I’ve been going through boxes of old memories and I found an educational assessment from when I was 20 years ago. It’s interesting reading. There two things that jump out are:

  • The final result: “severe Specific Learning Difficulty”
  • One of the measurements: at 20 years old, in my second year of university, I had a spelling age of 11 years and nine months. I was spelling with the same skill as an average primary school leaver.

A thing I would absolutely not have believed at the time was how much better I was able to get. From an early age I’d entered a vicious circle of avoiding writing because I was bad at it and thus getting worse. The (first, at secondary school) dyslexia diagnoses was a relief I assume (I don’t remember), but it solidified a belief that I wasn’t going to get any better. Grades were (and are still) important at A-level so I played to my strengths: Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Computing - subjects I could do well in. Thinking back, had grades not been important I would have chosen things like Law, Film, and a Modern Language.

Two things have improved my language skills. Firstly, my PhD - almost the whole first half of my PhD was my supervisors patiently focusing on how I wrote reports, how I structured sentences and arguments and how I reviewed my own work. This made it embarrassingly clear how much better I could have been years ago. The second thing that made a difference has been Nova learning to read - I keep finding little rules that are taught to kids that I apparently missed the first time around. A casual glance at a phonics chart was deeply illuminating. I should have been more honest with myself. I should have been honest enough to say “I want to be able to do this thing”. I also should have accepted it less: I let the label go deep into my and affect who I was. I don’t think I’ve even thought about dyslexia in a decade but it would have been nice it if had been much longer⁰.

⁰ Admittedly, since drafting this, I’ve become aware just how many times in a sentence I change the word I was planning to use because I’m unsure how to spelt it (comically I do the same when speaking, but it’s note the same set of words)