MY JOURNEY WITH DYSLEXIA AND SELF BELIEF

HEALTH, INSPIRING

Today seems like a good moment to share this one. I have been recording the audiobook version of my book ‘BUT WHY?‘ week and I found it really tough. I had forgotten that being dyslexic makes reading out loud from a script challenging; I can’t seem to get my eyes, brain, and mouth to communicate to one another properly.

Sitting in that sound booth I had flashbacks to Classics A-Level. I spent the first day feeling mortified at all my mistakes. But then I remembered it was the unique lateral thinking style of my dyslexic mind that had enabled me to stitch together the different themes of the book together in the first place. So rather than keep on apologizing to the sound engineer, I took a deep breath and accepted that I would simply need more time to get the job done.

With this in mind Frankie Watkin’s account of how dyslexia impacted her self-esteem felt entirely relatable and relevant. Thank you Frankie .

  • My journey started at 5 years old.

  • I was the new child in school and was quickly pointed out as ‘slow’. I found it difficult to put thoughts to paper, hold a pen ‘correctly’ and my reading wasn’t on par with most the other kids.

  • Teachers attempted to amend my struggles by elasticating a pencil to my hand in a way they felt I should be holding it. Unfortunately for them, I had a strong ass mother so this did not go down well.

  • Despite this, they continued to report that I was behind and did not offer an explanation as to why that be. To them I had special needs and that was that.

  • Nonetheless, my mother always felt that something wasn’t right. She couldn’t comprehend how I communicated so well from a young age and showed a physical understanding but yet in school I was considered miles behind the other kids.

  • She also found it strange that my brother (who is close in age) was thriving academically in comparison to me. But we didn’t appear much different at home.

  • Trusting her instincts, she looked into my behaviors further, and from reading and chatting to people ‘in the know’, she felt strongly I was dyslexic. But of course, my teachers said it wasn’t a possibility.

  • Well, my mum wasn’t stopping there – she decided to take me for a private test with the Dyslexic Association.

  • This involved lots of examinations from various professionals, an IQ test, and then the information was analysed before we received the report.

  • I was diagnosed with dyslexia. Professionals felt I clearly fell into the boundaries of the diagnosis and documented this within the findings of the report. My parents were not surprised.

  • This gave my parents the guidance they needed – they then knew my academic journey would be different and quickly funded extra support. My Head Teacher agreed to release me from school one afternoon a week for specialised support with the Dyslexic Association. As well as further support from a tutor outside school.

  • I was incredibly fortunate that my parents were able and willing to put this in place. I want to point out, we were not a financially well-off family so this had its struggles but this was something they felt I needed and chose to do regardless.

  • The extra support was helpful and showed me different ways to do things that made sense to me. Little things made a difference like changing the colour of paper rather than the harshness of white. I also found discussing things in detail and writing it down helped and still do.

  • My parents were obviously doing what they thought was right but all the extra work outside school meant my life was often quite different from that of my peers.

  • Despite all the extra help, my teachers still reported I was behind, and upon preparing for my final year tests, they predicted I would not gain entry to mainstream secondary school.

  • They believed I was heading to the special needs department and wanted to give me a special needs statement. So suddenly I was unlikely to be going to the same part of secondary school as my mates.

  • Fortunately, my parents didn’t pressurise me and I sat my exams like anyone else and we just waited for the outcome. But my mum would not agree to a special needs statement as she didn’t feel the right support was available at the time and therefore this would not have been beneficial.

  • The next part probably did come as a surprise as when I received my test results, I did better than expected! I’m not saying I passed with flying colours but I did okay which was enough to allow me into mainstream school.

  • I remember my parents being over the moon and despite my mum’s constant belief in me, she too looked surprised.

  • So off I went to secondary school just like my mates.

  • The beginning was difficult as I was in lower sets with mischievous kids which made concentration next to impossible.

  • My mum again stepped in and got to know the teachers with the hope I would be pushed up the sets as I progressed.

  • As I sat further exams, the amazement continued as I gained good enough grades to get into decent sets.

  • Throughout secondary school, I went from strength to strength and no longer had private tutors as I was managing okay.

  • But I became more conscious of my dyslexia at this point – I very rarely told anyone I had additional learning needs and I never accepted extra support like extended time on exams.

  • I guess as you get older, you overthink things and I wanted to be the same as everyone else.

  • When it came to the final year exams, I was predicted some pretty good marks but unfortunately, the pressure was quite overwhelming.

  • Due to this, I achieved slightly lower than expected BUT I still did much better than my primary school teachers ever thought possible. The results were an A, B’s & C’s (with an E in science – we can’t win them all)

  • So not only did I get into mainstream school, I could now go on to further education.

  • As great as this was, it was quite a tough time (as it is for most other 16-year olds). Big life decisions!

  • My school didn’t offer sixth-form so I had to leave – I, therefore, decided to go to college.

  • But sadly, it didn’t last long!

  • For years after school, I struggled to find something I could commit to. I quit loads of things!

  • I’m talking college, sixth-form, and university courses.

  • Learning suddenly became a massive pain in the arse again – it was like leaving the comfort zone of school was too unsettling and intimidating. I definitely overcomplicated it and thought I couldn’t do it.

  • I was always employed one way or another but I was beginning to give up on continuing my academic journey.

  • My parents understandably became quite annoyed and frustrated with my consistent quitting of every course I started and everyone started to lose belief in me

  • . A few people would comment ‘what’s the point – you’ll only quit anyway’. Which didn’t really offend me because I guessed they were right.

  • I remember going into new learning environments and getting frustrated because it was the unknown and I wasn’t used to the information being provided. From there, tutors would talk but often I didn’t even listen because I believed I wouldn’t understand what they were saying anyway. So, I’d quite promptly quit (sulky youngster problems).

  • If I ever wanted extra support with my dyslexia I’d have to be retested on every new course. I did this once or twice but again, I felt frustrated with the tests and I always left feeling totally shit about myself. Therefore, I decided to stop asking for help.

  • I felt stupid which was echoed by certain people around me.

  • So, I eventually gave up on academic courses and focused on building a career but unfortunately within the areas that I was interested, I always found there was only so far I could go.

  • One day I had this sudden panic that I wasn’t earning enough money to afford a house and questioned how I’d ever live comfortably (probably totally unnecessary but that’s the way thoughts go).

  • So, on a whim I rang my local university and enquired about a course suggested by my mate. The course had closed its application but there was one more opportunity to get on via clearing and if my written application was successful, I would be expected to attend an interview in a few days’ time to sit a written test, a group discussion and one to one interview.

  • This was a crazy move as it wasn’t really the right time in my life to consider a full-time university course but my impulsive side took over and I went with it.

  • I was quickly invited for an interview – I remember arriving and looking at the other applicants feeling totally over my head and intimidated. There were three places and maybe eight of us there. I did not stand a chance.

  • But I got through the interview process without any real embarrassing episodes. Result!

  • I returned to my job and began to think about my long-term options because it was unlikely I’d get on the course. BUT my negative attitude was proved wrong as I soon received an email to say I was successful!

  • As proud as I was to get on the course; the dread then kicked in. Why was this time going to be any different?

  • I started to weigh up everything and clarify why I could do it this time. The course I picked involved a combination of class room learning and placement. I hoped this would be a better balance for me so I pushed myself to think positively.

  • When I got there, I found I was more open to learning because I had sacrificed so much this time. Not only that, I was older and learning information I genuinely found interesting so concentrating was easier and I took notes to remember important points.

  • The year flew by and I was really enjoying what I was doing. I’m not going to pretend it was all plane sailing as it wasn’t but even getting through the first year was a massive achievement and spurred me on to keep going.

  • I had to be open to advice from lecturers and worked on the areas that weren’t quite up to scratch. Sometimes it felt like a kick in the teeth but I quickly learned that support and constructive criticism was going to help me through.

  • I made a conscious effort not to compare my grades to others as I didn’t want to get lost in the reasons why I wasn’t doing as good as them. I focused on my journey and my own growth.

  • This commitment taught me a lot and academically I came on leaps and bounds and continued to pass my assignments.

  • Before I knew it, I had hit my final year and was moving quickly towards completing the course. This would give me the opportunity to gain a job doing something I love and be financially stable. This felt like a dream come true.

  • In 2018 I graduated with a degree in the field of social science.

  • My journey taught me so much but mainly it shows the benefits of working hard, believing you can, and not giving up!

  • Alongside my job I now write a blog about well-being as this is something, I learnt a lot about during rocky times which helped me to live a more fulfilling, positive life. Something that we all deserve!

*’But Why Aren’t We Rich? But Why are Humans Ruining the Planest?  & But Why Do People Get Married? just some one of the many tricky questions I tackle in my debut book BUT WHY? which is available to preorder now. **

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