What Dyslexia is like for me

31 January 2017

Did you know that one in 10 of us is thought to be dyslexic in some way? Or that Keira Knightley and Jamie Oliver have have both spoken out about having dyslexia?

We asked Tasha Watson, Scouts Scotland Programme and Development Officer, to share how dyslexia affects her and offers tips on how we can better support people with dyslexia.

Dyslexia is one of a whole range of ‘learning difficulties’. It is rare for someone just to have dyslexia as it often comes as part of a package. So for me, I have Dyslexia alongside Mearns-Irlen Syndrome (difficulties with vision tasks such as reading) and a little bit of dyspraxia (a development disorder of the brain) in there for good measure!

What this highlights is that everyone with a dyslexia diagnosis is different. This means that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to support people with dyslexia. However, there are specialists available who will work with those diagnosed to help them understand what works and what doesn’t work.

For people who don’t have dyslexia, then it can be very difficult to understand. You regularly have to explain how you see things, which can be very different to someone else using the same vocabulary. For example, is my green the same as your green? It can also be frustrating not being able to do something that others find so easy and not understanding why.

Supportive Scout Leaders

I was very lucky in Scouts. All the Leaders I spent time with were very patient. They all understood that some people pick things up at different rates. The programme always seemed flexible enough to adapt to my needs.

I cannot for the life of me do knots! I can be taught but 10 minutes later I will have forgotten. I still have the knot board I made at a training weekend with Leaders Taff and Willie, who both spent an inconceivable amount of time working with me so I had made all the knots on the board (even when I was getting very cross with it just not working!) It is definitely one of my biggest Scouting achievements, and something that many people may take for granted.

How to help

In my experience, the best ways to help someone with dyslexia are to:

Speak to the young person or their parents to find out what works and what doesn’t. Find out how comfortable they are with talking about it and if they want others to know.
Give instructions using bullet points, keeping it clear and simple.
Give them a little extra time to finish a task even if the group really needs to move on to the next task. If you allow them to finish while everyone else moves on, the sense of achievement for that person is amazing.
Find multiple ways to explain something or consider breaking it down.

More reading

The Scout Association resources for dyslexia

Dyslexia Scotland

What It’s Like to Read When You Have Dyslexia