This week is Dyslexia Awareness week.
According to NHS figures it is estimated that 1 in 10 people in the UK have dyslexia to some degree. When such a large proportion of the population is affected you could be forgiven for wondering why we need to raise awareness, surely everyone knows about dyslexia? Surely enough is being done?
Vanessa Murray, our Ladieswear expert is our very own 1 in 10, a severe dyslexic in her mid-twenties and passionate campaigner, she says this is very definitely not the case. She argues that dyslexia still carries a stigma and too many dyslexics do not get the support they need and as a consequence suffer low self-esteem and fail to reach their potential.
The common perception of dyslexia is of someone who has difficulty with reading fluency and spelling, and often children who have dyslexia are indentified when they fail to meet expected developmental goals in these areas.
As soon as Vanessa started school it became apparent to her parents that she was struggling. They knew her as a bright, happy, articulate child but it was clear that school was making her miserable. The eldest of four, Vanessa’s parent didn’t have anything to compare her experience to but when her brother started school it became obvious that Vanessa’s learning experience wasn’t normal. So they approached the school.
At this time, 1995, Education Authorities were beginning to take dyslexia seriously and Vanessa received an early dyslexia diagnosis. She was fortunate that her mother was there to push the issue on her behalf and Vanessa is incredibly grateful for the support and understanding of her family.
Vanessa says her school years were not without incident, she recalls occasions when teachers were cruel and unprofessional. She was conscious of a stigma attached to the learning support she received from Mrs. Thomson, a teacher whom she remembers with great fondness and respect. Vanessa describes Mrs. Thomson as being, dedicated to helping children. With her support and learning strategies Vanessa was able to participate in learning and access the curriculum. Countering expectations she did well in her exams benefitting from the help of a scribe who aided her reading and writing during examinations.
There is, Vanessa says, a tendency to underestimate the ability of dyslexics and this very often turns out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Vanessa is determined in her belief that dyslexics, educators and their families need to be more aspirational.
Dyslexia does not affect intelligence. It might affect a person’s ability to evidence their intelligence in traditional ways, which is why so many dyslexics struggle in a one size fits all education system. But there is no reason why dyslexia should place a limit on anyone’s ambition.
Throughout her years in education and on into her adult life and career, Vanessa has developed a series of strategies to help with her own personal difficulties. Technology is a fantastic tool she says, one she exploits freely, in particular the voice recorder on her iphone.
Unsurprisingly writing takes Vanessa longer than average, it requires a lot of concentration and repeated checking for missing words and mistakes. She also feels intimated writing in front of customers, for example when she has to take orders. What is usually a difficult task becomes painful and embarrassing, but Vanessa can record thoughts and notes in seconds on her iphone. Google is her favourite place to go to check spelling and mind mapping her preferred method to organise her workload and develop ideas.
As well as problems with reading and writing, dyslexics encounter difficulties across a range of recognised variables such as oral and processing language skills, number skills, short-term memory, sequencing and organisational ability. Symptoms can be more or less severe for individuals and some may not struggle at all in certain areas.
Thanks to technology and e-learning developers there are a huge range of learning applications that help dyslexics learn and evolve personal strategies and learning skills to suit their particular needs. Both for children and adults.
The condition doesn’t go away, there’s no cure but with support dyslexics can develop strategies for life that help them overcome their difficulties and achieve their ambitions. Vanessa says her motto is:
“If you can’t get over it, get round it.”
It’s an attitude that has served her well, despite the difficulties dyslexia presents and the daily hurdles she faces Vanessa is clearly flourishing and en route to a successful retail career. If she had one message to impart to fellow dyslexics of any age, or background she says it is to believe in yourself and fulfill your ambition whatever it is. Nothing can stop you.
Find out more:
Dyslexia Scotland – Charity aimed at empowering people with dyslexia to reach their full potential. President, Sir Jackie Stewart. Lots of info and resources.
Eduapps is a collection of free downloadable software for dyslexics and associated learning difficulties.
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