Dyslexia and My Academic Life
I knew I was different long before anyone informed me of a formal diagnosis. Letters never flew in the same way to me, the way so many of friends seemed to have effortlessly understood them. In school, I always felt less-than, behind, stupid, as so many of my fellow dyslexics do (especially of my era). I have these vague memories- of my mom telling the teachers not to send me to the “extra help” classroom.
My strength has always been my memory, it was my saving grace (and my curse), and possibly the reason why so many professionals labeled me as lazy and even my own family struggled to understand what was my “problem” with learning. Yet, I am here, writing this for several reasons. One to inform you (whomever the collective you are) that I have overcome all of these stereotypes and two, to discuss how I did it and became relatively successful in my academic pursuits.
First, I would like to highlight had I gone to the “extra help” classroom I probably would have gotten to success a lot faster. So, if you are a parent reading this, and in search of how to best help your dyslexic child, do not take pointers from my story. I did not have extra supports and was aware I was dyslexic fairly early on in age. I think, my mom didn’t want me to feel different from other kids, but I did, and I struggled. A LOT. On the flip side, I learned how to be a really creative thinker, rely on my memory, and use other skill sets that come more naturally to me.
Although reading is difficult (not as much anymore- I will explain why a little later) I have amazing comprehension skills. This, I attribute to my gift (dyslexia) and when I combine my comprehension and my memory I do feel really in tune with academics. This usually happens in my strength areas, such as History and Art. However, other subjects are not as instinctual, and I do need to work harder. Even so, I chose a major in an area that was more of a challenge for me, in part because of heavy demands for reading and writing.
I became a Social Worker, I received a Masters’s Degree from Columbia University and I am currently applying to PhD programs, all while being dyslexic. As I become wiser, and have celebrated more birthdays I realize dyslexia is not something to fear or be stigmatized, but rather to be celebrated. I enjoy and embrace this part of my learning style, because I am a person with dyslexia I have found new and creative ways to “catch-up” to my peers. One thing I do now is, often I will have my computer or phone read articles while I follow along on the screen to improve my reading. I also have the internet now to help with pronunciation of words, in addition to writing. As a kid, I hated writing out of fear and embarrassment, now I practice writing to keep this skill set up to date along with reading, comprehension, and memory. Since acknowledging my dyslexia- I allow myself opportunities to make the mistakes that once felt so vulnerable and hard to bear. I allow myself to embrace the imperfections whatever the size.