Dyslexia challenged my faith

Can you describe what happened to you?

I've always struggled with maths - even basic number work is hard for me. So when I enrolled as a mature student at the local university, I decided to try and get some help. The Three Dimensional Design degree, (ceramics) I'm doing isn't academic - but it still requires a fair amount of writing and mathematics, and this increases as the course goes on.

I got in touch with the Learning Support Department that is based in the university campus, and arranged an appointment to see an education psychologist for some testing and advice.

I was surprised at how emotional and nervous I felt

before the tests. I felt angry at myself and scared that I would be proved to be a failure. What if there was nothing wrong with me and I really was just as useless as I had always felt?

As I had thought I did score very low on the maths parts of the test, but what came as a big shock was when the psychologist told me that I had dyslexia. My spelling had always been poor but I had always managed somehow. I had never really used complicated words or discussions in my writing, so it had not been a major problem. The psychologist explained that I had a short term memory problem which was why I had never been able to remember things like mathematics or understand it.

How has being diagnosed as dyslexic made a difference to your life?

By the age of forty you have learnt to cope and have found ways round the problems that you have and so there is little formal teaching they can do. The university have given me a tutor who sees me once a week to talk through writing assignments. I have problems with drawing too related to the dyslexia. This is a problem for a design student, but I am having drawing technique lessons with my course tutor.

There is also a list of 'dos and don'ts' that the education psychologist has suggested will help. These include hand outs from tutors, and making allowances for hand writing and spelling, also allowances for drawing.

I may also be able to get funding for software on the computer that will help me with drawing, and I would also find a Dictaphone helpful as I have problems remembering complicated instructions.

Where as before I used to get upset at not being able to understand words or ideas or struggle with basic mathematics I now go and ask someone to explain it, or help me with it. My friend at University is getting used to checking my figures for glaze recipes and she does not mind.

Both of my sons have dyslexia, but as it is such a wide area with lots of symptoms, their dyslexia is different to mine, and so I had no idea that I had it. I have always felt that my eldest son and I never understood each other, our personalities are really different. Knowing that we share the same 'disability' has given us some common ground which has helped us to relate to each other.

What emotional impact did it have on you?

I spent a week or so after being diagnosed in shock. Over the next few weeks I spent a lot of time looking back, wondering what effects the dyslexia had had on the whole of my schooling, and my life since.

More than anything, I really questioned how I view my relationship with God, and how I learn about him from the Bible.

I was upset at first because I thought that I could never improve my understanding of God because of the difficulty I have with grasping ideas or theories. I have a very childlike faith in God. Is that because of my personality, or because of the dyslexia and the difficulty it causes in grasping ideas and theories?

I have always seen problems and passages of the Bible in black and white. I am aware that other people see things in various shades of grey. Often I need others to point out these grey areas and to explain things more fully to me. As I ponder on what they have said. I often wonder why I can't see these things until they are pointed out to me. This has worried me over the years. I guess that now I've been told I have dyslexia I could just blame my lack of understanding on that. But I have found this a struggle to accept. I wondered if I would ever be able to understand what others could.

I have gradually come to accept that God has been happy with my level of understanding for over 20 years, and it does not matter if I don't understand deep theological discussions, or this theory, or that theory.

He made me who I am, and how I am, so why should I worry?

At the end of the day all I need to know is that God loves me. He loves me just how I am, and it does not depend on what I can or cannot understand or how I understand.

The diagnosis is now a few months ago. With time, I have found a new sense of proportion. I am beginning to alter my self perception to make allowances for this new information about me. I am relieved to know about the dyslexia. It makes me feel that I am not a failure or stupid, but there is a cause for why I have struggled. It's been a time of looking at how I work, and how I see things. I'm realising that where I am different from other people is part of what makes me unique.

What resources have helped you?

I have had depression for nearly four years. I spent last summer in counselling talking about my lack of self-esteem and many of the problems related to dyslexia, yet without yet knowing what the root of the problems were. Since being diagnosed, I have been really helped by an article on the emotional problems related to dyslexia on a web site that I found through the British Dyslexia Association. It was like reading my life story! Dyslexics often having a low self esteem, feelings of failure, and fear of new situations, and new ideas, and the feeling of being different and alone.

It was easy for me to be diagnosed through the University. I believe it can cost over £200 to go privately. If you have problems in this area and have the chance to be tested, then it is worth it.

For further information you can try the sites below. The British Dyslexia Association site has all the addresses for the local support groups. We found our local group very good when our first son was diagnosed.

British Dyslexia Association

98 London Road

Reading

RG1 5AU

Tel: 0118 966 2677

 

The Dyslexia Institute

Head Office and National Training and Resource Centre:

Park House, Wick Road,

Egham, Surrey. TW20 0HH

Tel: 01784-222300

 

International Dyslexia Association

This is an American site but it has the information on the emotional problems caused by dyslexia on this page

 

Article written by Susan Sharpe

If you like the pot at the top of this page, and would like to see more of Susan's work, visit her website