This is the 1st post of a serie of 12 by Marc from Ireland who struggles with dyslexia.
I am Marc from Ireland and I am dyslexic. I have just started writing about my dyslexia and to be honest with you I’m struggling already. I have had 4 tabs open on my laptop for the past few days each with a different topic blog started in it. Being dyslexic, content creation is not a strength of mine so I’m finding this difficult.
As well as that education has thought me that there will always be small minded people in the world, when I was in primary and even secondary school people would laugh when I was asked to read out loud.
As much as I am comfortable with talking about my difficulties in public, I often have a mini panic attack that someone will read it or hear me talking about it and laugh, bringing me back to those horrible days when all I wanted was for a hole to open up in the ground to swallow me to get away from the laughter.
As a result I have become my own hardest critic, trying to generate a perfect blog so nobody can pick holes in it. This is slowing me down a lot as every time I finish a paragraph I read it and delete it as I feel its not good enough.
A real life story – not a scientific explanation of dyslexia
To try keep me on track I have a little blog diary. Every time I think of a topic for the blog I write it down in my diary so I don’t forget it. I wanted to avoid doing a blog on “What is Dyslexia” or “What is Dyspraxia” as I’m not an educational psychologist.
I am not qualified to tell you what either of these are and I am certainly not qualified to asses someone for either. As a result I wanted this blog to be more about my story to show people that even with the difficulties that dyslexia and dyspraxia bring it is still possible to succeeded and achieve what you want to.
I then thought that it would be hard to tell my story if I didn’t first tell people my difficulties. I may not be qualified to give you a scientific definition of dyslexia or dyspraxia but lets face it, nobody is qualified more then me to tell you what my difficulties are. After all I have been living with them for the past 22 years.
A very slow reader
From a dyslexic point of view I have trouble reading, writing, spelling and using correct grammar and punctuation. My reading is slow and painful to listen to. I am 22 with a reading age much lower then that. If given a page of text to read to myself it takes me about 5 or 6 times longer to read it then it would take a non dyslexic.
Not only is my reading bad but so is my reading comprehension, once I have finally read that page of text if you were to ask me questions about it, I would find it very difficult to answer them. My brain finds it a challenge to actually comprehend the message. It seems to register each word individually rather then together forming a sentence.
This causes me to have to read a piece of text several times before I feel comfortable that I have actually understood the message. As you can imagine this means that in school and college studying was very slow and difficult and exams had an extra level of challenge that others didn’t have to face.
My writing is also affected by my dyslexia, I am very embarrassed of my own handwriting. A lot of people have bad hand writing weather they are dyslexic or not causing it difficult for others to read it.
However mine is so bad that I struggle to read my own hand writing at times. To this day I refuse to submit a hand written document to anyone as I am too self conscious of it.
At work when I need to post an item to a supplier or customer I have confided in the person who sits at the desk next to me and she always writes the address on the envelope for me and I type and print out the letter. I don’t think she realises how much this means to me but it means a lot as this is how embarrassed I am of my own hand writing.
My spelling is also very bad, as I write this blog I look at the screen on my laptop to see red squiggly lines under most words telling me they are spelled incorrectly.
This is also another reason why I don’t do hand written documents as red lines don’t appear on them to warn me of misspelled words and I fear I will spell a simple word wrong and someone will judge my intelligence or capability from this.
Difficulties of transforming my thoughts into written words on a paper
I also suffer from a mental block that causes me to struggle to transfer something from my head onto paper. My brain cant seem to find the ability to put into writing the message I’m saying to myself in my head.
Come exam time at school or college where most people could answer a question in maybe 3 or 4 paragraphs, I would still be struggling to develop the point 8 paragraphs later even though I know it. This goes back to the content creation issue I’m having with my blogs.
I have topics in my head that I don’t know how to actually put into writing. My dyslexia also gives me other difficulties but the above are the main ones I have.
Dyspraxia – bad short term memory
When it comes to my dyspraxia it affects 5 main areas. these are, short term memory, co-ordination, organisation, time keeping skills/concept of time, and my people skills.
My dyspraxia affects my planning of what I’m going to do and how I’m going to do it. to begin with my short term memory, it is very poor. I’m the type of person who walks into a room, puts down my phone and forgets where I put it. I am always loosing things like keys, phones, pens, anything I can put down somewhere.
You may be reading this and think to yourself, well I’m not dyspraxic but that happens me too, and your right, many people can be forgetful at times, but I am like this all the time. And if you put my bad short term memory together with the fact that I find it difficult to register or process a message I receive, then it becomes very difficult for me to take on more then one instruction at a time.
For example if I was told, go upstairs, go into my room, open the wardrobe and get the red jumper my brain would find it difficult to process past the second part of that message and once I went upstairs and into the room not only have I not been able to process the rest of the instructions but I have forgotten what they were due to my bad short term memory. As a result when at work or even at home, if someone phones me and asks me to do something I instantly ask them to either email me or text me so I don’t forget.
Dyspraxia – clumsiness
My co-ordination is also affected by my dyspraxia. I can be very awkward and clumsy at times. My hand – eye co-ordination is especially bad. I cant cycle a bike, or tie shoe laces or a tie. I often button up my shirt and find when I get to the end that I didn’t line the right buttons up with the right holes.
Also if you throw something to me I will struggle to catch it. I don’t play sports as my co-ordination is so bad that I just look like a fool and I frustrate others. If I were to play soccer I look like I have 2 left feet as I cant pass the ball accurately to someone, I defiantly cant do any trick or flicks, and I’m too clumsy to defend against tricks or flicks so I am always made a fool of.
Dyspraxia – lack of organisation
When it comes to organisation I also struggle. I find it difficult to organise myself, follow or understand a timetable and planning ahead. When I was in school I would have had difficulty organising my books for the following day, I always arrived into class with either the wrong book or left a copy at home. Getting organised to do homework was a challenge and then that took miles longer then it needed to as well.
My life in general tends to lack organisation at times as I find it difficult, my desk at work is a permanent mess with pieces of paper everywhere. It frustrates me a lot as I do understand the need for organisation but I find it difficult to do.
Dyspraxia – always too late
Time keeping / concept of time are also lost on me. I always struggled to get projects handed in to college on time, this was not down to laziness but due to the fact I wasn’t organised and I struggled to manage my time effectively enough to get the project done on time.
If you sat me in a room and left me for half an hour without a watch and came back and asked me to guess how long I was there I wouldn’t be able to judge it. Another aspect of time I find difficult is the clock, I can only tell the time on a digital watch, I cant read a clock face as it confuses me. I have attempted to learn several times but it never sinks in.
Dyspraxia – never stop talking but don’t like to socialize
Finally there is my people skills. My parents will be able to tell you that I never stop talking. As a child no matter who I was put sitting next to in class I would talk to them. I come across as someone who has no problems with people skills but the truth is I do.
If I’m in a large group of people I feel uncomfortable, I will talk to people I know but I find it difficult to start a conversation with people I don’t know. I get nervous and jittery at the thought. I enjoy having a social life like every 22 year old does but the idea of socialising is not something I am comfortable with all the time.
I would much rather sit in watching telly on a Saturday night with a few friends than go out to a pub or a club where there is a high level of interaction with people. Any situation that requires me to interact with other people makes me uncomfortable, from going to the hairdresser and dreading the “small talk” while she cuts my hair to sitting in a meeting at work with people I don’t know. I come across as very shy as a result.
Not the end of the world
The above is not an exhaustive list of my difficulties, it is however a list of my main difficulties. You may have read this blog and now be thinking to yourself, why would he list out all of these thing, what if a potential employer was to read this, nobody would want to employ someone like that.
But that is the point, with all the difficulties I have listed above I have still gone through school, got 435 points in my leaving cert, went on to college to study marketing and graduated with First class honours getting the second highest points in my class. I managed to find myself a job where I am getting on well and I only turned 22 less then a month ago.
I want to show people that having dyslexia and/or dyspraxia is not the end of the world, it doesn’t mean you are tick or incapable of achieving in life, in fact if you ask me it can make you more employable as it drives you to prove your ability.
Not one of the above difficulties caused by dyslexia or dyspraxia affects your intelligence and therefore people with these difficulties can be highly motivated as they want to prove their intelligence an overcome their difficulties.
The other reason I wanted to list out everything so honestly and openly goes back to my first blog, when I was diagnosed in secondary school it was a relief to know there was a reason for my difficulties but I suddenly felt alone.
Your are not alone
I thought I was the only one with these difficulties and I thought it meant I wouldn’t be able to achieve anything. The one thing I needed more then anything else was for someone with the same difficulties as me, who had got to where I am today, to sit down with me and tell me everything would be ok, that with the right supports and some hard work and self motivation I would be able to achieve almost anything.
I didn’t get that opportunity but I hope somebody reads this blog and can relate to it, it might mirror the difficulties they are having and it will ensure them that everything will be ok. If that person is you I hope this was of help and never forget that you can still be anything you want to be.
Thanks for taking the time to read this blog, I know its a very long one but I felt I needed to post this now before I go into my story and my experiences and how I have learned to overcome and face these difficulties over the next few weeks in my blogs.
Next blogpost from Mark is: Learning Disability VS Learning Difficulty/Difference