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Dealing with Dyslexia from a distance by Sam Robinson, Bethany (2009 – 2016)

The irony of the word Dyslexia is that it’s incredibly hard to spell. Growing up with Dyslexia, this has always stood out to me as a problem. Jennifer Piper from Medium Magazine described Dyslexia as: “a general term for disorders that involve difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols, but do not affect general intelligence.”

According to the NHS, 1 in 10 adults are recorded to be affected by it. Although the first case of Dyslexia was discovered in 1895, awareness and acceptance has only become commonplace in the modern age. Years ago, children like me would have just been labelled as ‘slow’ or ‘illiterate’. Nowadays, legal acts such as the Equality Act 2010 are in place to ensure that those with Dyslexia are treated equally in the work and employment field.

Growing up, I can remember dreading weekly spelling tests at school – often scoring incredibly low or nothing at all. It was always something I wrestled with, transcribing what was in my head onto the page. I always felt like I had to do double the work for half of the outcome. I would often wonder if it was even worth it.

The way I would describe the challenge of spelling is like solving a Rubik’s Cube. However, instead of colours, I’m using letters, trying different combinations for each word. Fortunately, I was very lucky to have a supportive family and an older brother who was diagnosed before I was born. They made sure that I was able to get formally diagnosed and sent me to a wonderful secondary school, where I could get the correct help that I so desperately needed.

At secondary school, I finally felt at ease meeting other pupils struggling with the same difficulties. I was given a scribe in exams and, well, that’s when things really changed. I could finally express myself: get words onto the page! I didn’t have to worry about my spelling; I just let my ideas flow. You get a special sort of clarity speaking words aloud. I urge you to do so when you are toiling over a piece of writing. Let the words fill the room, not just your head, and believe me, you will notice the difference.

Once settled in at my new school, I realised that I never actually disliked reading or writing, if anything I love it. Writing stories was always my favourite activity. I have a wild and colourful imagination. I love to dream up places, things, and scenarios. To design everything to a level of detail, so vivid it takes on a tactility. It is almost as if the words I have written have come alive in front of me. With my scribe by my side, I began to fall in love with English again.

The English language has such a rich plethora of vocabulary, it would be a travesty to not use it to its full extent. Once upon a time, I would have seen having dyslexia as a weakness, something that held me back. Yes, occasionally I might still feel that way. However, I do also feel that it’s one of my greatest attributes.

I can often see things that others can’t; often pulling together unconventional strength of thought to create something truly unique. It is an asset, a creative lens through which I see the world.

Dyslexia was originally named ‘Word Blindness’. I often reflect on what other aspects people could be blind to. Maybe they are blind to emotion or acumen. There are things I notice that other people might miss. The world has so much to offer if you know what to look for. I think this is why I have been drawn to design as there is self-expressive freedom to it. It gives my imagination a purpose. To mould those vivid thoughts into something real and tangible.

As I have got older my perspective has changed on my Dyslexia. I used to think of Dyslexia as a box defined by people’s and my expectations of my ability. It inevitably felt limiting. Age has a wonderful way of letting you view things from a distance. Now I realise that although people labelled me and put me into a box. I was also guilty for allowing myself to be put there: by feeling restricted by my learning difficulty, focusing on only the negatives.

As I have matured, so has my mindset. Rather than a problem, I accept that Dyslexia is part of who I am, and I am OK with that. Whether your box is Dyslexia or something else, sometimes you have to realise that you are the one who might have built that box around yourself. But you also have the power to build a door and step outside of that box. Prove yourself wrong!