If you ask anyone who knows me what they think of my handwriting, they will most likely reply that it is the worst that they have ever seen; a large ungainly scrawl reminiscent of a seven years olds first attempt at writing. However, many people don't realise that one of the symptoms of Dyslexia is a difficulty in gripping a pen, and this obviously may affect someone's ability to write clearly. Whether my poor writing can be attributed to my Dyslexia (or to my inherent laziness) is impossible to say, but this is just one of the stigmas that may follow sufferers as they make their way through the education system.
Approximately 1.5million people in the UK sufferer from learning disabilities, of which a significant proportion may have Dyslexia. They will face difficulties throughout when they start at school and these will continue all the way to University. I suffered from only a mild form of the disease and due to this I did see improvement as I got older, but you never grow out of Dyslexia instead you may develop coping mechanisms. Many Dyslexics struggle at school but many attribute some of their success to wanting to do better and prove their critics wrong, famously Richard Branson, Alan Sugar and Jamie Oliver are all incredibly successful despite their Dyslexia.
As I write this I have on my lap a copy of the psychiatric assessment that I took when I was just seven years old. As a University student I can't quite believe that just over ten years ago I apparently couldn't spell words as simple as 'bok' (back) or 'doun' (down). The conclusion especially is quite depressing reading "I believe that Matthew should be on the school's register of special needs. The diagnostic tests do show specific areas of immaturity in his development". Simply being told however that I was not 'thick' and there was a reason why I struggled with things that other people found easy certainly focussed me and increased my aspirations, like I imagine it would to a sufferer at any age.
Diagnosis can be a lengthy and potentially expensive process. When I first got tested the private assessment cost £295, but that was over ten years ago and now that same test will set you back in the region between £300-400. The government is aware of the costs and the difficulties that dyslexics face and due to this there is some funding available which comes under the umbrella of the Disabled Student Allowance. You apply for grants when filling out your student finance and you may receive money for a more suitable computer provided you have proof of your dyslexia.
The money allocated to Dyslexia grants is also used for other specific learning disabilities such as Autism .This may account for some of the stigma and misunderstanding of the condition, as somebody with severe autism has entirely different requirements and capabilities than a dyslexic sufferer and so to paint them with the same brush is unhelpful and almost belittling to both parties.
Dyslexics aren't held back by the disease or themselves, they are held back by other people and the lack of awareness for the disease. You can be smart and also be able to manage your Dyslexia so that there is little difference between you and a non-sufferer, or you can find that your dyslexia puts you at a significant disadvantage because you're far more capable than you come across on paper. When I was younger, I was quite shy and the last thing I wanted to do was expose myself as being different by having to stay longer in exam halls with extra time. Those who require the additional support that some Dyslexics may need, mustn't be dissuaded from accepting help due to what other people may think or peer pressure.
High profile sufferers have acted as role models for many years, proving it is possible to be both successful and Dyslexic, however almost all admit to struggling at school. There is still a prejudice in education between the students themselves which leads to secrecy instead of openness. It's nothing to be ashamed of, in fact Richard Branson once said 'being dyslexic is actually an advantage and has helped me greatly in life' at the end of the day it's your creative ideas and opinions that will make people take notice, not your calligraphy skills.