It all started 14 years ago, before my parents or I even knew what dyslexia was. I had just started secondary school and had somewhat struggled educationally so far.
It took less than a year for me to realise I was well behind the rest, bottom set for most subjects, most of all for English. Kids in the school were quick to realise I had a weakness and bullied me for it. What made matters worse was that I was always good natured and struggled to fight back.
Started Skipping School
Over 6 months the abuse and harassment intensified until I started skipping school and playing sick, school gave me absolutely nothing. Knowing I had at least 5 year left of school, I became depressed and debated suicide, which looking back, as a twelve year old was insane.
I’m so thankful that my brother saw the warning signs and raised the concern. After my parents finding out they took me out of the school and found another one.
I Still Didn’t Know I Was Dyslexic
At this time I still didn’t know I was dyslexic, I had the reading age of a 8 year old and could barely write nor spell. Things got better in my new school, they specialised in dyslexia, who picked up the symptoms that I had it.
I took a psychological test at 13 which confirmed the suspicions. This test changed my life and helped me rationalise in my early teens that I did struggle and that was fine/normal. I received helpful advice from teachers who know dyslexia well, I was very lucky.
Throughout school I never found English easy, I gave up learning a language to focus on additional English lessons. I did however discover music. I picked up guitar initially at 14.
Music was my opening
Up until then I couldn’t pick up language nor grammar but music was like opening Pandora’s box to a side of my brain that I didn’t know existed, I’ve heard that music and dyslexia go well together, I think it’s because we excel at recognising patterns which is a large part of music (listening).
So this is the point I finish school I got average across the board results (just about scrapping English with a C) but excelled at music and decided to take it further. The idea of starting my life at 18 with no decent education or any skills apart from the weekend job working in retail was too much for me and I decided to defer life, enrolling at university studying… you guessed it, music.
Music Made Me Overcome My Biggest Obstacles
I had a great time there, the course I was on had no written exams and the majority of modules were a performance or coursework. Throughout my time there I began to get interested in education, specifically music education.
I began to find a love for research which required me to overcome my two biggest obstacles in life – reading and writing. With practice these two skills helped me develop my grammar and vocabulary. The final boss of my degree was a 12,000 word dissertation.
I decided to write about how music education is linked to attainment especially from non-affluent backgrounds. This research included interviewing music projects and charities, who I reached out to, to hear their points of view.
I received a first for this research and to this date is something I am truly proud of, i felt I was able to overcome my greatest challenge in life, giving me a thirst for knowledge.
Volunteered in Ghana
After finishing university, with a 2.1 and wanting to travel the world a bit, using my skills and knowledge but at the same time being broke to move around, I volunteered for a charity in Ghana.
The charity put me up with a local family, in return I taught music and English at a village school. I’m not a religious person but I attended and played music in a church.
Putting yourself out of your comfort is an experience I would advocate anyone to do especially if you have dyslexia (I know as a kid, staying in my comfort zone was something I did too much). This experience gave me grounding and appreciation for simple things in life. Most the people I met there were experiencing hard poverty but at the same time learned to enjoy life.
Offered Me an Internship
On returning home and a period of agonising unemployment one of the charities I interviewed offered me an internship following the research I did with then. This internship was to evaluate their work and projects and write a report for them.
Not wanting to make the story too long, between now and then I’ve had a string of jobs which stretch me both as a person and intellectually and I now work as a policy advisor for the government in the country I live in, writing briefings and advice to senior colleagues and ministers.
Dyslexia Doesn’t Define You
There wasn’t really a message to this story although I do want to say dyslexia doesn’t define you as a person and can change with you.
It can make you weak at certain tasks but it can also make you naturally strong at others. Harness your strengths and do your best to improve your weaknesses.
I sometimes have to look back and realise the journey I’ve come on so far, and me and my dyslexia have been there every step of the journey, for better or for worse.