Amy Sheehan | creative writer | Dyslexia awareness|

Youth editor and columnist Amy Sheehan directs your questions to experts and presents their responses on our forum pages.

Some people read really fast, but you’ll ask them questions about the script and they’ll forget. I take a long time to read a script, but I read it only once. I directed a movie, and I never brought the script to the set.”

-Salma Hayek, Actress

Dyslexia is a learning disability, but it's impact goes beyond just your learning.

My name is Amy Sheehan. I'm an 18 year old sixth-form student living in the UK, going on to read Geography at Nottingham University.

 I have diagnosed dyslexia and I'm in the process of being diagnosed with autism. All of my primary and secondary education has been based around Essex and Suffolk. Within this first editorial I'd like to share some struggles I've experienced along my journey. 

I'm a high achieving academic, but that was not always the case. Throughout a lot of my education I had been left behind to struggle with my disability and not given equal opportunity. That changed when I was finally given my dyslexia diagnosis, allowing the support I deserved to be given to me. I'm now supported by 25% extra time in exams, reading assistants (human and technological), coloured paper, tinted classes and laptop access.

 Fortunately, I'm in a school that has excellent staff that support me, however I know this is not always the case in many schools. To neurotypical individuals I'm certain my arrangements sounds wonderful, but a lot of dyslexics would agree that support barely scratches the surface. 

The stigma of being dyslexic in education is still prevalent and I'm sure some don't even realize it exists. Asking for a sheet in your colour, asking for the spelling of the word; asking the teacher to read aloud because you can't read the writing on the board; asking for the extra time you deserve when sitting class assessments; wearing coloured glasses. All are things that single you out, label you as different and often lead to a reduced self esteem. Personally I find it heartbreaking that asking for equal opportunity and simply being yourself can crush the confidence of students globally. 

I have found in my personal experience fellow students can be cruel and neglectful to the impact of their words when making 'jokes' surrounding my different ways of learning in class and believing my arrangements 'unfair'. "Why don't I get extra time?" a frequent question asked when I'm in assessments or have extended deadlines. I know I'm not alone in this experience. Thankfully I'm proud of who I am and not ashamed of my uniqueness, but often this cruelty can make other dyslexic students resent their disabilities and stop asking for the support they need so they can be perceived as 'normal'. My main message is there is nothing wrong with being dyslexic, and I acknowledge my struggle can go beyond the classroom.  

If you're a teacher, educator, lecturer reading this, wondering how you could support your students I can only be brief, but these would be my pointers:

-Spell out words to the class, so we don't have to ask.

- Make sure they have the correct colour sheets and books.

-Shut down all teasing. 

-Understand dyslexia is more then struggling to read and spell.

 Many education systems are inherently biased towards neuro-typical people. We must do all we can to support all learner types, all disabilities, everyone.

If you have any question regarding my article or dyslexia in general feel free to get in touch.