Disclaimer: the following information is based upon my own experience, for medical advise then ask a medical professional.
I am not stupid, just different.
I have been in top set for most subjects throughout my schooling life. I got good GCSE grades which I am proud of, including an A* in Art, two A’s in English and an A in Maths. Then last summer I completed the International Baccalaureate with a score that I am delighted with, considering all the time I spent in hospitals, on operating tables and just generally being unwell. My dreams came true when I got into a top London University which is one of the best in the world for my course, however I never thought in a million years I would find it so difficult.
Throughout my life I have hated reading, partly because I am slow, I find it incredibly challenging and I have to read every single page twice (and even then I don’t understand 60% of it) – not fun. I’m not brilliant at structuring academic essays and never have been. I tend to explode ideas onto a piece of paper, which end up extremely muddled and unclear. Maths has never been a walk in the park either, and I find the most basic sums difficult despite everyone else finding it ‘easy’.
I’ve had friends over the years that have called me stupid… daily. I’ve had teachers tell me to ‘try harder’ despite me trying my absolute best (and beyond). Well, I am clearly not stupid nor do I not ‘try’ as I have got to where I am now.
When I handed in my first University essay in October my tutor said in her feedback, “…how did you get into here with an essay structure like that?” – the look on my face must have said it all when she said, “…have you ever been tested for dyslexia?” I felt like my world had crushed into a thousand pieces because in the space of two minutes not only had she pulled my essay to pieces (which had taken hours, and hours, AND HOURS), she had also said that I might have something wrong with me! Great start to University eh Channon?
And so, under the guidance of my tutor I wondered along to the disability and well being office in order to talk to someone about Neurodiversity tests. It was terrifying. I had (about) a million questions to ask and they booked me in for an appointment in February (which at the time was ages away).
I then spend several weeks struggling with my reading and trying to keep on top of the work (as well as worrying about the tests)! Over Christmas I had three essays to write which counted towards my degree. I cried. Stressed. Stressed some more. Managed to get a chest infection (typical Channon). Lost some sleep. Cried again. And five weeks later finally finished them. YAY.
Then along came February and the day of the test (that sounds a tad overly dramatic, oops). The tests took almost four hours (on a Wednesday morning, which is a real struggle for us students). It involved a range of tests from visual association, reading out loud, reading in general, writing, pattern matching, and recalling sequences. It was unbelievably tiring. But so worth doing as now all my problems have been explained to me (after just 18 (almost 19) longish years of struggle, stress and frustration).
I am classically dyslexic (the hardest word to spell ever…), meaning that I struggle with reading, writing, pronouncing words and I often get words (and ideas) muddled. I also have dyspraxia, meaning that organisation and structuring are not amongst my strengths (but I am extra clumsy – yay?). Although, on a more positive note, apparently I am a superior human being when it comes to creativity… handy!
People might ask, are you sad about this? Well, no because throughout my life I have found even the most basic tasks more difficult than others. Reading is something that I have despised for so long and even since having the test a couple of weeks ago I have already received so much extra help. My life will no longer be as difficult as it has been because now I know why, and no, I’m not just ‘stupid’.
I have got to where I am now by finding different ways of coping with things. However, the only difference is now I will be able to find easier ways of dealing with things.
Dyspraxia and dyslexia will be with me now for the rest of my life. But, this hasn’t interrupted or destroyed any of my future dreams; in fact I see it as something positive (it also explains why I am so useless with modern foreign languages, hehe!). I also cannot thank my university tutor enough for finally noticing that I wasn’t just ‘not trying’ and that I actually needed that little extra help.
Don’t struggle, talk to someone!
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