Dancing In The Rain

So My Dyslexic Blog is back for regular posts with the aim of providing some motivational advice for people with learning difficulties based on my own experiences. For those of you who are new to the blog just a brief background, I’m a 23 year old graduate with dyslexia and dyspraxia who has had many struggles and setbacks during my time in the education system but managed to come out the other end with a First Class Honours Degree in Marketing thanks to the support and motivation of family and friends and some very helpful people along the way who showed me how to work with my difficulties rather than working against them. I have outlined many of my struggles and experiences in some previous blog posts so feel free to have a wander through the site and I hope that people who are struggling can take some inspiration from my story and it might hopefully be the boost you need to keep going through the struggle.

I have made the decision to return to my blog now as it’s that time of year, the Junior Cert and Leaving Cert are starting in 5 weeks, students in 3rd level and other years in secondary school are also facing into exam period and this is a time of year which is very stressful for everyone but when you have the added stress of learning difficulties on top of it, it can often become hard to cope. I recently heard someone use a fantastic expression, he said “don’t wait for the storm to pass as you may miss the opportunity you were waiting for, instead, learn to dance in the rain”. This got me thinking, dyslexia and dyspraxia like other learning difficulties are challenges you will be facing for the rest of your life. When you finish your time in education they will not go away. I graduated 2 years ago and still on a daily basis at work my reading is slow, my reading comprehension can be poor resulting in me needing to read things several times before I fully understand it, my hand writing can only be understood by me and even then I struggle to read it sometimes and all my other difficulties are still there. These difficulties relate to the storm, we would much rather have sunny weather i.e. no difficulties but there is no point waiting for that as it’s not going to happen. Instead we need to learn to dance in the rain. We need to learn how to cope with our difficulties and work or way forward so we don’t miss the opportunity we have always been waiting for.

To begin with I would like address the idea of exam supports. When in primary school and again for the first few years of secondary school, I received no exam supports. I walked into the exam hall like everyone else only when I sat down I had a ball and chain around my neck holding me back from reaching my full potential. That ball and chain was my dyslexia and dyspraxia. I failed more exams then I passed and the idea of giving up was very appealing. Once I was diagnosed with dyslexia and dyspraxia things changed, slightly, as a diagnosis isn’t a cure. I applied through the disabilities officer/guidance councillor for exam supports and as a result I was able to sit my exam in a separate room to everyone else, my supervisor also acted as a reader and read the exam paper to me so I could listen and understand rather than take hours reading it several times before understanding what I was being asked. I also availed of a scribe so my supervisor would write my answers down for me as I spoke them so my hand writing wasn’t holding me back. These 2 supports made a massive difference, suddenly I knew what I was being asked as I didn’t have to read the exam paper myself and when I gave the correct answer the examiner/teacher was actually able to read it and as a result I could get the marks for the correct information. Some schools use a tape recorder instead of a scribe or they will provide a student with a laptop to type their answers instead of writing them depending on the resources available. Other exam supports that I benefited from were 10 minutes extra time for every hour of the exam, so a 2 hour exam was 2 hours 20 minutes for me. This extra time makes a massive difference as when you’re not writing yourself you have to pause in between speaking your answer to give your scribe the time to write what you’re saying and this often takes longer then writing yourself. Many people who were immature or uninformed of the difficulties caused by specific learning difficulties would refer to these supports as help that gave me an advantage over others but this is far from true, in all reality these supports just removed the ball and chain from around my neck and put me on a level playing field with everyone else rather than having to face the same exam as them as well as my learning difficulties.

In order to avail of any supports however you will need an up to date educational phycologists report outlining your diagnosis and learning difficulties and due to a lot of schools having a lack of resources as a result of poor funding it may take a lot of persistence to be granted the supports. Just because a school doesn’t have funding or facilities does not overrule your right to supports however. My secondary school had a lack of funding but a teacher in the school agreed to give their time to supervise my exam and act as my reader / scribe in a separate room to everyone else. It took a lot of effort and visiting the supports officer in the school on a daily basis until she was sick of seeing me before I was able to get the supports but I got them in the end.

Once you have addressed the issue of exam supports you then need to concentrate on your actual study. You need to learn to dance in the rain. What works for everyone else won’t work for you. And that can be said about someone with no learning difficulties too. Everyone studies differently and different things work for different people. You will just have to account for your difficulties also. When writing notes instead of using white paper try use coloured paper, it isn’t has harsh on your eyes and it makes the text sit easier on the paper which makes it slightly easier to read and comprehend for people with dyslexia, try different colours, baby blue paper worked for me, I know others who preferred a pale yellow or green. When choosing a font try to again use something soft, avoid italic (when the font is slanting to the side) this can be very harsh for a dyslexic to decode and comprehend. Again try a few different fonts, for me Times New Roman or any of the fonts with flicks or swirls just made it impossible for me to read, I always change the font of anything I am given to Calibri.

Once you have found what colour and font works for you now it’s time to look at some study techniques. Many dyslexics like myself find mind maps or spider diagrams as some people call them, a very helpful way to study. A mind map is where you take a topic and put it in the middle of the page with a circle around it. Then you start to develop that topic, for every point under that topic you create a new branch out from the centre of the page, and each branch might have 3 or 4 points to back this up. At the end you have a main topic with 4 or 5 main points off it and each point backed up by smaller notes. Mind maps are very visual rather than full pages of text, they allow you to introduce various colours for each point and to include little images or diagrams. By doing this it is much easier to fit a full topic onto 1 page and by becoming much more visual it cuts out the stress of reading and writing.

Mind Map

Not only do mind maps make things much more visual and easier for a dyslexic to learn but it also focuses you towards answering exam questions. Dyslexics like myself can often find their mind wondering off in a direction completely different or irrelevant o the question that was asked in the exam, a good way to avoid this from happening is a system called PDS which stands for Point, Develop and Support. You should use 4 or 5 PDS’s when answering an exam question. Using the example of a mind map I outlined above, let’s say in an exam you have a question about a specific topic i.e. health, your first point on this is stress, you make your point, you develop it, causes, affects etc. and you support your developments with proof. By doing this it keeps you focused on the question you are being asked and helps you gain as many mars as possible for your answer. You can use mind maps when answering exam questions during study time to help you learn off answers and understand topics in more focused and accurate detail.

It is also important to take breaks when studying, many people with learning difficulties can have very short attention spans, I often loose concentration or interest in something relatively fast and as a result need to change things up to keep productive. If you try to study beyond the point of your attention span it means everything beyond that point will be wasted and you won’t take in. the best thing to do is begin studying on a specific topic, after 30 to 40 minutes when you begin to feel your attention slipping take a 10 minute break, go for a short walk, or just leave the room for a change of scenery and then after 10 minutes return and start again. This 10 minutes allows you to clear your mind and focus again, it means when you return your attention span will be starting fresh and you can actually concentrate for another 30 to 40 minutes before you need to take another 10 minute break. Some people see these 10 minute breaks as wasted study time but if you don’t take them you are less likely to understand or remember anything you have done after the first 30 to 40 minutes as your attention will have drifted completely.

One of the last things I want to discuss in relation to upcoming exams is the exam itself. I was once thought be someone that the exam is yours, not the examiners, not the teachers, not anyone else’s. if you are in a separate exam centre then make sure that you remember the supervisor is there to supervise, make sure that everything is above board and possible act as your reader / scribe, after that everything else is yours so make yourself comfortable as comfort eases stress and helps your thought process flow. When I was in an exam I would make sure to arrive to the room 30 to 45 minutes before the exam and I would push all tables and chairs to one side of the room except for 2 tables in the middle of the room and a chair. By doing this it meant I had plenty of space and didn’t feel confined in the exam or it didn’t look like a class room which would subconsciously make me feel more relaxed. I also found that walking around the room helps me relax and concentrate. I would tell my supervisor at the start of the exam that I walk around during the exam as it helps me concentrate and they never had a problem with this as like I said, the exam is yours, not theirs. I would begin the exam sitting, they would read the exam paper to me, I would decide what questions I was doing then get them to read the question to me again, at this point I would make some notes to focus my answer then I would get up and walk around the room while speaking my answer and my scribe sat there doing the writing. Don’t be afraid to make yourself comfortable in an exam as comfort reduces stress and increases your productivity. You might thing this made me look like a mad man but my response to that is, I have a First Class Honours Degree, I couldn’t care less how I looked for each of those 2 hour exams, I’m never going to see those supervisors again but every employer who interviews me will see my degree on my CV. So remember to do what works for you and remember that some of the world’s most successful people have learning difficulties, Ricard Branson is Dyslexic as was Steve Jobs and many many more, you have great potential, you just have difficulty showing your abilities, but as soon as you learn to dance in the rain the storm will no longer be an obstacle.

So that’s me over and done with for another blog, I hope someone manages to find this helpful and even if it helps just one struggling person that’s good enough for me. As always I want to finish my blog by thanking you for taking the time to read it and encouraging you to share it as one of your friends may be dyslexic and / or dyspraxic but too shy to admit it but reading something like this may give them to motivational boost they needed. I look forward to hearing your feedback and as always I welcome any questions about this blog post or previous ones, or if you would like to ask me a question relating to dyslexia and / or dyspraxia I will do my best to answer them, you can post a comment below or if you require some privacy you can email me at mryan1@mycit.ie I also now have a Facebook page which I encourage you to like and share as I will be posting links to my blog posts as well as other dyslexia and dyspraxia related articles on there so please have a look at www.facebook.com/MyDyslexicBlog.

Thanks again,

Mark

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Left Alone With My Thoughts

I know this is My Dyslexic Blog where I talk about my dyslexia and dyspraxia and give advice and support but I have also found over the past year that writing on this is quite therapeutic and helps me sort my head out by expressing my feelings for certain topics as well as offering advice. I’m going through a very difficult patch at the past 2 weeks and at the moment I’m alone on the train from Dublin to Cork. 2 and a half hours alone with my thoughts, feels like the longest 2 and a half hours ever and the loneliest I’ve been so I have decided to write this post to try sort my head out.

On the 27th of May last my world turned upside down when my granny had a stroke, I wrote a blog about her on the 20th of July called “My True Inspiration” where I outlined how strong a woman she is and how important a person she is in my life.  The days and weeks that followed her stroke were the most difficult ones of my life. I describe the experience as one that turned my world upside down as I think it’s the perfect expression. When you turn something upside down all the pieces go all over the place and things get all messed up but at the end of the day it’s still the same object it just works differently because it’s now upside down. Before granny had the stroke I visited her every day after college and then work once I had graduated, for a cup of tea, a slice of cake and a chat. When she had the stroke that obviously came to an end as granny ended up in hospital, but I still visited her every day for a chat, my life was still same just a bit different due to the circumstances when it was turned upside down. When you destroy something on the other hand, it will never work in the same way again and that’s what happened last week on the 20th of November. My world was no longer just turned upside down, it was destroyed when the most important women in my life passed away peacefully surrounded by her loving family. I would much rather have an upside down world then a destroyed world but sometimes we can’t control the cards we are dealt.

Over the past week I have struggled with this, one of the greatest women to have graced this world passed away and there is nothing I can do to bring her back. I know people mean well when they attempt to say what they think is the right thing or will help you but there is truly nothing can be said to make me feel any better. I’ve been told over the past week that she lived to a great age reaching her 90th year as she would so proudly say, I hate to tell you but she could have lived to 110 and it would not make losing her any easier. Just because she lived to a great age is no consolation at all. I have also been told over the past week on several occasions that it gets easier with time, again I’d like to tell you that this is no help either and is certainly not true, with each day that passes it’s been another day since I saw her face last or heard her voice or sat with her and had a conversation. I fear that with time I will forget what her voice sounded like or forget some of her amazing stories and this petrifies me. Others have said, in an effort to make me feel better, that when granny had the stroke back in May she was given 3 to 5 days to live but fought to get better and stay with us and gave us almost 6 months to prepare ourselves and get used to life without her, again this is no help to me. As I said earlier when granny had the stroke my world turned upside down, I no longer visited her at home every day for our chat but I visited her in hospital instead, she was still a massive part of my daily life so I definitely wasn’t getting used to life without her and although I knew deep down that eventually granny was going to pass as a result of her stroke I never had time to prepare myself as after she surpassed all doctors expectations with the 3 to 5 days I managed to stupidly convince myself that granny was invincible and would never be gone. There is nothing could prepare me for what happened or nothing can be said to make me feel better.

If people knew how amazing granny was they would know why this is so difficult but words could not describe how amazing she was. I know everyone thinks that about their family members they are close to but granny truly was one of a kind. She had the biggest heart in the world, the kindest and most loving person you could imagine. She was a strong woman, a fighter and a source of advice. She was the person who would cheer you up when you felt down, take your side even if you were in the wrong just so you didn’t feel alone and she would always know the right thing to do. Granny was one of the most accepting people you could meet. She didn’t judge anyone and saw the goodness in everyone. She was miles ahead of her time, if granny was a young person today she would outdo the likes of Bob Geldof and all the other famous philanthropists as granny truly believed that money was to be shared and spent with those who need it the most. She never put herself first and would always make sure everyone around her was happy. Some of the stories and memories we shared over the past week about granny back this up, for example granny used run a restaurant years ago and she knew there were people in the town who didn’t have a lot of money so she would give them a bowl of soup when they came in for free as she said, it’s only a bowl of soup but it will keep them warm and keep the hunger at bay. When granny won money on the lotto in 1990 she saw this as a gift to be shared and spent it as fast as she could on everyone around her without thinking twice about it. She gave it to those who need it the most, neighbours had started putting new windows in their house but couldn’t afford to replace them all so she paid for the windows for them as a present. She went into the local SuperValue at Christmas knowing there were lots of people paying off their Turkey and Ham on a weekly basis as they couldn’t afford it so granny went to the owner and asked him to write off all their bills and she paid them all so people could enjoy their Christmas without breaking the bank to do so, and not once did she publicise it or put her hand up and say look what I did, she did it because she felt it was the right thing to do not to get attention or praise. I could go on all day with the stories of where granny put other in front of herself and where she showed why I call her the most amazing person in the world.

I know I’m not alone though, I’m not the only one mourning grannies loss, my brothers are too as are my parents, my cousins and my uncles and aunts. We are not the first people in the world to experience loss but that doesn’t mean it’s easier either, this is a pain like no other. I have realised over the past week that there are very few people left in the world who I would put anywhere near granny for being amazing people. The world has gone very self-cantered and focused on one thing, making as much money as possible. I was asked if I felt better yet during the week as if mourning was like a cold and went away after 3 days. I have had to return to work less than a week after granny passed to continue with things and of the 98 emails that awaited me on my return, I could count on 1 hand the amount of people who were understanding when I explained why I was out of the office, everyone else wanted to get on with business and was giving out in one way or another about my late reply as my loss should not have affected them. This has made things even more difficult as I would love to turn around to people and tell them where to go as I really couldn’t care less if my reply is a few days late but I know granny never left herself down so I have no intention of either.

I know I have the support of a loving family and extended family around me who are all feeling the same as me and we will all look out for one another. I know the memories I have of granny can never be taken away from me and I know the love I have for granny will never weaken, I will love her until the day I join her up above and return to our daily catch ups and until then she will look down on us all and continue to guide us and look out for us all.

You Have the Potential to Change the World

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month so I decided I needed to produce another blog to help actively raise awareness. My last post, which I wrote to help people with learning difficulties who are starting college this year has been very successful thankfully and was shared by many colleges, people with an educational background and others who felt the need to contact me and give me great feedback, I would like to thank everyone for the help in spreading the word about my blog. The more people who know about my blog the more people I can help and that was the sole reason I started this blog was to help those who need it most. I was trying to decide what topic I would cover in today’s post and then while flicking through the internet I came across 3 interesting facts which triggered an idea in my mind. The facts I stumbled across are as follows:

  • 10% of the world’s population are dyslexic (that’s 1 in 10 people)
  • 35% of entrepreneurs are dyslexic
  • 41% of prisoners are dyslexic

These figures were quite shocking to discover and left me with so much information to digest. I did a bit of research on these figures and it turns out the 3 facts are in fact true and not made up. This information was backed up on several sites such as The American Dyslexia Association and The International Dyslexia Association. Each of these facts is so astounding they each deserve a dedicated blog of their own to discuss so today I will talk about just one of these. I have decided that since its Dyslexia Awareness Month I will focus on the positives. I have come across hundreds of blogs before where people list dyslexic entrepreneurs in an effort to motivate others. I think these blogs are great but there is so much potential to make the blog more personal and realistic. If you tell a child who is suffering from all the difficulties of dyslexia that it’s ok as Albert Einstein was also dyslexic it’s not really going to make any difference to them, they still have their difficulties and may be failing exams left, right and centre and it sounds like a pointless comparison. That’s why I decided this topic could be approached in a slightly different way.

Since 35% of entrepreneurs are dyslexic that gives you the potential to be a highly successful individual. This fact won’t remove your difficulties and won’t make education any easier for you but it may help you focus yourself a bit more. I have wrote several blogs previously on the different types of supports available in school and college to help you combat your difficulties and I have spoken about learning techniques and coping techniques I use to overcome my dyslexia and dyspraxia on a daily basis. It is these techniques along with your supports that will help you get through education. But another interesting fact to bear in mind is, dyslexics often excel more than others at connecting ideas, thinking outside the box, 3D thinking and seeing the big picture and we tend to excel in areas of art, computer science, design, drama, electronics, math, mechanics, music, physics, sales, sports and anything where creative and unique problem solving skills along with the ability to think outside the box come into play.

With this in mind it may be worth your while experimenting in these fields, see if any of them take your fancy or if you appear to have an undiscovered talent for any of them. If so I would advise choosing subjects in school which focus on this area and then possibly doing a degree in that area. If you find you seem to be naturally good at science based topics and you enjoy it then choosing, physics, chemistry and/or biology as 2 or 3 of your subjects in school might be a good idea. Due to your interest in the areas it becomes slightly easier to study as you enjoy the topics, by doing this it helps you to focus yourself on areas you seem to have a natural talent for. As a dyslexic you have the ability to solve problems others can’t as our brains work differently, we are used to receiving setbacks so if the first attempt doesn’t work we will try and try again until we find a solution to a problem. If you’re a dyslexic who has found an area you are good at, be it engineering, art, business or science and you are getting the supports you require there is massive potential for you to join the 35% of entrepreneurs that are dyslexic and even increase this percentage.

I know from looking at the statistics that my blog receives views from all over the world, especially the UK and USA, but since I am Irish and the majority of my readers are Irish then I’m going to use Ireland as my example. Ireland is a small country with a population of just 4.59 million people but for such a small country with such a small percentage of the overall world’s population we have a history of success when it comes to inventions and entrepreneurship. Coloured photography was invented by an Irish man by the name of John Joly in 1894 and he managed to change the way we look at and record the world around us. The Cure for Leprosy was discovered by an Irish man by the name of Vincent Barry. He was researching Irelands tuberculosis problem to see if he could find a cure when he came across something he called compound B663. It was this compound which was later used to cure millions of people suffering with the horrible disease. Believe it or not even the Submarine was invented by an Irish person. John Philip Holland of County Clare, was the first person to successfully launch a submarine back in 1881. He successfully invented a boat that would work under the water and by 1900 the U.S. Navy was formally commissioning the production of submarines. Louis Brennan of county Mayo in Ireland was the inventor of the guided missile. This stealth torpedo was used as a costal defensive mechanism. Brennan is also credited with inventing the first helicopter however his prototype crashed and burnt in 1925. The list of things invented by Irish people throughout history which changed the way the world operates is endless. We have a gift for being creative people. Now with all of the above in mind think about what you, as an Irish person with Dyslexia could achieve in your life time with the right support and guidance. As Irish people we have a history of being highly successful inventors and entrepreneurs and changing how things are done, and we know that 35% of entrepreneurs are dyslexic so as a dyslexic Irish person there is a very strong possibility that you will one day go on to invent a world changing creation. Now that isn’t to say non Irish dyslexics have less of a chance, in fact the 35% of entrepreneurs that are dyslexic is a global figure not an Irish statistic but you get where I’m coming from.

I would urge people to work in areas that they are good at or have an interest in even if it might not be the highest paying job in the world. If you really are good at it then you could soon find a way to turn it into a profitable venture for yourself. You may be the next Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company and proven dyslexic, or Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin brand with an estimated net value of $5,000,000,000 and the cherry on the cake, his dyslexia affected him so badly he was told throughout education he would amount to nothing and eventually he dropped out of school but is now a household name. How many times have you been told you would amount to nothing as someone didn’t understand your difficulties? You could be the next Steve Jobs, another genius dyslexic who has changed the face of the world and the way we communicate, he had a gift for telling us, the consumer what we wanted and we agreed making Apple one of the highest grossing technological companies. I could continue to list dyslexic entrepreneurs until I’m blue in the face but I’m sure you get the picture.

Dyslexia and dyspraxia may be with you for the rest of your life and they may cause you considerable amounts of difficulty but they are not going to limit your achievements if you put your mind to it. I heard someone say recently “Albert Einstein was dyslexic, could you imagine what he could have achieved if he wasn’t dyslexic so”, I felt embarrassed for this person as they had missed the point completely, Einstein didn’t achieve all he achieved despite being dyslexic, he achieved all he achieved because he was dyslexic. Dyslexia is a gift which comes with many setbacks. You may not be able to read very fast or very well, you may struggle to spell every second word and your hand writing may be illegible, many things may take you 10 times longer than others to do and that’s not an exhaustive list of the setbacks / difficulties caused by dyslexia but despite these there is still plenty of upsides to having dyslexia and it is these upsides that could cause you to change the world someday. It is these upsides that could make you a highly successful inventor / entrepreneur. It is the skills you have and the way you use your brain that differs from non-dyslexics that may one day result in your name being a household name and you won’t have achieved the success despite being dyslexic, you will have achieved the success because you are dyslexic and you can turn around to anyone who ever doubted you because you weren’t the best in school and show them that dyslexia is noting to be embarrassed of, the only thing anyone should be embarrassed of is if they at any point in your life knocked you because of your difficulties instead of offering you the support to allow you reach your full potential.

Remember 35% of the world’s entrepreneurs are dyslexic and most of them struggled through education just like you are doing now. The figures above are astoundingly high and the research into how a dyslexics brain operates is there to back up the argument that the majority of the 35% achieved success because they are dyslexic, if they didn’t think outside the box or have the ability to see the bigger picture or the capability to continue to work on a problem until a solution was discovered then they would not be successful entrepreneurs and dyslexics bare these skills. These figures have given me a new found source of motivation and I hope you can take some pride from them too. Dyslexia Awareness Month is about raising awareness about dyslexia and educating people about it. I hope you can read this blog and feel proud of what you have the potential to achieve as a result of your dyslexia and as a result speak up for the 10% of the world’s population and hopefully change the image of dyslexia from being a bad thing to being a good thing with setbacks.

As always I want to finish my blog by thanking you for taking the time to read it and encouraging you to share it as one of your friends may be dyslexic and / or dyspraxic but too shy to admit it but reading something like this may give them to motivational boost they needed. I look forward to hearing your feedback and as always I welcome any questions about this blog post or previous ones, or if you would like to ask me a question relating to dyslexia and / or dyspraxia I will do my best to answer them, you can post a comment below or if you require some privacy you can email me at mryan1@mycit.ie

Thanks again,

Mark

New Beginnings and Important Decisions

September is the one month of the year that the majority of people under the age of 22 dread. September marks the end of the summer and the return to education. I always associated September with school more than any other month as I knew the longest set of holidays of the year had come to an end and from now until next May the longest period of time I would escape the classroom was 2 weeks at Christmas and 2 weeks at Easter, in between there would be a week of mid-term and the odd bank holiday but effectively September marked the return of a classroom and a constant struggle and reminder of my learning difficulties. September also marks new beginnings however, each year thousands of 17 to 19 year olds, as well as lots of mature students, around the country start college for the first time. This can be an exciting yet nerve wrecking time.

College is a completely different experience to any form of educational life up to this point, college offers you a new experience, and some people may leave home for the first time to get to the college they want to study in or to do the course they want to study. College also has a much larger social aspect then other forms of education with societies, class parties, sports clubs and some colleges even have an onsite bar. All of this can often come as a form of culture shock to students and they forget the main reason they are there, which is to get a degree. With all of these new experiences it is important that you hit the ground running. I don’t plan on writing another blog to outline my experience during the 4 years I spent at college, I have already done that and if you haven’t already read it you can do so by clicking this link “Learning Difficulties and College”, today I want to talk to you about beginning college and offer some advice.

Most colleges use Semesterisation at this stage meaning that the college year is made up of 2 semesters, each one 13 weeks long followed by 2 weeks of exams. This means for those starting college for the first time this week there are just 13 weeks until your first set of end of semester exams. You may think that’s age’s away but time flies by without you noticing. Let’s face it, it only feels like yesterday you finished your Leaving cert and celebrated finishing school and that was almost 13 weeks ago already depending on the date of your final exam, a full semester of college done since you finished your leaving cert. I’m not writing this blog to depress or frighten people, I’m writing this blog to offer some support and advice. The first few weeks are daunting and there is so much for you to get used to and get your head around that before you know it you can find yourself falling behind in your studies and that can be a vicious circle, the further you fall behind the harder it becomes to catch up.

I would advise any students who have a learning difficulty of any kind to seek out the disabilities officer or access officer or support officer (different colleges give them different titles but they are all affectively doing the same role), within in the first few days. Once you have figured out where their office is make sure to go and make an appointment to meet with them. The sooner you do this the sooner they can be made aware of you and your needs and try to put some supports in place for your benefit. The majority of these officers are very good at their job but they are not psychic, if you don’t go to them they won’t know you need them. Now it is also important to bear in mind that you are not the only student who has started college, or returned to college this week who has a learning difficulty so they may not be able to see you straight away due to demand for their time, but the sooner you get to them, the sooner they can give you an appointment. As it is your first time seeking help from the disabilities office they will require a copy of your educational psychologists report just to make sure everything is above board but this is for your benefit more than anything else so they can understand you and your difficulties. Some people think that you have to jump through hoops to get the support you require but from my experience in CIT it is the disabilities officer who is willing to jump through hoops to help you once they get to know you. If you were getting support in secondary school, then your secondary school will have a copy of your educational psychologists report and they can forward it onto your college for you, if not make sure to talk to your parents about this as it would have been sent on to them shortly after you were assessed.

When you are given an appointment time to return to meet with the officer I would advise you spend some time preparing for that meeting. You will be asked about your strengths and weaknesses, the supports you received previously (if any) and the supports you feel would help you the most. It can often be difficult to remember everything on the spot and that’s why I encourage you to do some pre meeting preparation. Take some time to think of these things and write them down if it helps. That way, when you go into the meeting you have everything in front of you so you don’t have to worry about remembering everything. It is also important to remember the disabilities officer is there to help you and they are on your side so don’t be afraid of them or afraid to admit your weaknesses to them, they won’t judge you. Once you have got the meeting over with the disabilities officer has to go and put together supports for you based on the funding available. Depending on the supports you require contracts may have to be signed and this can take a bit of time so don’t worry, they are not forgetting about you. I would advise you pop your head in to them a few times as a gentle reminder of your existence and the supports you require as while they are trying to get everything in place lectures have started and are continuing on around you and as I said 13 weeks can pass in the blink of an eye. By popping into the disability officer every so often it not only acts as a reminder that you need your supports put in place but it also shows them that you are actively attending classes and genuinely interested in college and getting your supports so you can progress.

Now from speaking to other students from around the country at various events I have discovered that the supports vary greatly from college to college so I cannot guarantee you anything specifically but in CIT (Cork Institute of Technology) I received vast amounts of support from the access team and the disabilities officer. We sat down together and looked at how my difficulties affect me and how a support could be designed to counteract that to help me preform to the best of my ability on a level playing field with everyone else in my class. Supports I received included, a note taker to come to my lectures and take down my notes for me as I was unable to keep up with the speed of the lecture (if I did not attend a lecture I did not get the notes however so this was not an excuse to skip class), I was also entitled to 2 hours of free grinds each week either from a member of the access team or a post grad student who worked for the disabilities office while doing their masters or doctorate. I also had access to the colleges AT lab (Assistive Technology lab) where all of the computers were equipped with the latest of assistive technologies to help all kinds of difficulties. on top of these supports I also had my exam supports too, a private room away from the exam hall to sit my exams in, 10 minutes extra time per hour of the exam, my supervisor also read the exam paper to me and acted as a scribe so I could speak my answers and they wrote them down for me.

The above are just the supports I was fortunate enough to receive and as I mentioned I have only been to one college and have heard that the quality and level of supports vary from college to college so I cannot promise anything however if you don’t ask you won’t receive and that is why I would advise all students starting college for the first time either last week or over the next 2 weeks, that one of the first things you do is locate the disabilities officer and make an appointment with them ASAP to get some supports put in place. I would also advise you take the time to introduce yourself to each of your lecturers and let them know of your difficulties and point out you have sought an appointment with the college’s disability officer to get some supports. By doing this the lecturer has no excuse and cannot say they were not aware of your difficulties should you have any problems. In college everyone is an adult so you’re not going to be spoon fed any more, it can often be difficult for someone without learning difficulties to keep up so unless you tell a lecturer of your difficulties they won’t do anything for you. Some will be very accommodation and may offer to provide you with the class notes until the disabilities office puts your supports in place for you provided your attending classes.

Just remember that the next 4 or 5 years of your life are going to be full of highs and lows. You will make some lifelong friendships at college and maybe even meet the person of your dreams. If you get involved in sports and/or societies you will meet people who have the same interests as you and have lots of fun with them, you will learn new things and begin to specialise in an area that hopefully you find interesting and look forward to working in. college is a fantastic experience but you can’t have college without exams and projects, your stress levels will reach all-time highs over the next few years and you will probably find yourself up until the early hours of the morning on more than one occasion trying to finish a project or studying for an exam. College life is an extremely bumpy road with more obstacles then you can imagine on it but if you’re brave and determined enough to make the journey then there is a wonderful prize at the end when you get to graduate and tell the world you have a degree. I am writing this blog in order to tell you that the road has enough obstacles on it without facing your learning difficulties also, so do yourself a favour and attempt to clear some of those obstacles from that road which is your next 4 to 5 years. Meet with the disabilities officer over the next few days and get the ball rolling so you don’t get left behind, talk to your lecturers and make sure everyone who needs to know does know and things won’t be as tough as they could be.

Best of luck to anyone starting college for the first time, I hope you do great. Remember that dyslexia and dyspraxia may make things more difficult for you than other students and you may sometimes need to work 10 times harder than others to get the same results as them but you are very capable with the right help and some hard work and dedication. If I managed to survive 4 years of college and come out the other side with a first class honours degree then so can you. As always I’d like to thank you for taking the time to read my blog, and I welcome any feedback or questions you may have relating to dyslexia and/or dyspraxia or even college in general for that matter and I will do my best to answer them or give you advice on where you can get the answers you need. You can post your questions in a comment below or if you want to ask me something in confidence then you’re welcome to email me at mryan1@mycit.ie

Kind regards,

Mark

Learning To Drive

So I have returned to my blog after what has been another extended break away from it over the past few weeks. Unfortunately I had hit what I can only describe as writers block. I sat at my laptop several times and started typing but didn’t know how to or what to write. There have been a number of reasons for this, firstly there is the fact that let’s face it, I’m a dyslexic blogger, as many of you who read this will be able to relate to, sometimes I just can’t get any words from my brain out onto paper no matter how hard I try. This is something that causes us dyslexics a lot of trouble during our time in education, thankfully I’m finished all of that and all it affects now is when I want to write a new blog. Another reason I’ve been experiencing a mental block is because all the issues I raised in my previous blog are still affecting me. Life is tough and I’m finding it difficult to cope but thankfully I have a great support network around me in the form of my family and close friends and I’m getting through it. For those who have emailed me since I posted my last blog to ask how I and granny are, I would like to thank you for your concern, it means a lot that people are thinking about you, especially when some of the emails were from pure strangers who I’ve never met but have been following my blog so thank you. To let you know, Granny is still in the same condition as she was when I wrote that last blog, fighting hard and holding her own against all the odds.

I thought I would never end the mental block but over the past few weeks some of my friends and family asked me when I would be writing my next post and it kept me thinking that I need to get back to my normal self and start writing again. Also on Thursday last, #IrishBlogHour took place on twitter and after chatting and networking with other Irish bloggers for an hours and reading some blogs and receiving feedback on my blog I managed to convince myself I would sit down and write no matter what came out. Then on Saturday I received an email from someone saying that now that September was upon us she has returned to school and as a student with both dyslexia and dyspraxia like myself, she has on many occasions felt like giving up but when someone shared my blog with her back in January she enjoyed reading it and started to follow it. She told me that it has inspired her to keep going at school and she has found new confidence in herself and has picked up a number of different coping mechinisms and learning techniques and tricks which have helped her. Over the summer while I was away from my blog due to personal difficulties she missed it but she was away from school and didn’t need the motivation as much but now that school is back she asked if I could post more blogs as she said until reading my story she honestly thought that she was not going to achieve anything as a result of her dyslexia and dyspraxia but she no longer thinks that as she sees all I have achieved and she said that the sky is the limit to what can be achieved with the right attitude, some hard work and determination. Until reading this email I didn’t realise that my blog was helping people this much and it gave me that extra boost I needed to sit down and overcome my mental block I was experiencing.

So enough about that and onto today’s blog topic, its one I have promised I would write about for a while…. learning to drive. Your probably wondering how dyslexia would affect learning to drive but you would be amazed how difficult it made the experience and when you throw my dyspraxia on top of that it was a recipe for disaster. As I’ve outlined in previous blogs, my dyspraxia affects my hand-eye coordination, my special awareness / depth perception and reaction time. My dyslexia makes me process a message at a slower speed then the average person, read road sign slower/not understand what I have read (that’s if it’s a once off sign with lots of information on it, I understand the everyday signs such as a stop sign when I see it). So with all these difficulties the thought of learning to drive was quite petrifying as let’s face it, a car is a big piece of machinery that can cause death to yourself or others if a mistake is made while using it, so I was a nervous wreck at the thought of getting behind the wheel. Because of this I avoided driving for as long as possible and where most young people jump at the opportunity to learn to drive as soon as they hit the legal age, I was happy to stick to public transport as it seemed less stressful.

Saying that I was a slight bit curious and at the age of 19 I did make an attempt to learn to drive. Dad took me out in his car and with as much patients as he could find, (it took a lot as I really wasn’t any good) he started to teach me. The biggest difficulty I was having was the gears and the gearbox. Due to my lack of coordination I couldn’t grasp the concept of engaging the clutch, releasing the accelerator, moving the gearstick and then slowly releasing the clutch and engaging the accelerator again all within a matter of moment. It just wasn’t happening and many of my friends know that no matter how hard I tried myself and the gearbox could never become friends and it resulted in a lot of noises coming from dads car that made him make a face I’ve never seen him make before or since. He was horrified of the damage I was no doubt encoring on his car. Eventually after months of trying to no avail I decided that I was very content with my public transport and I gave up the attempts to learn to drive.

Then last year as I was sitting in work having finished college, I was coming to the end of my initial 3 month contract with the company and there had not been a mention of extending my contract yet and I realised that even though this company was 15 minutes by train followed by a 10 minute walk away from home, not every job offer was going to be accessible by public transport and I thought it was time for me to take on the challenge of learning to drive again. It was just a few weeks after I had received my final year college results and I knew I was getting a first class honours degree so I knew that I had never let my difficulties beat me before and I had no intention of letting them get the better of me now. I sat back and though about learning to drive as if it were a subject at college and I began to wonder if any of my supports / learning techniques could help me, then it hit me. If I removed the biggest stress factor I could worry about the other challenges after. The biggest stress factor was my lack of coordination and attempting to work gears and a gearbox so I went away and bought an automatic car. 2 pedals, 1 to go (the accelerator) and 1 to stop (the break), no gears, no stress, this would be perfect.

Dad took me out again and began to teach me the basics before I got lessons from a driving instructor and suddenly everything felt much easier. I felt more confident as I knew I could concentrate on driving and what was happening around me and not worry one bit about changing gears as it would do that itself for me. I was much happier so I went and got my 12 driving lessons form a registered driving instructor and according to the road safety authority there are actual lesson guidelines and certain things to be covered in each of the 12 lessons but they are designed for someone learning to drive a manual car so there is lots of time spent on gears in each lesson so we were able to skip these bits and spend more time building up my driving experience, learning the rules of the road and how to drive the car safely and confidently. Following my 12 lessons I decided I wouldn’t rush straight in and do the test, instead I would continue to drive around building up my experience and confidence before applying for the test. I did this for a few months and then applied for the driving test and back in June I did the test and passed and now have my full licence less than a year after buying the car and learning to drive.

Many of you may be reading this and thinking to yourself that you don’t see how this is a big deal as people are passing their driving test every day, but until you experience the difficulties of dyslexia and dyspraxia you won’t understand how much of an achievement it was to learn to drive and pass the test. now saying that I’m not claiming to be a fantastic driver and I’m not saying I don’t experience any difficulties, my dyspraxia still affects my special awareness, depth perception, reaction speed etc. and as a result of this my brothers are always slagging me off for the way I drive (hands at 10 and 2) and eliminating all distractions so my mind doesn’t wonder, but I would rather be safe instead of sorry even if it does mean driving like and old lady instead of a 22 year old fella. That hasn’t meant I have had no incidences and I still get my left and right mixed up causing me to be shocking with directions and getting lost on several occasions. A few weeks back I went to visit granny in hospital and on the way home the road was closed due to work being done, a diversion was sign posted but there appeared to be miles too much info on the signs and I got confused and ended up driving around for 2 and a half hours before I made the normally 30 minute journey home.

Overall it’s an amazing relief to have come this far, to go from being unable to drive a few meters as I couldn’t work the gears to being able to drive around the place no bother and be confident in myself and my driving abilities, it has felt like a massive achievement for me. The main reason I wanted to cover this topic in a blog was because when I started writing this blog last year I decided I would help others suffering from difficulties caused by dyslexia and/or dyspraxia and I wanted to pass on techniques and advice that would help them overcome these difficulties or at least cope with them. If there is anyone who has had the same difficulties as me learning to drive but doesn’t want to give in then you should try an automatic and I guarantee you will find it so much easier and once the stress of changing gears has gone you can concentrate on everything else and it becomes second nature in no time at all. 1 or 2 people have said to me alright “oh my god you drive an automatic” and had a bit of a laugh of it but I always respond with the same thing “a lot of big cars only come in automatic as they are luxury cars, so I’m just getting the practice in now for when I’m driving my Audi A8 or Mercedes E-Class”. Besides to look at a car from the outside an automatic looks no different so unless you tell people or your giving them a lift somewhere nobody will ever need to know you’re driving an automatic. I would advise anyone who is finding it difficult to get their head around gears to go down the automatic route.

As always I’d like to thank you once again for taking the time to read my blog, and I welcome any feedback or questions you may have relating to dyslexia and/or dyspraxia and I will do my best to answer them or give you advice. You can post your questions in a comment below or if you want to ask me something in confidence then you’re welcome to email me at mryan1@mycit.ie

Thanks,

Mark

My True Insperation

I have not posted a blog since the 11th of May even though I had been posting one every second or third week up until that and during this time away I received a number of questions from people who had been following my blog asking why there were no more posts. The reason is simple, I lost my inspiration for a while. For those of you who have been following my blog you will know that the last one I posted was entitled “Family and Friends are the Best Support”. Well this is true, they really are the best support, and shortly after I posted that blog, my granny, who I am very close to fell very ill.

Granny is the one person I could rely on for support, encouragement, strength and motivation all the time, no matter what. I mean my family are superb and I would not have made it this far without their support and encouragement as I’m sure you have worked out by reading my previous blogs, but granny is the one who I can rely on even when I had an argument at home. Granny will never take sides but somehow manage to make both people feel better and realise how stupid the argument was. When I wrote the blog about my time in Primary school, I mentioned that before I was diagnosed with dyslexia and dyspraxia, we had no idea what was wrong with me. All I knew was that I was several steps behind the rest of my class, my spelling and grammar were fierce bad, my homework took me hours to do and my frustration levels were sky high as I was trying my hardest but no matter how hard I tried I never seemed to be able to do anything as well or as fast as anyone else. As a result of this, frustration would often cause a minor (or even a major) tantrum where a copy or workbook was thrown across the room as I attempted to do my homework. Granny was the one who would keep mother calm and the one who would cheer me up.

In more recent times stress levels got even higher, as I have mentioned previously I spent 4 years in college and graduated with a first class honours degree, this isn’t exactly a walk in the park for anyone so you can imagine how difficult and stressful it was to attempt to get such good grades when you have the difficulties of dyslexia and dyspraxia to cope with too. I also started life in the working world and life in general has been quite stressful as I constantly fight and try to avoid or overcome my difficulties caused by my dyslexia and dyspraxia on a daily basis.

I had come to learn that stress is bad for our health and I had learned this the hard way. Getting very sick as a result of being stressed made me realise that we all need some way of relaxing each and every day, mine was going to grannies for a pot of tea and a chat. I called every day after college and then when I moved into the working world I called after work. Sometimes I may be working late so I’d miss it but most of the time I called to granny every day for a chat over a pot of tea and it was the best way of clearing my head, fighting stress and getting some inspirational advice from one of the best ladies to have graced this planet. The stories she has are fantastic, we talk about when she was my age what she got up to and what life was like, she would tell me stories about everything and anything from the bad times to the good. Granny also always has stories for me of what is happening today, someone would have given her some news down at the hairdressers or while out doing the shopping or up in the doctor’s waiting room where she went several times a week for as long as I can remember to get the dressing on her leg changed. During these chats granny always manages to figure out if I have something on my mind and she would always be able to give me advice when I needed it or just cheer me up before I head home.

Granny is truly one of the most inspirational people I have in my life. At 89 she has seen several recessions, she has seen the good times and the bad, she has survived heart attacks and cancer scares and all the other health issues she battled off from angina to diabetes and she has fought against the odds to always find a way of making something possible and seeing the good in every situation. No matter what she is dealing with at any time, she is always positive and will always put a smile on your face. Even at 89 she does her best to stay up to date with all the happenings and goings on. She asks us about Facebook and twitter, she watches the news and reads the newspaper every day to keep up to date with what is going on in the world and to try to learn something new, granny will talk openly about any topic and is able to engage in conversations that would amaze you when you realise how old she is. She knows I started this blog and she gave me great encouragement and even though she doesn’t have a computer she understands what I am on about when I explained to her as she managed to move with the times and learn what was what.

Granny is an all-round fantastic lady and one of my biggest sources of moral support and encouragement. When she fell ill, the first 3 weeks I was too busy to even think about writing a blog as I spent the majority of my time with the family, uncle and aunts and cousins up in the hospital at granny’s bedside. Then as she began to stabilise and I returned to work and we tried to continue some normal life in between the time we were spending in the hospital, I did sit down to try write a new blog on a number of occasions but I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to say. My inspiration and motivation had gone. Everything has been so much harder since she fell ill. Everyday tasks feel like climbing mountains, it’s been difficult to think straight or positively. Then a thought struck me, on arriving into the hospital first day granny was given 3 to 5 days to live, 7 weeks on she is still fighting to stay alive. I have realised that she will be a strong fighter until the end. This has made me so proud of how strong willed she is and it also made me realise that she is giving me one last bit of support, encouragement and advice. You might be wondering, what is the advice she is giving me, well from what I can see granny has thought me to never give up, no matter what.

When I started this blog back in November of last year, I decided that it was time someone gave some support and advice to children and parents of children with learning difficulties as I felt growing up with them myself that there was not enough information out there. I know how much of a struggle it can be at times, when teachers don’t listen, when supports aren’t given, when exams are failed no matter how hard you worked and studied. I know how hard it can be for a child to be sat in class not able to understand what is going on and even worse not able to understand why they don’t know what’s going on, when people in the same class and of the same age are able to read perfectly and you can barely string a sentence together because your reading is bad and you have no idea why. I know how difficult it is for a parent to watch on as their child goes through this struggle, stress and upset and for that parent to feel helpless. I also know that when you’re experiencing the above situations the easiest option seems to be for you to give up. But over the past few weeks Granny, my biggest source of inspiration, motivation and encouragement, has thought me that we should never take the easy option, we should never give up.

Now don’t get me wrong, I may have found the motivation to finally return to my blog and talk about my life with learning difficulties and I may have discovered that we should never give up no matter what but I’m still struggling to cope with the situation. Everyday tasks are still feeling like mountains, getting out of bed in the morning to face another day is still a struggle and I hate the thought of having to go out and put a smile on my face for the world, pretending I’m perfect every time someone asks that stupid question “How are you?”. But I’d have learned nothing from granny if I were to leave everything bring me down, I will continue on and not give up, no matter what. Life will always give us difficulties, whether they are personal difficulties caused by a stage in our lives we are going through or if they are difficulties faced as a result of your dyslexia and dyspraxia, I have learned there is nothing to be gained by giving up.

I dedicate this blog to my granny who is still fighting to be in my life despite all the odds, I will forever love and look up to her and hope you can take some inspiration from her strength too and reach great heights by never giving up.

Thanks once again for taking the time to read my blog, as always I welcome any questions you may have relating to dyslexia and/or dyspraxia and I will do my best to answer them or give you advice. You can post your questions in a comment below or if you want to ask me something in confidence then you’re welcome to email me at mryan1@mycit.ie

Thanks,

Mark

Friends and Family are the Best Supports

Over the past few blogs I have spoken about different forms of supports that I received and that I find useful to help people with dyslexia and dyspraxia. I spoke to you about the supports I got in college such as Larry my amazing note taker, or the extra tutorials/grinds I got free of charge. I spoke about the exam supports I received such as my separate room away from the exam hall, the fact my invigilator also acted as a reader who read the exam questions to me and a scribe who wrote my answers as I spoke them aloud, and also the fact I received 10 minutes extra time for every hour of the exam. I have also mentioned other supports that I use in everyday life such as baby blue paper to make reading a bit easier and using my phone to give me reminders so I don’t forget anything and the fact that to-do lists can actually make you more productive and organised as you can work your way through them rather than wondering what needs to be done and when you should do it. I even mentioned how my boss recently bought me a Dictaphone in order to help me at work as I still can’t read my own hand writing which can lead to problems if I’m covering at reception and I take a booking over the phone and can’t remember the details. I can now report back that after my first 3 weeks of using it I have found it to be very helpful and it has got me out of some tricky situations already. Outside of all of these supports however there is one support that I have not yet mentioned even through it’s the most important and most helpful support of them all and that is your friends and family.

As you have probably gathered from reading my blog posts I am extremely open and honest about my dyslexia and dyspraxia. I have always felt that honesty is the best policy. When first diagnosed I did all I could to hide my difficulties and to avoid anyone finding out about them in fear that I would be bullied. I spoke in my blogs that covered my time in primary and secondary school about the difficult times I went through where others laughed at me every time I was asked to read in class or mocked me about any of my difficulties they had noticed. I was always the last person picked for a team in PE because everyone knew that my dyspraxia affects my coordination and organisation and as a result I am clumsy and ridiculously bad at every sport. When eventually landed on a team I was shouted at for being so bad and laughed at by those on the apposing team. There are millions of reasons for someone to want to hide their difficulties from everyone and I promise I will write a blog post soon about the stigma and discrimination associated with learning difficulties but today I want to outline why in all truth being open and honest about your difficulties is actually a good thing.

Your family are there for you no matter what, they are the ones who are there when you go home from school or work every day and when you wake up in the morning. They have been there for you since day one. They have thought you how to speak, crawl and walk and everything in between. They have been by your side during the bad times and the good and they have seen you at your strongest and weakest. Your family are the ones who will always be there for you no matter what. Your friends are like family members who are not actually related to you. Remember they are friends with you for a reason, the same reason you are friends with them. They like you, the get on with you, they support you and most of all they don’t mock or bully you. By being open and honest about your difficulties with your friends and family you develop a support network around you at all times.

I am 22 but still to this day every time we go to a restaurant my mother does a little trick whereby she says, “I can’t decide whether I will have the …” and she lists about 3 things on the menu. The reason she does this is because when I was younger she knew that due to my dyslexia my reading was so bad I would struggle to even read a menu and without making it obvious in front of others she used this trick and always listed 3 items on the menu she knew I’d like. By doing this I knew what was on the menu but everyone else just thought she couldn’t choose what she wanted to eat. My family have lots of tricks like this which they use on a regular basis to help me without making it obvious to anyone around.

When I was in school and college my friends were always the ones I could rely on to help me in times of difficulty. I could photocopy their notes when I couldn’t read my own, or if working on a project we would work together and help each other through it. In primary and secondary school I often had trouble with the fact I can’t tie shoe laces or a tie due to my lack of coordination and my close friends knew this so rather than making a big deal about it or let others see who may mock me for this my friends were the ones I could rely on to tie my laces for me if they opened, or to tie my tie if I opened it fully by mistake when getting changed for PE.

In college we often had to do group projects and thankfully most lecturers would let us choose our own groups. My friends and I would always go together for these projects as we had learned to work perfectly together. Each of us had strengths and weaknesses, my weaknesses were obviously ones caused by my dyslexia and dyspraxia. We all however brought something to the table when it came to strengths so we would split the project into sections were each of us worked on a part that involved our strengths. By doing this it meant I could avoid situations whereby I was slowing the group down as a result of my difficulties. In my final year of college I practically moved into the library, I was one of the first people into the library every morning and one of the last to leave every night. It’s no big secret that I have to work 10 times harder than most people in order to understand something or get the grades I wanted but this didn’t bother me as I knew it would be worth it in the end. Spending 12 and 14 hour days in the library studying and working on projects and reports would have been torture at times if it wasn’t for the fact I had good friends who acted as a support network and were willing to stay in the library as long as I was to work with me and we supported and encouraged each other. There were times when we could take no more and a decision would be made to call it a day but as everyone packed up to go home I would decide that I needed to keep working and any time this situation arose a very good friend of mine would change his mind and stay on with me in order to get through the next few hours of study and to help me when I was getting stressed and frustrated because he knew I needed to do it in order to get the results I wanted.

These support networks that are provided by friends and family who you are open and honest with go far beyond study and work however. Like the example of my mother in a restaurant I gave above, there are many situations where my difficulties crop up outside of work. I have said it in several blog posts before, dyslexia and dyspraxia, although they are learning difficulties the problems and difficulties they cause are not confined to education or work. I have dyslexia and dyspraxia when I’m relaxing and watching a DVD or out for a walk or when having a cup of tea and a catch up with friends. My difficulties crop up in many areas as do all dyslexics and dyspraxics. As you know by now my dyspraxia often affects my people skills and I’m not the most confident when it comes to large groups are conversing with people I don’t know. My friends all know that I don’t do clubs, if I’m going to go out I much prefer a pub as I don’t feel half as anxious there. When I’m catching up with my very close friends we go for lunch and a pot of tea on a Saturday afternoon or we go out for dinner after work/college during the week. My friends know my comfort levels and because they are friends they accept me for who I am and don’t push me to go out every Friday and Saturday night.

The stress that’s caused by life with learning difficulties can be hard to cope with. Every situation where one of your difficulties may come into play is a stressful situation. There is a constant fear of slipping up in front of others and looking like a fool and as much as you think it might get easier as you get older I found it is the opposite. The older you get the more stressful these situations can be as your slip up can often be something that someone much younger then you could do with ease. My family will be the first ones to tell you that stress and me don’t go hand in hand, I stress very easily and when I am stressed I get fierce cranky and I also work myself into a state where I get run down and sick. Fortunately I have managed to avoid situations like this due to being open and honest about my difficulties with those around me. My friends and family as I have said have become a kind of support network that gathers around me to help me avoid and get through any situations that crop up. I know how difficult it can be to tell others about your difficulties. You may be embarrassed or ashamed, you may be worried they will mock you, you may even think it’s a sign of weakness but this is never the case with friends and family. When I wrote my blog about making the decision whether or not you’re going to tell your boss about your dyslexia and dyspraxia I came to the conclusion that I wouldn’t hang around with someone who made my life difficult because of my dyslexia or dyspraxia so I had no intention of working for someone who discriminated against me for this. And the same can be said for your friends, you can be open and honest with them because a true friend is there for you no matter what. A friend isn’t going to laugh at you because you have difficulties, instead they will respect you for telling them. A good friend like I said at the start of this post is like a family member just not related. You are there for each other during the good times and the bad, ye will see each other at your strongest and weakest and they will never judge you for something you find difficult or can’t do.

My advice is to make life easier and less stressful for yourself. Be honest with your friends, they are one of the best support you will get because they will always be there to support you and all you have to do in return is be there for them when they need you. I hope that this blog was of help to you and as always I would love to hear your feedback and thoughts on the topic. If you have any questions about any aspects of my difficulties or you have a topic you would like me to cover in a future blog, feel free to ask me and I’ll do my best to answer you. You can give your feedback, opinions or questions either in a comment below or if you want some privacy you can email me at mryan1@mycit.ie and it shall remain confidential.

Until my next post I’d like to thank you for taking the time to read this and hope it helped in some way shape or form,

Regards,

Mark