This week, the 4th-9th November, is Dyslexia Awareness week in Scotland, and in line with this I wanted to share a little of our own family’s experience with the condition. It’s estimated that 1 in 10 people in the population are dyslexic* (I won’t say ‘suffer with’ dyslexia, because as you’ll see, that’s not the way I see it at all).
But of course, whenever you zoom into any kind of statistic, there are always real people, real families and individual stories.
So here is our own little story.
Because one of the one in ten happens to be my youngest son.
My son was diagnosed with dyslexia about a year ago, at the age of nine – by which time his diagnosis didn’t come as a surprise to us. We had noticed for some time that he struggled with reading and writing, but assumed he might just be a late bloomer in these areas (our eldest had similar difficulties early on in primary school, but then all of a sudden, things just seemed to ‘click’). For our youngest though, the difficulties persisted, and as he moved into the upper half of primary we could see that it was starting to become an issue. Small things, like watching him struggle to read board game instructions at family gatherings, and hearing him tell people he was ‘no good at reading’ prompted me to liaise with his teachers on pursuing a diagnosis so that we could move forward with all the necessary information in place. Our son was a confident, happy and resilient little person – and we wanted him to stay that way. The thought of him feeling any sort of embarrassment or shame about his reading abilities really wrenched at all my instincts as a Mum. It was ironic really, that reading and writing – things I spent so much of my time on – were so hard for him. I am forever grateful to the teaching and support for learning staff at the school he attends, both for coordinating the dyslexia assessment process, and for their continuing support since then.
Dyslexia, like so many things, is a very individual condition – it’s a continuum. As the difficulties my son experiences may be quite different to those experienced by someone else with the condition, I’m wary of being too specific here. But to give a few examples, my son can struggle to read common words like ‘where’ and ‘there’ and sometimes reverses letters (especially b’s and d’s) when writing. He sometimes skips lines when reading, and when writing independently, still tends to spell words exactly as he ‘hears’ them (really, when you think about how complicated the English language is, this actually makes a lot of sense!) It can take him a bit longer than other people to process information (for example, if he asks me to spell a word out, I may have to repeat it several times, but that’s absolutely no problem!) On the flipside of all of this, he has a near-photographic memory for facts and information he heard years ago. And if you ever need a scene-by-scene account of a film or television show you might have missed, he’s your go-to guy for sure.
People with dyslexia, like my son, often have a range of ‘super-power’ abilities that more than counteract any differences in learning. My son is highly creative, and possesses a level of emotional intelligence that astounds me (this is the same child who prompted this blog post on positive thinking, and this one on contentment not so long ago). In fact, I have an entire notebook filled with quotes from him that sound like the wisdom of some ancient, world-wise Yoda type. There are numerous examples of people with dyslexia doing amazing things in the world – people like Lewis Hamilton, Richard Branson and Keira Knightley. Dyslexia wasn’t a barrier to success for any of these people, and neither, I believe, will it be for people like my son.
And with identification and diagnosis comes opportunity. The opportunity to access resources which can alleviate difficulties, and the confidence that comes from saying ‘I’m dyslexic. This might be a little difficult for me.’ I still spend hours reading aloud to my son, in just the same way we did before his diagnosis. Since then, we have also discovered Barrington Stoke books, which have special design features for dyslexic and reluctant readers (disclosure: this post is not affiliated to anyone, but Barrington Stoke have sent me dyslexia-friendly books to review on my blog before). We have also been able to access all sorts of useful information through our local branch of Dyslexia Scotland (you can find out more here, on their website). And our local library, as always, has been a fabulous resource for information and advice.
So these days, instead of telling people he’s ‘no good at reading,’ my son feels proud – in fact wearing his dyslexia diagnosis as a little badge of honour. When I asked him if it was okay to write this post about him, he was actually very pleased.
So if you’re worried or concerned about being dyslexic – please don’t be. There’s an ‘X’ in dyslexia for a reason – and the world is a better place for having so many different, creative – and brilliant – minds like yours.
Sometimes the only limits to success are the boundaries we place around ourselves, but with the right support and awareness no boundaries need exist in the world.
So I’ll leave you with a bit of adapted Dr Seuss wisdom.
One of the one in ten?
Oh, the places you can go.
*(figures quoted from Dyslexia Scotland website).