In My Story, readers share their unique, life-changing experiences. This week we hear from Marina Magdalena, 40, who’s lives in Ibiza with her husband, 45, and her daughter, 14, and son, 12.
Teachers would say she was struggling to sit in her seat. It wasn’t a case of being disruptive or naughty, it was just a case of having too much inside her needing to get out.
We tried to get her seen, but because she was doing so well in many areas of life, as girls often do, they just said: ‘No, she’ll be fine.’
We were told to tighten her bedtime routine, tell her to sit still, and it was very much thrown out that it wasn’t something we needed to worry about.
The first thing I did was see an educational psychologist, who tested her for lots of different things, and the first thing we found out was that she had dyslexia.
A big diagnostic test on all sorts of areas led us to understand she was also covering more of the ADHD spectrum than we’d originally considered.
As my daughter got older, she started reading Harry Potter and that was a massive breakthrough in her dyslexia because, up until that point, she couldn’t get past really basic reading. But she just fell in love with the story.
The character of Hermione Grainger has done so much for a certain type of girl. It’s been amazing. But there were comments my daughter would make sometimes – not specifically about Hermione – but about not being clever enough, hardworking enough and organised enough.
The value system we’re constantly going over is that the clever, beautiful and sensible girls win. Traditionally, the chaotic girl would be the quirky best friend.
I thought: wouldn’t it be lovely to have a lead character who is neurodiverse, but also brilliant, wonderful, happy, liked, celebrated, wanted, enjoyed and a part of their community?
So I started writing About Last Summer, because I wanted my neurodiverse daughter to have a relatable female role model in fiction.
I wanted to give her a character with all the brilliance, innovation and originality that so often comes with conditions like ADHD, but who also struggles with emotional regulation and organisation.
And Antigone Kingsley, known as Tig (the main character in my book), goes through some really big challenges that are a lot to do with her neurodiversity. But she’s also a really loved member of her community.
There’s a really big expectation on girls to be the more organised ones, to be more together, to be able to be brilliant socially, to have a good cohort of friends, to know how to manage that – and there’s certainly a lot less grace for girls who behave hyperactive or want to be funny or are a bit of a class clown.
I think for a lot of girls that can lead to this perpetual sense of not being like everyone else – and this being a bad thing.
What I really wanted to do is create Tig to be someone who everyone wants to be around – everybody loves her, she’s awesome, and we forgive her struggles, and we forgive her craziness, because we see who she is and that she’s a really awesome person.
And I just wanted other people to see that if they identify with her and they see themselves there, they’re a really awesome person too.