The Amazing Dyslexic Poetry Show

There are some negative perceptions about those with dyslexia.

Such as:-

“Lazy”,

“Stupid,”

“Won’t amount too much”

These words are all things that have been said to me.

I was aged 7 when I realised I had stories that ran around in my head and I used to daydream, acting them out.  I didn’t know why I struggled at school with writing, maths. I knew as did my sister, as we are twins that we were not able to keep up with other students in class.

I recall my primary school days and really enjoyed them, however, my frustrations and those of my sister, manifested themselves as challenging behaviour.

We were always at the headmaster’s office.  Instead of getting a right telling off, he talked us through our issues and explained things, so that the subject matter was easier to understand, at our pace of learning, and eventually we started to understand some of the most complex subjects. I have fond memories of him, as he had time to go through things with us.  Primary school was my only positive experience of education.

Secondary school was a big challenge.  It was a busier environment, as we had not passed the 11 plus.  We were placed in the bottom class, so were labelled at the age of 12, and that’s where things started to go wrong for both of us.

Inevitably, I left school at 15, with no qualifications.  I was deemed not suitable to be entered into any exams, so left on the scrap heap at just 15.  I did manage to secure a job washing up in a café on Hastings pier in Sussex.

It didn’t last long, my parents divorced, I became homeless at 18. I recall one occasion I went for an interview in a supermarket. I was told by the interviewer that I would not “amount to much”.  This left me feeling useless, hopeless, and stupid. My self-esteem already low, hit rock bottom.  It was official.  I was useless, or so I thought.

Then whilst walking in Brighton I saw a man, who looked disheveled. I thought he was homeless, he had holes in his jacket, and was carrying a plastic bag with papers bulging out of it. He looked quite distinguished, despite his appearance.

I don’t recall how we got talking, but he could tell I was dyslexic, just after a few minutes of meeting me. This rather eccentric looking man turned out to be a law professor at the University of Sussex and he mentored me.

I passed GCSEs

I passed A Levels

I went to University and studied law, obtaining a 2.1 with honours.

I had passed exams!

I qualified as a lawyer.

Not bad for someone who wouldn’t amount to much, and had been, classed as lazy, useless, and stupid.

Even though I’d managed to get some confidence back, I found myself having difficulties in my professional life, which resulted in a flood of low self- esteem and culminating in a mental breakdown but with counselling I got better.

I realised that I was not stupid, or lazy.  I could achieve and amount to whatever I wanted to do.  I could live my dreams, stories were still in my head. These stories are now published and more stories are waiting to be written.

I have won awards for my poetry and plays.

I am dyslexic that’s who I am. 

I do not have to apologise for this.

If I read slower, if I use a finger to read text, if my words are jumbled and I say things back to front or have to spell words out,  this is just who I am, a dyslexic woman!

This is why my show, making it’s debut performance at the Edinburgh fringe festival  “The Amazing Dyslexic Poetry Show” had to be written.

It’s a show that inspires you to live your dreams, showing that dyslexia is not a barrier to believing in yourself. It has a powerful message, exploring positivity and some negativity with humour, about hidden disabilities.

My show has a selection of poems on dyslexia and some on different themes.

I am dyslexic, and proud to be

Yes,

This is me!

Sam Rapp, the Dyslexic poet

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“The Amazing Dyslexic Poetry Show” The Small Hall, Lauriston Halls, EH3 9DJ; from 6th to 10th August 2019. Show starts 19:00 (More info here)

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Getting to Know Your Learning Strategies: Part I

 

I was told I was dyslexic when I was around 6 in the early 1990s, and got extra tutoring for it, but it was believed then that dyslexia was merely a shortcoming in being able to read and write in my native language. Once I was able to do that, I was ‘cured’ – no one understood that I’d have the same problems learning to read and write in a new language, as I struggle to sound out words, or that I had working memory problems – making exams very problematic – and no one picked up on my dyscalculia either.

I love learning and reading and writing, so I was lucky that I was very motivated to keep at it. I never thought I’d get a university degree as I didn’t have the grades to get into university in Denmark, where I lived. In 2009, I was helped by a friend and got accepted into Stirling University here in Scotland and I was finally on my way towards my dream degree in psychology. Another friend told me about the university’s dyslexia support and I finally gained a formal identification in 2010 at 27.

I was offered extra exam time, help with essay spell checking and various software packages, and I said to the educational psychologist who diagnosed me: ‘I feel like I’m cheating now – getting all of this, which my peers aren’t’, and he said: ‘You’ve been playing football all your life with your peers, except you’ve been playing uphill. You’re not cheating, you’re getting support to play on a level playing field’.

But I still wasn’t given any leaflets about dyslexia, or any book recommendations, or links to follow, so I wasn’t much wiser. I came to learn that I needed to read a text three times, and recap everything I read in writing myself, to get it stored in my memory – and that this didn’t make me stupid.

I realised, via the software that I needed to read things on paper, to highlight it, rather than on a screen. I learned that being read aloud to was preferential, but while also reading along myself to see the words as they were spoken to me. And I learned that via practise – writing essay after essay – I did improve simply by repeating a task.

I also learned that it was no good to just read (and re-read) and memorise – I needed to apply the knowledge in either practice or, at least, via meaningful, real-life examples. Text books are often poor at offering this, so I needed to pause and come up with real-life examples in my head, where I could apply my new knowledge, and ideally share this example with others to really get it hammered into my own memory. I also needed to go hunting for the right kind of text books for me, and not just accept whatever the tutors suggested, as some books are more dyslexia friendly that others, in layout, font and their form of explanation. I needed non-fiction and text books to apply the rules of storytelling – a passion of mine – to really relate and, thereby, remember.

creative_storytelling

I have a whole host of self-taught learning strategies – some weirder than others. For example, I’m no good at head maths, so I tap out small figures with my fingers on my leg, or quickly add up using taps of a pen onto paper, using the number formation of a dice. Though, obviously, this doesn’t work for bigger numbers.

Of course, I wish I’d known these things earlier to help me through life, but better late than never. And of course, these strategies are personalised towards my needs. Yours might be different, but they will be there, you just need to find out what they are and apply them.

What do you love doing? What kind of information do you retain and is that because it’s linked to something you love? Now, try to apply this to things that you struggle with. Maybe you already know your learning strategies? What are they and how did they come about?

Thank you for reading my blog – check out ‘part II’ on the 25th of January 2019.

Terese Kansted

Dyslexia Scotland blogger

What will I do now?

When I left school, I literally had no idea what I was going to do. When I was growing up, I wanted to do everything, be a writer, a singer, an actress, an artist and for a while I wrote poems, but, the longest standing aspiration was a fashion designer.

I began school well, but soon, my difficulties crept in and I went from doing well, to near bottom of the class. I never really understood why and neither, it seemed did my teachers.

Now I am not work shy and I worked my @*£ off to try and be the best that I could be, but, I never got there. Often my reports said …. is a lovely child to have in class, but they always said the same thing, not trying hard enough, could do better etc etc, all I wanted to scream was ‘ I am, I try really hard’

By the time I got to standard grade I had something to prove, I wanted to show everyone that I was trying hard enough, so in my 3rd year mock exams, I studied really hard and actually got reasonable grades. However, by the time it got to my 4th year mocks my grades were shocking and the teachers began to write me off. This made me all the more determined to do well in the actual exams so I got my head down and did not too badly.

I was determined to stay until 6 year at school and attempt to get some highers, I loved art and wanted to go on to study to be a fashion designer but after missing out on higher art due to written work I began to give up on the idea. I tried again in 6th year to get some highers: English and Advanced Higher Art (I was able to take it even although I failed my higher, due to artistic ability). Nevertheless pressure from the school to leave because it would be beneficial to me and still having no support to address my issues I left school with no highers and a conclusion that I was not the academic type!!

I went to work in an office after school, I had no real idea what I wanted to do, but, I thought getting some administration skills under my belt could help. My first job proved fruitful and after a year of working as an office junior I moved up within the organisation to a position that offered career prospects. However, I was never really settled and wanted more.

After working for a while in a few different jobs, I made the decision to try and get back into education; I wanted to do something that I really enjoyed. I applied to college to do a foundation course in fashion design with a view to going on to study fashion Marketing.

Then, I found out I was pregnant and as fashion is a difficult industry to work in with no guarantee of jobs, I knew I needed to do something else. When my little one was 5 months old I applied to college to do a course in communications, I combined all of my passions and all the things I was good at and found something that fitted me really well.

College was like a breath of fresh air and I applied the same work ethic as I had always tried in school, the difference was, I had the support that I needed and the tutors took the time to explain the concepts and ideas in a way that suited your learning style. I found myself helping my classmates to understand, ensuring that no one fell behind and for the first time I was doing well, this was a fantastic feeling.

Don’t get me wrong it was hard; I was studying full time, with my difficulties and a baby to look after, there were tears, late nights and times when I wanted to give up, but I had a clear goal in mind and would do anything to achieve it. After 2 years and 2 good qualifications, I was given an unconditional offer to university.

I honestly thought I would never see the day, me at university…. there must be some mistake! I was so happy.

I went immediately to the learning support when I started, to see what help I could get. I knew that I could do better than I did at school and my grades at college proved that. As college did not require much essay writing and the course was continually assessed with a practical project at the end instead of exams, I knew that University was going to be a whole different ball game.

I was assessed and identified as dyslexic; I was given an education package which listed all the help I was going to get and University, while no walk in the park was a complete eye opener. I loved it and came out at the other side tireder, older and with a slightly different take on the world. However, I had some fantastic experiences; I was much smarter and more socially conscious. I now have a good understanding that I could do anything that I put my mind to and a really good mark in an amazing honours degree to prove it.

I am so glad that I didn’t listen to myself when I thought I was ‘not the academic type’, determination and a willingness to succeed was the most important thing for me, it was not that I couldn’t learn it was that I was not being taught right.

This is what I tell everyone one who needs to hear it. Don’t give up, whether it’s is educational, vocational or just in general the world is your oyster, it’s all about finding the thing that spurs you on.

There is no one size fits all approach to learning and because you don’t excel in one way doesn’t mean you will never get to where you want to be. Even if you don’t get everything you hoped for when you leave school, there are options available to you. It may take you a little longer than your peers to get there, but in the end it is the journey and what you learn along the way that really counts.

Let your inner star shine

Let your inner star shine

What’s your experience? Has your school experience made you think you can’t achieve something?