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Living with Dyslexia

Dyslexia is an integral part of who we are. It is not a thing that comes and goes, nor is it something we can get rid of, or overcome. Dyslexia is a condition that is ours for life. Living with dyslexia has its excitements and frustrations.

I can’t say everything on this one page. I have tried to give an idea about life with dyslexia. There is so much more to say, and others have done it very well. Please read all about it. Visit the Links page to find more information.

The Psycho-Educational Assessment

This is not a fun process to go through. No matter how nice the facilitator is and how well things are explained, the test is designed to measure a person’s learning strengths and weakness.

As a young person, we know what we are good and bad at because school has been telling us this for years. The testing process is long, sometimes lasting several days. If we have processing difficulties, attention or distractibility difficulties, anxiety or stress, these tests can be overwhelming.

Our well-being must be taken into consideration when scheduling and performing the tests. Sometimes a bad day is a horrible day to perform the test - so reschedule it.

We know we are being tested and compared to other kids. As an assessment tool, this is mean. When it’s all over, we are shown the results, told what they mean, and then let go to sort through the information knowing that all it has told us is that we are not as smart as others. We need to really understand what the results mean and how we can use them to help us learn.

The results are then used to develop the IEP (Individualised Education Plan) for the teacher to use to teach according to the student’s learning style and needs.

Early years in grades Pre-school to 3

As young persons with dyslexia enter school, everything is new. There is no pre-dyslexic learning to compare life to. We will slowly learn that we learn differently, but will not know how to say this. We do as we are asked, and learning how to learn with dyslexia begins. It is not easy. Mistakes are made. Teachers will explain the best they can, not knowing a learning disability exists. As time progresses, a pattern will develop with certain learning tasks. The alphabet maybe difficult to understand and learn. Writing may be messy with letters in various positions. Math will see similar number shapes and miscalculations. Frustration may become noticeable and a “blockage” in the ability to learn concepts or skills becomes noticeable. It is now that the awareness of difficulties should be looked at by a specialist who performs learning assessments [psycho-educational assessment]. We know something isn’t right, but we don’t know what and how to say so.

Middle School years grades 4 to 8

If a young dyslexic person now enters the years of middle school education and is not diagnosed, we see the gradual increase of learning difficulties, frustration, and avoidance. These are frustrating years.

With good observation from the teachers, hopefully it will be recognised that we are not doing well. Behaviour could become an issue, not finishing tasks, bullying, and avoiding being noticed in class (becoming the invisible perfect student). A student struggling to learn will mask this struggle with behaviour, good or bad. We will try to be good at something we can do, even if it is not appropriate.

These are all “flags” drawing attention to ourselves. Use these as an indicator that help is needed - do not ignore them.

This is not an easy time to be struggling with dyslexia. School is requiring more reading and writing. And this is not our strength. When these skills are not good at best, the demand to perform is frightening. It is easy to give up.

Luckily in today’s world, computers can provide us help, easily and quickly, without much notice from others. Computers can read text aloud to us, and can take our spoken words and put them to text. Help with grammar is also available, though knowing grammar rules helps to know why something is wrong and how to use the computer to help fix it. We need to know grammar to improve our grammar.

Study skills, test review and practice, and planning skills all need to be developed during the pre-high school years. Many schools do not teach us these skills. And we may not know we need to know how to do them. Our testing and assignment grades will keep letting us know that we are still not doing well and the “Am I that stupid?” thinking begins. If there is no IEP, get one!

High School grades 9 to 12

What has not been learned in the middle school years really becomes obvious in high school. High school comes with many new pressures, stresses, and frustrations. Teachers expect us to know how to do many things - write, spell, math, study, and do homework. Not all dyslexics have had the chance to learn all of these and catching up in high school is not easy. Mr. Powel from middle school isn’t there to make things better for us as he did before.

If there is an IEP from middle school, it needs to be updated. Teachers will not do what is not on an IEP. Make sure the first month in high school that there is a meeting with all the school staff to introduce them to me. Let them learn who I am and how I learn.

Asking a dyslexic high school student to self identify is not going to happen. There is no pride in having Dyslexia and there are no bonus points to identify and self advocate. I’m not going to wear a Dyslexic Pride shirt. The risk of being humiliated is too great, especially after what we have been through so far. It’s better to be quiet and suffer than it is to be humiliated and ridiculed. And if we are lucky, there will be a teacher who understands dyslexia and will be someone to get help from. If not, then there are few options. A tutor specializing in dyslexia is something to consider, however we have to want this.

Learning to learn is not easy at high school. It is so frustrating to know that all these years in school so far have not helped. We are still behind. It requires more time, more frustration, and more repetition. By now, sports, hormones, avoidance, and other behaviours and things to do are more important. All we want to know is how can we learn and do well enough to graduate.

As the grade 12 year approaches, so does the College or University question. Pressure for us to pick the right grade level courses is huge. For some of us, this can be overwhelming and school support can be nonexistent. Here too, we don’t need to stay with those who are not able to help us. We need to get out of school help to help us plan so the options are thought out properly. A tutor trained in knowing how to help people like us with dyslexia is a really good idea.

For some of us undiagnosed dyslexic students, high school is the end of schooling in a traditional format. Some of us are looked upon as not worthy students and are encouraged to leave school - to get out and stop being the school’s problem. This un-imaginable act of cruelty is not the solution.


College or University is a time of great excitement and a time of possible failure. Not all of us are ready to go to college or university after high school, but options are few and not that great.
If we can, apply to college and university and then postpone going for one year. During this time, work, travel, and mature. At this level, we are tossed into a very unstructured, unsupervised world filled with distractions that are both healthy and not.
We need to be ready for this, as best as we can. We need to be really ready for a lot of hard work and a lot of distractions. More than ever, we need to know how to use an Agenda, Plan our time, Study, and use Technology to help us. The student guidance centre on campus is an important place for us to get help and to identify as a dyslexic.

We need to get involved with study groups so we can discuss what we are learning in class and learn more about it by talking to others. We need to learn what others are doing to succeed and try it out for ourselves. We need to learn from others.

On-line resources are also really valuable to learn from. Sites like Youtube are fantastic. A video can be watched and stopped anytime, anywhere, and repeated to listen and watch over again to help us understand. We can take notes on the computer and have them read back to us. We can use class websites to get copies of slide shows and course material.

We can do all this and more. It is up to us to do it and become the best we can. College and university should be used to take away as much as we can from these schools. Chances are, we may not be back.

Adult Life

As an adult dyslexic, we are on our own. It is time to be in a world that is slowly becoming tolerant to dyslexics wanting accommodations in the work place to do our jobs. Not all employers are willing to help us. It is up to us to help ourselves.

It will be up to us to create a working environment that works for us. We will need to use available technology on computers, mobile phones, tablets, and other yet to be invented resources to help us.

Knowing what to do and how to do the job is essential. Being fired from a job because we don’t understand the expectations is lousy. It brings back all the self doubt and anger of failing at school. Dyslexics must teach ourselves what is needed to do a certain job. Perhaps the employer has courses to take. If so, we need to take them! As an adult dyslexic, every opportunity to improve and become a better worker has to be taken. We need to develop these skills on-line, Youtube, night classes, virtual schools, and through experience.

For some of us dyslexics, the struggle to stay employed is so overwhelming that we take the skills we do have and open our own businesses. Here we are the boss and will learn how to run the business according to how we need and want it to operate. Thus, creating a dyslexic company that often times out performs the traditional businesses.

Some dyslexic business people are, myself, Philip Powel Smith, Barbara Cocoran of Cocoran Real-estate Group, Richard Branson of Virgin, Steven Spielberg-movie director, Cher-actress, and so many more.


Ottawa, Ontario


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