All my life, I’ve battled with dyslexia — even the word dyslexia is hard to spell! Luckily, I can talk for England and my confidence is sky-high, so I’m excited to be one of the guest speakers at You Will Fail Her, a collaboration between New Theatre Royal resident artist Jon Adams and neurodivergent arts organization DYSLPA taking place on Thursday 21st/Friday 22nd September.
All my life I have battled with dyslexia — even the word dyslexia is hard to spell! The first time I realised I was different from the other kids in my class was when I was nine years old. My teacher at the time told me to take my workbook to the teacher in the class below. To get to the classroom I had to walk across the playground, and on my walk to her I was my usual happy self, thinking I must have achieved some amazing work that my teacher wanted me to show another teacher!
Little did I know that this was not the case — the teacher laughed at my work and showed her class to make them laugh too. My walk back to my classroom changed me as a person. I was more cross than sad. I went from a happy confident child to an ‘I DON’T CARE’ child. Teachers be warned: children are in your care so what you say to them can cause repercussions over the span of their life.
Back in 1981, dyslexia was not as well-known as it is now — you were just deemed as being ‘thick’. Luckily, my parents have been incredibly caring even to this very day, and they could see I was a bright kid and that I worked very hard on my homework, but just didn’t get anywhere. My father had read about a new concept called dyslexia, researched further into the matter, and found a dyslexia specialist to get me tested.
Bingo! Dyslexia was what I had.
I did have to battle on with Holy Cross Junior School in Waterlooville until it was time to go to senior school, but I was surrounded by very good friends; I remember that even at the tender age of 10 years old, a teacher shouted at me to the point where my class retaliated! The retaliation was led by a young Caroline Dinenage, who went on to become the MP for Gosport, a position which she holds today. She, with the help of other classmates, managed to get the teacher to back down and leave me alone!
To my joy and good fortune, my parents sent me to Mayville High School. At this Southsea-based school, they have a dedicated unit for dyslexia, and it was here that I was taught different techniques to learn to loosen the grips dyslexia had on my abilities.
I never felt pressured or lost. The ethos was more on confidence building and nurture, so by slowing down and with a little help from my Speak & Spell which my dad picked up from the States, Mayville led me back off the ‘I DON’T CARE’ path and turned me into a confident young adult.
Unfortunately, it turns out that dyslexia is hereditary! Again, when your baby is born you would not have any indication that there is anything wrong until later in life. Around the first year in Juniors, the warning signs were coming through. The state school my son attended at the time refused to test him, probably due to the way they got their funding.
I left it for a year but could see my poor son sinking deeper and deeper into the pits of dyslexia. I couldn’t stand by and watch! My husband and I got him independently tested, and the results were mortifying. At nine years old, my son had a reading age of five and a spelling age of four. Enough was enough — we had to do something about this, and quick.
Whilst the state school my son was attending was excellent, it didn’t cater well for dyslexic children, so off to Mayville he went! Mayville worked with him and within two years he was back on track with his peers, ultimately achieving B grades in both English Literature and English Grammar at GCSE level. I know that if I had left him in state school this would be a different story.
My son is now nearing the completion of a BTEC National Diploma and is looking to go on to University later on this year.
I went on to have two more children — two girls — hoping that maybe the dyslexia might have skipped a generation, until I got the dreaded phone call in. Unlike my son’s previous school, Mayville test all of their children in Infants and Juniors through their on-site dyslexia unit.
My son, who was about 14 years old at the time, noticed that I was upset, and asked what was wrong. I told him that his sister was diagnosed with dyslexia, and he could not understand why I was upset — he just told me that it was not a problem. Right there and then, I knew we had made the best decision to send our children to Mayville. We are not high earners so we have had to go without fast cars and holidays for a few years! But it’s so worth it.
Mayville is so much more than a dyslexic school, of course — the unit is just one of the strings to its bow. They specialise in top-notch teaching, smaller classes, and the utmost quality of care. Mayville is like one big family.
Unfortunately, these new techniques came in a bit too late for me and my spelling is still so bad that even the QuickType predictive text on my iPhone has no clue what I’m trying to say! Luckily, I can talk for England and my confidence is sky-high, and I know this is down to Mayville and the way they taught me and supported me. So thank you, Mayville High School, for making me who I am today and for the knowledge that my children are in safe hands.