least laugh out loud. Let’s hope this blog about my journey with dyslexia delivers all three!
Key Fact About Dyslexia
It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia. Please take a few seconds and let that statistic sink in.
My Early Journey with Dyslexia
As I write this blog, I am a 41-year-old dyslexic woman who has worked in marketing for 15 plus years and has had a bumpy journey embracing her dyslexic self.
I was ‘officially’ identified when I was 16, and the catalyst for me getting an assessment was that I spectacularly failed all my higher prelims. It was expected that I would be able to achieve five Highers in 5th year, which was a big undertaking, but it is what my teachers thought I should be aiming for. Throughout my school years, I had always struggled with spelling, reading and writing. My parents flagged this continually to my teachers; however, their response was always the same, she is not dyslexic. After not getting the support from the school, my parents decided to pay privately for an assessment. I still have that report. When I read it now, I realize how the education system let me down. I had to struggle and work so much harder than my peers to achieve good grades with no extra support or advice on strategies or that I was not stupid. It was just that the system unfortunately was not designed to extract the best from dyslexic brains, in fact unfortunately it often highlights their weaknesses. With exams being the determinate tool to decide if you were succeeding at school.
Not surprisingly, I left school after 5th year, as basically I had had enough. I went straight into Uni and began a degree in Accountancy. I went to Glasgow Caledonian University where they had an inclusive approach to students with dyslexia. I was given a laptop, access to software, extra time for exams, and I was allowed to use a computer during exams. It made a massive difference. At school, all I was given was extra time, and in the same room as all the other students, which at the time was humiliating, as 100+ pupils stood up to leave, and I just sat there with everyone asking, ‘why aren’t you leaving?’.
Now, remember I was at school over 20 years ago, and there wasn’t the awareness there is now or the positive language used around the dyslexia skill set. Looking back, I can see that it was those negative and traumatic experiences I had in school, particularly secondary school, that made it that much harder for me to embrace my dyslexic self.
Fast forward, to now and I have carved out a successful career within marketing. For the majority of my working life, I have not been open about my dyslexia. This was entirely down to me not being confident about that part of myself and extremely scared of being held back from career opportunities or my peers, and managers not thinking I could deliver my objectives. Especially when you work in marketing, being able to write and proof check is a key skill.
Why the change of heart towards my dyslexia?
Well, the reason for this change in mind-set is that last year my amazing, funny and intelligent niece, Isla, received her ‘official’ identification. My sister and brother-in-law are both teachers and were very quick off the mark and engaged with the school to start the process. Isla’s attitude to being dyslexic is that it is part of her and nothing to hide or feel ashamed of and is immensely proud to be dyslexic. She understands and accepts that her brain is wired differently from most, and she wears that proudly knowing that it makes her extraordinary. This made me think, I need to embrace what I call ‘my inner Isla’. I contacted Dyslexia Scotland, where I was connected with Helen Fleming who has been amazing. I joined their volunteering team as a changemaker, with the purpose of raising awareness of dyslexia, what it means and how businesses can make their culture and working practices dyslexia friendly.
The Road to Embracing My Dyslexic Self
I have accepted that actually it is the fact that I am dyslexic that has so far led me to have a successful career. I am an excellent communicator, I strive for perfection in my work, I am a great problem solver, I embrace change, and I find it easy to see the bigger picture. So by not being open about my ‘pal’ dyslexia, I am not giving her the recognition she deserves. I am also incredibly lucky to work for a company that embraces neurodiversity. They are happy to make any adjustments that I might need and provide me with any additional tools that I need to deliver my job.
Read Part 2 of this blog here.
Lindsay Miller, Dyslexia Changemaker