Diagnosed with Dyslexia
When I was 13 years old, I was diagnosed with dyslexia, and the first thing my mom said when we found out was, “well that explains a lot.” My entire life, I have suffered from this learning disability, and it did explain a lot, when I was finally diagnosed.
I was born in Oslo, Norway to a dual cultural family. My mother is American and my father is Norwegian, and for the first few years, no signs of dyslexia appeared. By the time I was 4, I fully understood English, as well as any 4 year old does, but I spoke Norwegian, and at this time, we moved to Germany. I was enrolled at an English speaking preschool and started speaking English, even though it was with a Norwegian accent, which horrified my mother. I learned the letters of the alphabet and even lost the accent, and within 6 months my teachers said I was ready to start reading. So my teachers brought out the 6 paged books with 1 simple sentence on each page, and tried to teach me how to read, but something wasn’t clicking. I knew the letters, but the minute I tried to solve the puzzle and read the word, I failed. One of the many strengths that dyslexics have is the ability to memorize, and that is exactly what I did. We would struggle through the book several times, and in the end I had managed to memorize most of the book, but it was easy to tell that I really had no idea how to read.
By first grade, my level was so low compared to all the other children, I was put in the English as a second language class, and I learned to read. I can’t tell you any details of how they managed to help me solve the puzzle, but they did it. However, my writing was majorly lacking. My spelling and handwriting was so bad that my teacher, somebody who had decoded hundreds of first grader’s writing, had no idea what I had written. So for each assignment, she would ask me to come to her and read out what I had written. Me, being the naive six year old, thought that my work was so good that she wanted me to read it out in front of her. I also thought that I had beautiful calligraphy far beyond my age, because my writing looked so different from everybody else’s.
But then second grade rolled around, and I was stumped again. For math we were given worksheets with lots of word problems on them, but I could hardly ever even finish one, much less the 3 or 4 we were given each lesson. I struggled so much with reading the instructions, that I didn’t even make it to the math part. This was my first major blow to my self-confidence because I had always considered myself pretty good at math. Also, we started doing an exercise called mad minutes, where we had two minutes to solve 100 problems. At the start of the year, I did very well and was progressing steadily, but then I understood we were being timed. My level plummeted, and I never regained the speed that I originally had. Another new edition to that year was the Wednesday book reports. We had a week to read a book, and then write a few sentences about the book. I remember crying every Tuesday night trying to write the couple sentences, but feeling like I had to write an essay.
Moving Schools and Countries
After that year we moved to Sweden, where I started at a British Primary School. I can safely say, that was the worst year of my life, mainly due to my horrible teacher. I was put in the lowest classes in all subjects, and found my new mortal enemy of an assignment, the spelling tests. Every week, we had a basic spelling test and if you passed, you moved on to the next sheet. I failed miserably, and only progressed due to the fact that they had to move me up, because I had been on the same sheet for months. The next three years were equally disheartening, and I never did very well in school. The feeling of stupidity I felt, was largely contributed to my inability to write, and some of the most frustrating moments were asking the teacher how to spell wonderful for example, and her spelling it. I would ask her to repeat it as I never understood what she had said, but I would still be trying to figure out what letter it started with. I would end up using the word good, and I never felt that I could fully show my real potential. I was put back into English as a second language and made minimal progress.
Finally, Someone Noticed
My teachers all mentioned the possibility of me having dyslexia, but the unwillingness of the school to get me tested stopped any further investigation. It wasn’t until I started 6th grade that I finally felt some hope. I had changed schools, out of the British system and into the MYP system, at a school that used computers. Spell check suddenly became my best friend, and I started doing well. So well in fact that any former discussions about dyslexia were forgotten. Then I joined Señor Leon’s Spanish class. Señor Leon is one of the kindest teachers I have ever had, and he has ADD. In case you don’t know, ADD stands for Attention Deficit Disorder, and effects your ability to concentrate. It is a mental disorder, that is often studied and associated with dyslexia. He is also a Specific Learning Disorder specialist, but had given that up to become a teacher. One day as he was watching me write on paper, he asked me, “Do you have dyslexia?” and I was very surprised and mildly hurt and told him no. That night I went home very concerned to my mother and told her that he thought I have dyslexia. Knowing my mother, she instantly got in contact with him and wanted to know more about his thoughts. After a lot of pushing on his behalf, the school recommend me to a professional Specific Learning Disorder specialist and I was tested in the summer of 2015. The results came back positive and my mother said “well that explains a lot”.
Diagnosed with Dyslexia
Being diagnosed with dyslexia was actually was a huge confidence booster. I knew now that I wasn’t stupid, or slow, but that I was actually highly intelligent, and that I just struggled with words. Fast forward to today, and I am proud to say that I have dyslexia. I feel as though it has been one of the most defining things in my life, because it has taught me to work hard and keep on trying no matter how hard it is. This is why I am here today, to encourage other people that do or don’t have dyslexia, to understand what it is, and to embrace it. I’m tired of hearing people tell me that I can’t make excuses because of my dyslexia, when really all I’m trying to do is warn them that my spelling might be terrible and I write three sizes too big. I’m not trying to make excuses, I just want them to understand why I might seem different.
I still very much struggle with my dyslexia, time management being my biggest obstacle, but I know now why. Everyday I try to find new solutions to problems I might face. My message for you all today is to never give up hope, and really discover what dyslexia is.
Dyslexia may shape me but it doesn’t define me! Thank you
To learn more about how we support out dyslexic children read our Dyslexia Awareness Week blog