As part of Dyslexia Awareness Month this October we sat down with two of our students to find out more about their experiences living and learning with dyslexia.
What is dyslexia?
‘Dyslexia is a specific learning disorder that is neurological in origin, meaning that it is brain-based. It is characterised by difficulties with accurate and fluent word reading and by poor spelling and decoding abilities that do not progress as expected with the provision of targeted intervention.’ (Dyslexia – SPELD Foundation)
What is it like to have dyslexia?
This year we are shining a light on Lulu who is in Year 7 and Liam who is in Year 6. We spent some time interviewing Lulu and Liam to gain some insight into their journey with dyslexia.
When understanding Liam’s journey with dyslexia, Liam explains that he finds reading and writing difficult, but with lots of effort, he can do both of these things just as well as others. Over time, Liam has found ways to help get the most out of his memory and concentration.
Although reading and writing require lots of effort, Liam shared that there are other things he finds easy. For example, Liam is good at caring for others and considering their perspective. He is also great at socialising and finds making new friends easy. Finally, Liam is an excellent strategist!
Reflecting on what school has been like, Lulu shares that she has found learning to read and write really tricky. She has relied on friends to help her find solutions to learning tasks she did not feel confident doing herself.
When asked about her strengths, Lulu quickly identifies her communication skills. She also enjoys art and other specialist subjects, including being part of the Volleyball School of Excellence.
Can you describe to me what it was like when you found out you had dyslexia?
I was about 6. At first I thought there was something wrong with me. I remember crying for a bit and then my parents cheered me up. They told me that it makes me special and there is nothing wrong with it. I’m unique. – Liam
Dyslexia can affect people differently. How does having dyslexia affect you in your daily life? What challenges do you face?
The worst one is reading. Short term working memory loss is always frustrating. I forget things 10 seconds after people say it which can be tricky in social situations and at school with instructions. – Liam
Maths and English are hard – reading, writing and spelling, and I get nervous talking in front of the class. – Lulu
How would you explain dyslexia to someone who knows nothing about it?
I think it’s hard but it’s almost a blessing because it makes you see the world differently. It helps you to have a different perspective. It teaches you the lesson that hard work pays off and you’re not any worse than anyone else. – Liam
You learn differently. You don’t learn like everyone else. – Lulu
How do you cope with your dyslexia? What have been some good strategies you’ve learned and found helpful?
A ‘to do’ list has always helped me. It’s very satisfying to be able to tick things off. Also mindmaps and graphic organisers help to organise my ideas. ‘Talk to text’ helps and predictive text on the iPad. Re-reading your work or getting someone to read it back to me always helps. – Liam
Safari – doing searches and using a dictionary. Also sitting next to someone who can help (peer tutoring). – Lulu
How has St Peter’s Woodlands supported you with your dyslexia? What could we do better as a school when supporting our learners with dyslexia?
SPW has hugely supported me. Playberry was a really big one. I had huge improvements as a result of this program which also helped improve my mindset. The practice and repetition has really helped. Putting in the extra effort has made me now be at the same level as my class mates. The staff have really helped me with my mindset and the way I view my dyslexia. It doesn’t have to be something that makes you incapable, because with the right support you can do those things too.
I would totally recommend SPW to someone who has dyslexia. It has hugely helped me with wellbeing and my reading, spelling and writing. – Liam
Playberry with Mrs Fahey. We moved for a better teaching environment and chose SPW because it’s close to home, has good programs and good teachers. – Lulu
How would you like people to treat you around your dyslexia?
I think some people think of it as something wrong with you, but I want people to understand I can still do things, just in a different way. – Liam
Give extra time on assignments. Don’t present in front of class if you don’t want to. Don’t ask me to read out loud. – Lulu
As Dyslexia Awareness Month draws to a close, we celebrate the commitment of staff, students and their families to ensuring that all students can develop their literacy skills.
At St Peter’s Woodlands, we understand the extraordinary difference that having a supportive learning environment, with excellent teaching and learning support, can make for our students.
Thank you to Jo Hirst, Inclusive Education Teacher, Liam and Lulu for sharing this story.