This is going to be quite a personal entry into this blog for me. It isn't going to talk about dyslexia directly but it is directly relevant to the readers of this blog.
Some of you will recall that I have a dyslexic daughter who got assessed in year 8 and this changed her up a gear in terms of her ability to deliver better results at schools. She was given support, and her confidence increased.
I didn't tell you that I have two daughters! My other daughter who is currently taking a gap year out, has always progressed well at school, delivered great results and always seemed confident about her academic studies. She definitely is not dyslexic. But with this time out and a lot of reflection it would appear that she has a question that needs answering.
For Beth, whilst she appeared to be diligently focusing on her studies, she had a feeling that the effort being put in didn't equal the results received at college. She handled GCSEs really well but when she moved to A Levels it was clear that the added level of work and general stress associated at this level, was starting to take it's toll. Beth received the A levels result that she needed for her next step but was disappointed with the results that she received. She had worked really hard but felt dissatisfied with her performance. Something didn't add up.
This is a common story, isn't it. Something doesn't feel right at school for an individual. They are often suffering in silence because they feel that the problem is in some way to do with their attitude or that they are failing and it is their fault. Despite having a great work ethic they can feel depressed, ashamed and their self esteem can drop.
As parents, neither myself or my wife view what Beth has achieved with anything but a very high level of respect. We are proud of her. OK, so she didn't get the A star grades that Beth's college seems to be obsessed about, but she worked hard and did what she needed to do to get to the next step.
So imagine our surprise when Beth stated that she wanted to get a special needs assessment? "Why? You have done so well, what special needs could you possibly have?" We reacted.
It turns out that Beth works so hard because she struggles to concentrate, she over compensates for a problem that she can't quite define. The level of work at A Level stage knocked her confidence back.
Beth needed an answer as to what was happening.....
So the reason why this is so personal to me, is that special educational needs are genetic. They come from the parents. I am 44, and I recall working so hard to get GCSEs,eventually getting a degree in Chemistry. I got average results but I put a tonne of effort in and wasn't satisfied. I was relieved to have been able to pass exams rather than excel at them. I settled for a level of potential that was seemingly un-improvable. I thought that I was just someone who simply wasn't that clever. I know that I am not dyslexic, I can read and write clearly, but oh my gosh, my ability to concentrate on studying is so shocking. I would sit and read, study and revise with tears streaming down my face because I was so tired and was yawning all the time. Strange really, because when I stopped studying to do something else, I didn't feel tired. In hindsight there was clearly some kind of visual stress issue. That said my comprehension was OK, but my retention of information was shocking. I think that I only got through my levels of education because I was fortunate to have been studying at a time when course work generated a large part of the overall mark. It certainly wasn't due to my exam technique and revision capabilities. I have realised that for years I had simply accepted that I wasn't good enough. For a while that became the story of my life.
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She had her special needs assessment last week and was tested for dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia and ADHD.
Without going into the results as that is personal for her, she came out of the assessment with a diagnosis that surprised us all. She did indeed have a special educational need and for the first time she had been able to speak with someone about her performance at college that understood her and what she needed to do next.
That young lady, has answered a secret question that she has struggled privately with for years and has done it at the age of 18. I almost wept when I saw the joy that was on her face when I collected her from her assessment.
The take home message from this post is simple. If you are a pupil or student and something doesn't add up for you in terms of effort in, equalling success out, then get yourself assessed. Even if you are doing well. If it doesn't feel right then it is possible that you are not fulfilling your potential and may be missing out on something fantastic later in life. It will be expensive (it always is) but the cost is nothing compared to the cost associated with living a life thinking that you are not good enough.
I can tell you this for sure, because at the age of 44, I think that I am ready to get an assessment and answer that question. When I do, I will tell you all about it.
Useful links for assessment services.
Guidelines from the British Dyslexia Association
Guidelines from the NHS
Guidelines from Dyslexia Action
Useful links for University students