I’ll never forget my first day at school.
As I picked up my pencil and attempted to write, the juvenile letters appeared to have a mind of their own; some would want to go backwards, others upside down and many wouldn’t even show up at all.
Normally for a child my age this would be a passing phase, a simple testament that any time before holding such a pencil was for a simple doodle.
I was diagnosed with dyslexia.
As I continued through school I had a number of classroom assistants, but they were unable to help me improve.
I remember thinking; if I flunk school, if all else fails, I’ll just join the Army. Problem solved.
I signed up to the Army shortly after my 18th birthday. There I met the kind of people I had spent my entire life trying to avoid; aggressive and volatile, constantly trying to prove themselves and define their masculinity. I quickly realized, that this environment was not how I wanted to live my life.
After 4 years of hell and mud, I enrolled at my local art college in Plymouth in the south west of England. The assignments were practical at first and I appeared to have a real flair, but then the written tests came.
I struggled. I thought Dyslexia was something that you would just shake off as you entered adulthood? Well, rather annoyingly it wasn’t. I spent the first term at college in a very unrelaxed way. My grammar and spelling were that of an 8 year old and my handwriting was completely eligible. The college quickly noticed my problem and turned me over to the director of the British Dyslexia Association.
She quickly assessed my needs and looked over my work. She suggested that I get access to a weekly tutor to help with my homework and offered me a free laptop to work on.
Arrogantly, I was quick refuse all of these. As wonderful as the offered support was, I didn’t see it as tackling the problem it was more a case of avoiding it.
She quickly climbed over my ego and explained that there was no way of actually beating Dyslexia and that it was just a part of how you’re wired. She explained how I absorb information far differently to how I relay information, and that my creative part of the brain and the processing part are effectively a different way around to other people. This is certainly why you find a lot of creative people tending to be Dyslexic.
Finally my dyslexia was presented in a way that didn’t make me feel like a failure and gave me hope that I could conquer it.
The years that followed were frustrating, trying to get my head around certain aspects of learning was troublesome, but I eventually found my method.
Since her help, I have discovered a joy for reading and learning that I never thought I had within me. I now write professionally and have enjoyed many years as a successful photographer.
But I am still facing challenges every day. Spell check for instance couldn’t pick up the correct word that I just typed for ‘challenges.’ In fact I had just spent several minutes trying to figure out how it’s actually spelled. This is a common problem for me as I tend to read by association and memory, as I can’t actually breakdown words in my head. Often I write the wrong word thinking that it reads as something else entirely when it doesn’t, being a writer you can imagine that I have annoyed many editors in the past!
But my story is one of hope. I am an example, that anyone can conquer dyslexia and live the life of their dreams.
If you suffer from a similar problem or know of anyone that does, the help is there. Don’t be stubborn like I was!
Here are some links to a few of the Dyslexia charities that are also available to offer anyone with support:
Robert is a freelance journalist, writer and cultural commentator. Residing in London, you’ll likely find him at either one of the Tates, or hunched over his MacPro in Queens Park’s Costa. You can follow Robert on Twitter @FocusOnTheDay. Read more of Robert’s writing at Huffington Post UK, London Calling, and Tearmatt.