I was never a high achiever at school, I was terrible at sport and never won any accolades nor awards. Two things that you need to be good at if you are going to a private school. Not knowing that I had dyslexia at the time, I struggled in class but never enough to raise any real concerns from teachers. I had a great group of friends and they, along with my mum, helped me complete school. They all helped me with proofreading my assignments, correct my spelling or to do maths calculations. I managed to fly under the radar. I loved reading and creative writing, so who would have picked there something was wrong? I thought everyone was like me. I was never shy in asking for help, but I hated reading out loud and this created a lot of anxiety. Along with having to do presentation, I would have nightmares about standing up in front of the class.
I finished school, travelled the world and ended up becoming, of all things, a speech pathologist. At the time I still didn’t know I was dyslexic. I had many teachers, lecturers and tutors throughout secondary school and university. It wasn’t until I was undertaking my masters that I had a tutor say to me “I think you are Dyslexic. Maybe should get assessed”. At the age of 27, I was diagnosed with Dyslexia, but I had nowhere to turn. The psychologist gave me my report and sent me on my way. For the past ten years I have been dealing with my diagnosis of dyslexia and how it effects my life and I will continue to deal with it for my whole life.
It’s scary to admit that to people that I have a hidden disability; you never know how people will react. There are always feelings of shame and embarrassment lurking and a fear of being caught out. I have had some amazing managers and employers, but most have had little to no understanding of dyslexia. They have been frustrated by my poor writing skills and atrocious spelling! I have had a very successful career working in the health sector but there are day to day challenges and struggles; it can be hard.
I have found that having dyslexia has enabled me to be extremely resilient, you get knocked down a lot and have to learn to stand back up. But you can only keep doing that of you have a lot of support in place. I am also a big picture thinker and a creative problem solver all very valuable skills in the workplace.
Recently I have been on a quest to try and find the avenues available to support people like me with dyslexia. What I’ve found is that in Australia there is no support for young people and adults, especially those in the workplace. I have founded the Dear Dyslexic Foundation with the aim to empower those 16 and over to reach their full potential. We have just launched our podcast series to raise awareness of dyslexia by talking to fellow dyslexics and experts in the field. We want to shine a light on the successes and challenges and also look at the advantages rather than the disadvantages of having dyslexia.
To support the work of the foundation I am now a doctorate candidate; I have blossomed into an academic in adulthood. Who would have ever believed that? Had someone had told me at 16 that I would be heading up my own not-for-profit and undertaking my doctorate I would have laughed and said “Yeah right!”
Yet here I am.