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Guest Interview: On getting to grips with Dyslexia

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dyslexia

Dyslexia is a learning difference affecting the way the brain processes written and spoken language. It is not laziness, disruptive behavior, or a general lack of comprehension.

To see for yourself how some people struggle to read, have a look at this website and you’ll get it.

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Siobhan works in finance in London. She manages huge portfolios worth millions. She is very ambitious, super smart and hella strong willed. She also has dyslexia. For so many of those who struggle with dyslexia, school is very challenging and discouraging, and often their confidence gets knocked, so they don’t reach their full potential. Siobhan tells us about her experience and offers some advice to fellow dyslexics.

When did you realise that school was a struggle for you? Tell me about it?

1st class , we were given nightly spelling to learn and I would spend hours learning them & writing them repeatedly out in red, black and blue ink to help me recall them but without fail, when I was asked a spelling in school the following day, I would get it wrong and the teacher would punish me by making me stand in the corner.

Can you remember the first time you heard the word dyslexia?

I’d known for a number of years that I was struggling with my education but never knew why. In Ireland in the 80s & 90s the education system wasn’t set up to deal with students with learning disabilities, so many of my teachers ignored the signs or simply put it down to laziness , so when I was diagnosed in University at 23 hearing the word dyslexia was a welcomed relief.

At any time did you think you weren’t good enough to go to college?

I never felt like I wasn’t good enough for college. My major obstacle was convincing teachers/lectures that I was good enough to stay in education.

Do you remember any particular teacher who was hard on you?

I remember in secondary school battling with my English teacher to stay in Honours Level for my Leaving cert after receiving a poor mark in my Junior Cert English. I was aware of the need at that age to get as many Honours subjects under my belt so I would have a fighting chance of been accepted for a degree course in college & I was not going to let a sub-standard teacher determine my future because she was too lazy to get me the support I required.

Tell us about college?

It was when I arrived in college, my battle got harder & the level of my disability became more apparent. I struggled to get through every year without having to repeat the year and it took 6 years to complete a 4-year degree.

I opted in my 4th year to transfer to a University in Wales as the college I was attending in Ireland would only extend a pass degree to me as I had failed to pass some exams in the first sitting.

 It was an honours degree or nothing so I transferred Universities & it  was the best educational decision I made. It was while I was in University in Wales that I was diagnosed with Dyslexia and began to receive the necessary & essential support for my disability. I was given 1 on 1 support with an Educational Psychologist, received grants for specialist IT software, given access to class support where the support would take notes for me in lectures, but the most invaluable support was been given extra time to sit exams.

  I graduated with Honours and because I graduated with honours I secured a Graduate Programme with a Bank. This simply would not have happened if I listened to the doubters. Although having dyslexia is certainly an extra hurdle many need to overcome, it is not and never should be an excuse either for yourself or for our educators to turn a blind eye, but it is down to you to ensure that you receive the best support and that you are never overlooked for opportunities. Never allow educators the opportunity to overlook you because of your disability.

How did your parents deal with your dyslexia?

My family….there were times when I wanted to quit my education especially while in college but my parents would not hear of it and never faulted in their support or their belief in my ability.

How about one who really helped?

I had lecture in the WIT, who was extremely supportive and was instrumental in getting my transfer approved to the University of Wales. I will be eternally grateful for his guidance and support.

Does your dyslexia affect your work now? How do you deal with that?

Employers have a legal obligation not to discriminate against people with learning disabilities and in the majority of cases I have found that employers are supportive.  I have never shied away or tried to hide my dyslexia from employers, potential employers or clients. I don’t believe you ever should.

In terms of day to day tasks, yes there are occasions where my dyslexia is apparent to the outside world and I often have to reread an email 1000 times before sending it but that’s just how I work with my disability. I accept that I have weakness and work harder in those areas but I celebrate my strengths.

Over the years I have come to embrace it & in many ways dyslexia has played a major role in making me the person I am today. Driven, determined, accepting, tolerant and quirky. I believe people with learning disabilities see the world differently and that’s a unique & special thing.

What advice would you give girls who are currently going through the second level system? Any hints or tips?

  • If you’re struggling………Get it checked out….. There’s a reason.
  • Acknowledge that the educational system is only set up with to deal with a standard way of learning. Now accepting that……find YOUR way of learning Mind Maps, voice recording, video classes there are so many options open to you.
  • No girl is an island….Seek support and take advantage of all the expert guidance available to you.
  • Time!
  • Never use it as an excuse not to succeed.
  • Embrace it, don’t fear it, leverage it to drive you forward.
  • Dyslexia will never hold you back, only negative attitudes hold you back.

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