Sunday Spotlight – Steph’s story

July 14, 2023 1:53 pm

My dyslexic journey and learning to read with Read Easy

Hi, my name is Steph.

Let me tell you a bit about myself. I was 11 years old when I was diagnosed with dyslexia. I know what you’re probably thinking, that’s a bit late. Well, yeah. I know.

In the early years at primary school, my teachers would always call me lazy or say, “You’re not trying.” I heard these words every day and eventually I started to give up on myself. Even though I was trying, I just didn’t understand what they were trying to teach me. So, I spent most of my time daydreaming, drawing or practising my handwriting. I practised my handwriting so that I could hide the fact that I couldn’t read or write very well which would serve me very well later in life.

Then in my last year of primary school a support teacher acknowledged the fact that I was actually struggling and not just lazy and suggested that I get tested for dyslexia. When my test results came back, I was relieved to find out that it wasn’t my fault I didn’t understand what the teachers were trying to teach me. After my results came back, none of my teachers ever called me lazy or said that I wasn’t trying, which I can tell you, was a welcome change!

Even after I left school, I only knew the basics of reading and writing and had the reading age of a five year old so I had to get through life by mastering the art of cutting corners and finding easier ways to get to the same result, something which I would later find out is called a ‘coping mechanism’. One of the best things I came across, eventually years later, was Siri on the iPhone and its speech to text and text to speech functions! What a revelation this was. No more did I have to ask people what words said in texts or how to spell something embarrassingly simple. Siri quite literally changed the way I felt about texting people. I didn’t have to feel embarrassed about spelling words incorrectly, I could send a message, knowing for certain that it could be understood.

I met my husband in January 2007 and from the start he had a suspicion that I had learning difficulties but he never once mentioned it, or pressed the issue until I opened up to him. To my surprise, he wasn’t judgemental and just said that he found it fascinating how my brain worked and that he loved that if I couldn’t do, spell or read something then I would always find a different, easier way to get the end result. Sometimes for me this meant skipping words I couldn’t read to finish the sentence then going back and guessing what the word said to make sense (to mostly good success surprisingly) or to completely rewriting a text message to avoid using a word I couldn’t spell, but still get the same point across.

Fast forward to January 2022, my husband saw a programme advertised on TV called ‘Jay Blades: Learning to Read at 51’ which, and I’m sure you can guess, was about a man called Jay Blades who was an adult dyslexic who was learning how to read, very publicly on TV with a charity called Read Easy. My husband watches ‘The Repair Shop’ on which Jay is a presenter so he was sold from the start but all he said to me was, “Let’s watch this, I think you’ll enjoy it.” As I was watching the programme, and he was explaining his story about his struggles and his coping mechanisms I felt like I knew exactly what he was saying because I shared similar experiences!

Hearing Jay say that he couldn’t read bedtime stories to his daughter really touched a nerve in me. I was pregnant at the time with our first child and I remember looking down at my stomach and saying to my husband that I wanted to be able to read stories to our child, and then quickly after that a thought crossed my mind, “What if our child has learning difficulties just like me? I have no way of being able to help.” My husband, of course, said not to worry and that he would help and support our child to the best of his abilities. I just looked back at him and said that I didn’t want our child to go through the same experiences as me at school and that I wanted to be able to help and support her if needed because I know only too well what it is like growing up with dyslexia and the embarrassment I felt on a near daily basis.

Before the programme had even finished, my husband had pulled out his laptop and was emailing the very same charity, Read Easy, on my behalf. A week later I received a phone call from a lovely lady called Alison to arrange a meeting to tell me about herself, what she does for the charity and of course a little more about the charity itself. After the phone call I was doubting that I had made the right choice and wasn’t sure if I could do it but my husband said to me “Just go for a chat and see what they have to say, if you don’t agree with what they are offering then just walk away”.

Needless to say, I met up with Alison and she explained that there are five books which I could work through and I could stop at any point if I wanted to. She went on to explain that I’d be paired up with a tutor who they thought would be a perfect match. I was instantly sold and was so glad that I chose to go to the meeting. After hearing what Alison had to say about the charity, all the support I would receive in order for me to learn to read I left thinking, “You know what, I’m going to do this!”

I remember getting home and telling my husband what was discussed and what they can do to help me. I looked down at my coffee and then looked at my husband with determination and said, “You know what, I’m going to do all five books.” He looked back at me and said, “I know you will.”

A few weeks passed and I was finally introduced to the person who they found to become my Read Easy tutor and wow were they right! My tutor is absolutely amazing! We get on so well and I feel so comfortable with her, I honestly believe that she is the sole reason why I have picked it up as quickly as I have!

Fast forward to now and here I am, on book number 5, reading bedtime stories to our daughter every night and I have even started reading books myself! My favourite kind of books at the moment, are graphic novels and while I still can’t read all of the words, I know it’s just a matter of time before I can. Because after all, I’m reading a book! Me! The lazy child from school who didn’t try in class has finally proved all those teachers wrong and learned a skill which most people take for granted!

Since February this year I have been invited onto BBC Radio Leicester, twice to talk about learning to read with Read Easy! I have been a guest speaker at the Annual Read Easy Conference at the University of Warwick which was a great experience talking about my struggles growing up and how I have committed myself to reading. I have also been invited back to BBC Radio Leicester when I’ve finished book 5 to talk about how I’ve found the course, how I’m doing now compared to when I started. I have also signed up for TTRS (Touch Type Read & Spell) which is a free subscription for a year for Read Easy readers. It is really helping me with my reading, spelling and typing, which I can see being a great benefit as I come towards the end of book 5, to help carry me into a future filled with lots of reading.

I often get asked, how did you hide that you are dyslexic.
Well, I like to think of myself as a magician and his assistant all in one. With one hand I draw your attention to my appearance using the colours of the tattoos on my skin, my humour while with the other, I’m creating an illusion to be hidden in plain sight.
There is no need for magic tricks anymore! I am proud of who I am, and what I have achieved with Read Easy. This is my prestige. I can finally walk with my head held high and be full of confidence for the first time knowing that I can do absolutely anything I put my mind to.

You can find out all about Read Easy here

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