High School Transition

We’re republishing this post from 2018, as we thought it might be helpful for parents. Good luck to all the Primary 7s moving up to high school this year.

This year my dyslexic son started high school.  Worried about how he would cope with this new school environment, given that organisation is not his strong point, we ensured he went to as many transition events as possible before starting.  In November last year, he went to a taster day at the school, so he would become familiar with the building layout, staff and pupils.  He enjoyed the day and made some friends which helped him when thinking about changing schools.

Towards the end of primary seven, he did two full transition days, where pupils were given timetables and spent time in each subject classroom.  I discovered that there was a holiday club at the school over the summer which used the school’s sporting facilities, so my son did a week of activities to further help him get used to being in the school environment.  He enjoyed this, and I feel it did help him, if nothing else he knew how to get to the PE department!  His main concern seemed to be that he would get lost and be late for class.  I looked up Dyslexia Scotland’s advice for pupils moving to high school – this leaflet is very helpful.

When he started school, I made several copies of his timetable, as he is very forgetful and often loses things.  I also made some backup copies.  I then typed out his timetable in a word document with the font Open dyslexic, using one page for each day. The font is free and can be downloaded from https://www.opendyslexic.org/.  I stuck these sheets to his wall to help him become familiar with what subject he had each day.  I ordered coloured rolls of plain paper and covered his text books and jotters with one colour for each subject.  I also bought coloured A4 files to match.  I made up a key with the subjects and their corresponding colours and stuck that up next to his timetables.  I had to check each day with him that he had what he needed for each subject against a list supplied by the school.

Initially, it was a lot of work helping my son become organised for school.  However, three months in he knows his timetable, although he always looks at it to double-check.  He still has trouble recording his homework accurately in his diary, but the school are involved in helping him, with teachers checking his diary. I get him to pack his bag for school at night-time, so that he isn’t panicking in the morning or forgetting things. I try not to do everything for my son, but early on I did have to help him sort his work into the correct files and folders and still do, although he is now better at this himself.  The colour coding has helped him tremendously and he can see at a glance which books are in his bag.  I would recommend giving yourself time to help your child make these adjustments.

Lorna Murray, guest blogger

Covid-19: an unexpected ‘trial run’ of accessible digital learning

As I draw to the end of my time at university, I have been reflecting on my experience as a dyslexic student between 2017-2021. Teaching norms and the structure of university education has certainly changed drastically during the Covid-19 pandemic. Just like schools and workplaces, universities have switched to online platforms to deliver education, and like many of my dyslexic peers, this digitalisation has actually been complementary to my dyslexic mind. The recording of lectures has made processing information more straightforward, with the ability to pause lectures and take notes in my own time. Additionally, automated captions allowed me to focus and concentrate on information easily. Exams have also been digitalised, meaning that ‘take home’ exams have become the norm and laptop use is mandatory. It seems that in the shadow of a global pandemic, ideas about accessible arrangements have been reshaped. Now that institutions have been forced to use digital platforms, there is hope that some of these virtual mediums will be around to stay.

Back in 2017, my university, amongst many others, expressed how it would be impossible to record lectures using ‘lecture capture’, which would have made them more accessible to disabled students, including dyslexics. Lecture capture simply means recording lectures as they happen in real life, and then distributing them to students who require the recording. A lot of universities used to argue that recording lectures would lead to fears over ownership and effectively publicise private education. However, given the abundance of recorded lectures during the Coivd-19, there are no reported instances of this occurring, which suggest that this is not as big an issue as previously thought.  

The pandemic seems to have forced institutions to trial digital alternatives that they once argued were impossible. But why has it taken a global pandemic to make university content accessible? There has been an endless stream of student campaigns fighting for more accessible education for disabled students, including dyslexics. The Scottish Government has given permission for students to record lectures if they are eligible under the Disabled Student Allowance (DSA), however having tried to do so myself, I can attest that it is very difficult to capture a good quality recording on the equipment provided. Student Unions have argued for years that if universities recorded lectures, the quality of recordings would be better quality under their supervision. Pre-Covid, these campaigns were largely unsuccessful but universities have recently confirmed that they will continue to record lectures and post them online for students after the pandemic. It’s unclear whether this would just be for the benefit of disabled students or for the entire student body, but either way, it’s a massive change.

The way I see it, Covid-19 has forced institutions to adopt countless digital worlds and platforms, many of which we could have never imagined being the norm in our everyday work, school or university life. And luckily for dyslexics, many of these online platforms have been a success and will be around to stay in our everyday lives. However it might have come about, it seems like everyday life is becoming increasingly accessible for dyslexics, and that’s definitely something to be excited about. 

Maddy Shepherd, Dyslexia Scotland blogger

Dyslexia, mental health and wellbeing – new documentary launched

We’ve been talking this week with Glasgow based media agency BlueStar Streaming about their plans for a new documentary about dyslexia that they’ll be filming this summer. We’re delighted to be working with them, providing support and advice and with some of our team featured in the film, along with other participants.

The team at BlueStar Streaming have just launched an Indiegogo campaign to help raise funding for the new documentary which will focus on dyslexia, mental health and wellbeing. This is a follow up to their 2017 Educate Me documentary that focused on dyslexia and the education system and which has since been widely used as a resource across the education and health sectors in Scotland to support learning and understanding around dyslexia.

Dyslexia – Educate me – YouTube

The new documentary is part two of a multi-part series focusing on dyslexia. Filming will be shot over the summer with the premiere planned for November this year.

It’s a great chance to share more about the experiences, challenges and opportunities of living with dyslexia, to learn about the strategies and approaches some of the participants use to positively support their mental health and wellbeing to enable them to thrive and excel in their lives and careers, how some are changing the narrative around how they live with dyslexia and to hear from experts about the latest thinking, tools and resources available for support. Some high-profile names including sports and music personalities will also be sharing their experiences and strategies of living with dyslexia.

The filming Director is Trevor Thomson for whom the subject is very personal and important. Trevor is dyslexic and has personal experience of the impact of growing up with dyslexia and how it affected his education and working and personal life, both negatively and positively. His young son was also recently identified as dyslexic, as this is an inherited, genetic condition. Trevor has worked with many highly creative people who are dyslexic and he is passionate about supporting Equality and Inclusiveness, through his role as Media Volunteer for Dyslexia Scotland and in his life and work generally.

The film will focus on dyslexia and mental health, exploring the emotional, psychological and economic impact of unidentified and unsupported dyslexia and the human cost to the individual, families and society. It will also investigate wellbeing techniques that high profile dyslexic people have found helpful in their lives and careers.

This has been a couple of years in the planning, with filming delayed last year due to Covid. So it’s an exciting time and we’re looking forward to hear how it develops and to watching it later in the year. The premiere is planned for Glasgow in November, to coincide with Dyslexia Awareness Week in Scotland and we’ll be sharing more information and updates as plans progress.

The team at BlueStar Streaming very much appreciate any support, whether that’s contributing to funding, reposting and sharing social posts to help get the news out or support in other ways.

To help support and be part of this important and exciting documentary and for more information about the documentary visit  Dyslexia and Mental Health | Indiegogo

We’ll share more information over the next few weeks or you can also keep updated and follow the progress via BlueStar Streaming’s social channels BlueStar Streaming (facebook.com), BlueStarStreaming (@BlueStarStream) / Twitter and Trevor Thomson (@bluestarstreaming) • Instagram photos and videos

My Dyslexia Journey

Dyslexia for me, it’s a tricky one, do I like it or not? That might sound strange, but at school, and for a short time at college, it was a case of “you probably have dyslexia…” and no official tests were carried out. I hated that because I was unsure, especially at secondary school, as at those ages there are many changes and uncertainties. The label also, I was branded as ‘different’, and ‘daft’ because I took either longer to operate or wasn’t able to fulfil the task. It was always something I felt I had to fight, rather than use as a benefit. It wasn’t until university, that I started to really realise its benefit and was granted an opportunity to sell myself and really excel through official identification and support.

School was a time where I was given extra time for exams without being fully assessed. In the moment, it was good because it allowed me an opportunity to processes what was being asked. Despite this, I felt ‘my dyslexia’ was being brushed aside, and ‘extra time’ was something that could essentially be used to avoid the issue. Has this helped me in the long run? Yes, because it granted me more time in examinations, and without that I wouldn’t be where I am now; but also, no because for my personal development, it most definitely didn’t prepare me for the expectations at university.

I started at Abertay University, on the BSc (Hons) Sports Coaching and Development in August 2016 and my support was finalised by the mid-September. Now, you may think: “Daniel, surely the support you got was sufficient enough – you got into university.” I must admit, it got me where I am, but Abertay took a chance on me. I was part of Working to Widen Access project – providing opportunities for a wider range of students. Without sounding too cliché, I ‘found’ myself here. I understand that comes with going to study something you’re interested in, and it was that, but being provided with support, allowed me to flourish and explore further learning and studying techniques. After four years, I gained the highest Grade-Point-Average for my degree programme with 4.25 out of 4.5.

You may ask, “how can you like dyslexia? And how have you used it as a benefit?” I suppose, it’s understanding it within ‘my journey’. I have stated my negative experiences, but dyslexia – the term, name, has been developed/researched so much, it allowed me feel equal to anyone else. I have found my feet through the confirmed identification, I have built my own mechanisms of study, or how to write – I am using them right now, as I write this.

I am a full-time youth football coach, I have gained so much understanding from this job, and put it into my academic work. As a dyslexic student, my mental stimulation is through practical learning, or visual learning. Through dyslexia support, I have been able to express my knowledge and emphasise what I am enthusiastic about. I structure my thinking, then apply it in an academic manner. Through a needs tutor, I was supported and found this to be effective.

To finish, regardless of your current position, don’t give up! Don’t let anyone or anything put you down because you’re dyslexic, and also don’t think I have it all ‘sussed’, because I don’t – I still get mixed up with p & b and 4 & 6. I put commas in irrelevant places (whoever proofread this, I am sure you agree!), but there is support for you to adapt and find the best ways for you.

Daniel Hiddleston

My Dyslexia and Academic Struggles

I was not identified with dyslexia until I was 18 years old and in the first year of my undergraduate degree. The reason I was assessed then is all down to the fact that two of my A-Level teachers picked up on me being different and encouraged me to take a test to be able to type my exams. The test did not tell me that I was dyslexic, but it did tell me that I needed additional support. My History teacher suggested to me on results day in August 2016, that he believed I was dyslexic, but that he was not qualified to be able to prove it. He then encouraged me to seek an assessment at university and stated that he would support me in any way I needed to gain that identification.

I found my A-level subjects very hard, due to the fact that they required me to learn information and then apply the information to my understanding of the subject. I really struggled with working out specifically what the information was meant to be applied to. I actually only achieved a U in one of my Psychology exams, due to struggling to apply the information, despite revising incredibly hard. In A-Level History when we completed past exam questions, I often struggled to manage more than an E grade, despite possessing the highest understanding of the content in the class. My teacher commented that if the exams were a question of remembering, I would come first every time, but as the exams were about applying the information I struggled.

During the first year of my degree, I found reading the large quantity of academic texts for seminars and lectures incredibly difficult as all of the small, complicated words often ended up mashed up together; and I could not see the questions on my worksheet from my answers. To solve the problem, I began colour coding my answers, so that each question’s answer would stand out. I found the reading so much easier afterwards. I also began to highlight important pieces of text using a highlighter, or a pencil if it was a borrowed copy.

During my second year of my degree, I struggled with learning about historiography, as none of it made any sense to me. When it came to writing the essay on the topic, I was completely lost. I used my extra two weeks I was entitled to, as a dyslexic, but still only managed a third as I had misunderstood the essay question.

In my third year, I became incredibly overwhelmed with my dissertation and left a lot of the writing to last minute, as I found such a mammoth task so hard to tackle. Despite finding my dissertation daunting, I managed to overcome the issue and gained a 2:1 for my piece. In an article I wrote as an assignment during my third year, I gained a 2:2 due to misrepresenting the information. My lecturer commented that my article, content-wise was possibly the best in the class, I had however misunderstood how to present the information, and as a result unfortunately had to be given a lower grade.

Despite all my difficulties and set backs, I graduated in 2019 with a 2:1 in History. Life will give you setbacks especially if you have a learning difficulty, but never let your dyslexia get in the way of your hopes and desires. Absolutely have a go at what you find incredibly hard, I did, and it paid off for me.

Charis Gambon

Dyslexia and Determination

“You need to aim lower. I really don’t think you have what it takes to go to university”. Guess who said that to me? A high school careers adviser.

I have always found words difficult. At primary school, teachers just thought I was a little bit ‘slow’ or lazy. I wouldn’t read out loud in class, trying to pronounce new words was terribly embarrassing, my reading speed was slow, and my spelling was so bad that it couldn’t even be classed as phonetic. Around 4th year at high school, an English teacher first mentioned that they thought I might have dyslexia. They referred me for a ‘test’. What actually happened was someone who worked at the school looked over some essays I had written. They let me know that they had found no stereotypical signs of dyslexia in my work… To this day I don’t have a clue what that means. So that was that, I wasn’t dyslexic, I really was just a bit ‘slow’.

The following year it was time to start thinking about what I wanted to do after school. This is when I spoke to the hugely encouraging careers adviser that basically told me not to bother looking at further education. I decided to do the opposite. I scraped into university by the absolute skin of my teeth. While there I actually started to do pretty well. Everything was now computer-based and I had found all different ways to hide and overcome my difficulties. My confidence started to grow and I really started to enjoy education. Then it came to my final year where I had to write a 7,000 word report. With increased scrutiny on my written work I couldn’t hide my issues. My supervisor said to me after I couldn’t find mistakes that he had pointed multiple times, “unless you are dyslexic or something this just isn’t good enough… no seriously you should get tested”. Two weeks later I was assessed by an educational psychologist who concluded that I was indeed quite clearly dyslexic. Today, I can proudly say that I passed that 7,000 word essay. Over the following 7 years, I went on to achieve a PhD (including a 126,000 word thesis) and publish research in world leading journals.

I don’t want this to seem negative because this is far from a sob story. Dyslexia has forced me to develop confidence in my own abilities and create my own strategies to overcome difficulties. I want this blog to be a gentle reminder to believe in yourself even when others doubt what you can do. I have come to realise that the issues we face because of our dyslexia can be overcome and we can do whatever we want. Education might not be for you, but whatever it is that you want to do, go for it. Despite almost 10 years of higher education I still can’t spell very well, I read really slowly, I avoid reading out loud like the plague, and if I need to pronounce a new word I will fail terribly and be hugely embarrassed. But you want to know what? That is perfectly okay.

Thank you for taking the time to read this short blog.

Dr. Kris McGill

Getting older…

Life is a game of snakes and ladders, and I’d been quite successful climbing up the ladders for the first two thirds of my working life and in my fifties was a suit-wearing manager.   Then, I was made redundant: down a very long snake. However, a couple of years later I picked up a job in a college and began earning again. So far so good, but something I hadn’t been required to do in my suit-wearing days was work with a PC…and this turned out to be required for the college work. It baffled me. I could do the typing and the emailing, but couldn’t deal with the templates, the forms, the charts, even some of the on-screen instructions.   The student disabilities officer spotted the problem, dyslexia she thought; and as I didn’t feel able to pay £250 for a professional assessment, urged me to consult HR – who referred me to the college medical officer.  He looked at my grey hair, and the notes, looked up and said, ‘Ah yes. The Personal Computer. Quite a new invention.  You just have to face it. You’re getting older.’   (Boy, did I need to hear that?!)  ‘Nothing to do with dyslexia. I’m going to spend time learning more about ICT when I retire.’

So, that was that.   Except that shortly after, the disabilities officer contacted me again – ‘You’re doing a new in-house qualification.  You’re registered as a student, so that means you qualify for an assessment!’  That’s how it came about. I WAS a dyslexic thinker.  Mind you, I AM retired now, and the doctor’s words come back. Does aging have any impact on dyslexic thinking?  Has there been any research on this? I’m comforted by Douglas Adams’s rules to describe our reactions to technologies, from his posthumously published book The Salmon of Doubt:

“1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.”

This, of course, is why only one’s children could operate the video recorder (if you remember those days), but don’t forget that dyslexia and some other neurodivergencies are so often indicated by a working memory problem, which was the case with my difficulties with the PC.   Moving to an AppleMac helped, but I still have difficulties understanding and completing forms online. Lifetimes and the period of ‘retirement’ are getting longer. For the dyslexic, is this a boon or a burden?

Vin Arthey, Dyslexia Scotland Volunteer Speaker

My Neurodiversity Journey (Part 2)

Thank you for reading Part 1 of my journey on the 26th of Feb and your comments.

Last time I finished off by mentioning distorted belief systems and the effect that has on the mind / body connection. They are both connected. How does our own language effect our mind body connection? Language influences the mind and affects the way we live in the world. Language gives us emotional responses and impulses – our best friend, our worst enemy. Would you agree?

Language, by using labels and names, prevent you from doing what you want. We all have to be careful what we do name and label as it may become real!! In our own minds, using our own internal dialogue; it’s important to remember; “we don’t live in the real world – we live in the world of our own narrative or internal dialogue.” As the great Rudyard Kipling; journalist and writer so eloquently said “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”

So, going back to my own distorted beliefs, they started at a very young age along with my own story I was telling myself. My long-term memory is one of my super strengths; and I can vividly remember at the age of 7 at prep school; the head teacher advising my Mother that I was the last in the year, to tie my shoe laces and school tie.

This was my first real hurt in life; I felt it and it landed right on my gut. I had not met expectations. I was a failure.

Well, that’s when I started my own narrative or internal dialogue or self-talk. Did my masking start then? Probably. From that day on at school, it was a battle which continued throughout school life. I gave many clues throughout my school years that “I was not right”, not fitting in, the butt of many jokes.

At times I would be called snobby, stand offish,, zoned out and many other labels society chose to hand out free, gratis and for nothing. In reality, unknown to all back in the 60’s and 70’s, I was autistic, dyslexic, dyspraxic, ADHD, dyscalculic with Meares Irlen syndrome. Although; unknown to me and others around me, I was all of the above.

Many of you may relate to the behaviours experienced, the names and labels picked up from well-intentioned parents, teachers, coaches and peer groups; and the effect it has or had on your own self-esteem, self-image and perception and how it left you feeling. I also confirmed to myself that I was thick and stupid, as I failed not once, but twice, every exam that I sat.

Society must be right then, I often said to myself. I have no passes in my O levels, never sat Highers and could not speak French. When passing my driving test first time, at the age of 17, as a family we concluded it was an error a mistake!! LOL.

I believed my own narrative that I was thick, stupid and retarded, which was the label for being Autistic or child psychosis. I had the proof, as I failed my O Levels twice. I had convinced myself, society’s labels were correct.

So, what then happens when you start off working and do alright? Well, the self-talk starts and the internal dialogue goes into overdrive. I will get found out soon. Will it be today? More masking was required at an unconscious level.

In my late teens, early twenties, I self-adopted another new distorted belief system:
Imposter Syndrome. My internal language changed further as I climbed the career ladder. If only they knew I was thick and stupid – the anxiety increased, the masking of my deficiencies increased. I was more than aware I could not pronounce certain words, and had to adapt even further, as the business language environment required.

To offer a sense of balance, I went on to co-own a multi pound business, visited 12 countries due to business travel and saw parts of the world I would not have necessarily visited. In the press, in recent year’s headlines have included: –

“Tel’s mind Guru’s on job again”.
“Top Scots Shrink” etc
“The shrinks are on me – the brains behind our revival is psychology guru David Yeoman”

I will finish off by quoting George Orwell, “If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought”. Once you accept the deficits then you can embrace the strengths. I am not thick or stupid or a retard and I am neither a genius or a guru. I am Neuro Autistic with dyslexia and other co-occurring conditions and most thankful that I am.

Until the next article, stay safe, be kind to yourself and gentle to those around you; being careful of what you label.

David Yeoman, Consultant & Volunteer at Dyslexia Scotland.

Dyslexic Career Prospects

Parents can get anxious about what their dyslexic child might be able to do for a living when they grow up, especially if school is a struggle. So, how can you help nurture your child’s career interests without over-raising ambitions or creating self-limiting beliefs?

Adam Grant, professor of management and psychology, said in his recent essay that trying to identify the ideal job is actually counter-productive because you’re highly unlikely to ever find it, and if you do, the reality of it will be underwhelming as it’s not what you’ve built up in your mind.

As a result, Grant says the main question you should avoid asking your child is ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’

There are four main problems with this question.

  1. Their responses will be limited to the few jobs they’ve been exposed to
  2. As their parent, you might inadvertently project your own unrealistic expectations or limiting beliefs and pessimism on to their ideas
  3. We have no idea what jobs of the future are – or aren’t – anyway, so we can’t begin to imagine whether jobs of today will still be around, or what other new occupations today’s children can expect to fulfill as adults
  4. They’re not likely to have just one job, but a suite of jobs, and roles that change throughout their career

Your child’s career prospects are being shaped every day by global issues beyond anyone’s control. Think back just 15 years ago. Did you ever dream that jobs like Social Media Manager, Data Miner, 3D Print Technician or Driverless Car Engineers would exist, let alone be the norm? Fast forward 15 years from now, can you begin to imagine what industries and roles might exist that your child and their differing abilities will excel in? The good news is that the jobs of the future will need dyslexic thinking skills, and the young dyslexic people of today represent the talent solution of the future, providing their natural skills in problem solving and collaboration, and character strengths and values are well nurtured.

Farai Chideya, author of The Episodic Career, predicts that the next generation are unlikely to have the same job for life, as their parents and grandparents expected; so adaptation to change, full understanding of themselves and awareness of the changing job market are key to putting their talents to best use.

So, instead of the dreaded ‘what do you want to do when you grow up?’ question, the best way you can have the career conversation with your dyslexic child is to ask them ‘what type of person do you want to be?’, ‘what problems do you want to solve?’, ‘what difference to you want to  make?’ and ‘what talents will you use to do that?’ They might just surprise you. You’ll be helping them prepare for life, as well as work.

What responses do you get? Let us know.

Check out this John Oliver clip highlighting the downside of children deciding now what job they want to do.

Katie Carmichael, Career Coach

Setting up a Business During a Pandemic

I have been part of the Dyslexia Scotland network for 5 years. I have had a number of contracts and jobs during that time, whilst now trying to build a business with my wife.

I currently work full time, looking at Continuous Improvement for a large engineering company in Glasgow. I look to help shape the business for the future which is rewarding and helps support jobs for years to come. This business I am building, is not to replace my job but to follow another passion of mine.

On top of my job, I have always been interested in property. The idea of buying an old smelly run-down property, bringing it back to life and making it a family home for years to come excites me. In March 2020, my wife Laura and I launched our property business (BLV Properties) to do exactly that. We aim to buy unloved properties and refurbish them into a new family home to rent out. It definitely hasn’t been as simple and straight forward as we thought it would be!

When we first launched BLV Properties, within weeks we were in lockdown and the property market was closed. So, what do you do when the business is to buy properties, but the market closes?

We changed focus from doing viewings of properties and making offers, to building our team and getting educated.

A lot of people think I am crazy. Building a business in a pandemic, taking on added responsibility and the idea of working alongside your wife! For me, this is what I love about starting the property business together. We get to spend the little time we have together building a future for us and our family.

When trying to build any team, you have to understand your strengths and weaknesses and my dyslexia plays its part in this for me. My dyslexia has given me strengths in numbers and visualisation of the processes to build the business. My weakness comes down to having issues of short-term memory, not always holding information and keeping a consistent move forward. For the last 7 years, Laura has been keeping me right. Checking, reminding and continuously repeating dates and times with me and keeping me focused on things that I need to do, as well as checking my spelling and grammar in emails. In the property business this is no different.

Dyslexia for me has set me apart from others, but over the years it has now given me the confidence to start this business. There are challenges that you need to deal with every day with dyslexia but when you have the right team around you, they can help you with your weaknesses and you can bring your strengths.

If you are at school, talk with your friends or family to help with things you struggle with. If you are at work, talk with the people around you who can support your challenges. The responses may surprise you and it is best to be honest and open. I couldn’t have achieved the things I have with out these people around me. Dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed of and can be seen as a strength. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. You can always bring something unique when you have dyslexia. That in itself is a strength.

Brian Valentine

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