Published on November 5, 2013 | by Mira Sadowska

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Some people are dyslexic. Get over it!

ALN online production manager, Mira Sadowska [Seren Jenkins]

I don’t remember much from my first school years. I suppressed most of those memories as the human brain tends to do with traumatic experiences, in order to protect the fragile psyche.

The main reason for my bad experience with school was the fact that I have dyslexia. Misinterpretations led to a certain negative approach and attitude that people showed towards me.

Dyslexia is described as a specific difficulty with learning. It includes difficulty with phonological awareness, phonological decoding, processing speed, orthographic coding, auditory short-term memory, language skills, verbal comprehension and rapid naming.

Many people don’t believe in the existence of dyslexia, or think that it can be cured. They call it laziness, or simply a lack of intelligence. Others confuse it with simple problems with literacy. But it is far more complicated than that. They don’t understand what they are talking about.

I was born with it; it’s there coded in my brain, it’s in the structure, in the way it works. Not all brains are the same, not all of them function the same way, but that doesn’t mean that a dyslexic brain is by any means worse or damaged. It’s simply different, and there is nothing wrong with diversity.

Back in school, I had problems with reading out loud and I was generally a slow reader and writer, plus my handwriting was illegible. I was also bad with grammar and spelling and, despite the fact I knew all the rules, I kept making the same mistakes over and over again.

I had no problems when it came to memorising information, however most of the time I had no idea what I was saying; I had no sense of what I had just memorised. The only subjects which I excelled in were Art and PE.

Even though school is supposed to be a place filled with qualified child specialists, none of them recognised the clear symptoms of dyslexia I was showing. Instead they focused on proving that I was stupid. They used every chance they could to ridicule me in front of my peers, to dishearten me, to break my spirit.

You can imagine how it felt when every teacher treated me like a complete idiot. Needless to say, seeing how I was treated by adults, kids started to treat me the same way. I was bullied by everyone around me, I had no real friends because no one wanted to be friends with the class idiot.

The worst thing about those years is that the way I was treated by people made me actually believe that I was an idiot. I convinced myself that I was stupid and that I was a lazy, illiterate, a waste of space; a worthless human being. So, as painful as it was to be treated this way by others, I began to justify it because I believed that they had a good reason to treat me like that.

I was 11 when my mother considered becoming a teacher and undertook a childcare course. During one of the classes she heard about dyslexia and when the lecturer began to describe what this problem was and how it manifested, my mum thought: “He’s describing my daughter.”

When we left the clinic I looked at my mother and said: “Mum, I was thinking, maybe I’m not stupid after all.”

Once her eyes opened on what I had been dealing with, she began to look for help. Through her research she found out about the Polish Dyslexia Association and a clinic specialising in recognising and helping people with dyslexia. Without hesitation she took me there and I was thoroughly examined.

The first step of my examination was an IQ test, because many dyslexics are above average intelligence. The test result: a high IQ that was above average. Only around three per cent of the world population has the same IQ as I do, and I thought I was a stupid kid.

The general diagnosis was not only dyslexia, but also many other ‘disabilities’ connected with it. Despite all of those learning difficulties I turned out to have a very good visual memory, high emotional intelligence, very accurate 3D reasoning, vivid imagination, rich vocabulary (for my age) and an incredibly creative mind.

After receiving these results, I started to rethink my approach to myself. When we left the clinic I looked at my mother and said: “Mum, I was thinking, maybe I’m not stupid after all.”

I made her cry, because she understood what they had done to me in school, how they distorted my self-confidence.

Once I was diagnosed with dyslexia I finally knew what was ‘wrong’ with me and with help from a specialist I learned how to use my strengths in order to overcome my weaknesses. With support from my family I began my training.

I’ve spent hours reading out loud, working on my hand writing to make it clear, memorising grammar and spelling, and correcting my own work. Since I have visual memory I started using colours to help me memorise information. I even started making small drawings picturing what I was trying to learn. In addition to all that I was attending special classes for dyslexics showing me alternative ways of absorbing information.

My hard work paid off; all those unconventional methods I was using led to me becoming good in geography and maths – especially geometry. I also discovered my love for history and biology, and surprisingly literature and foreign languages. I still had minor problems with my spelling, rapid naming and reading out loud in front of people, but at the same time I was one of the best students in class.

And here I am now, studying journalism, pursuing a career that should be impossible for me, because of dyslexia. But I’m here, and I’m doing well.

It still makes me cry when I think about primary school and what I’ve been through. It’s sad to know that the education system doesn’t include space for individual needs and predispositions, therefore hurting kids by stopping them from reaching their potential. Unfortunately not everyone is as lucky as I was and will never receive proper help.

If you want to know more, here is a great video explaining dyslexia:

 



 

British Dyslexia Association

 

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