The following article will explore Dyslexia and its challenges for people and how to cope in situations such as interviews, university and in practice.
This article I have included my own experiences, so I hope you find it useful.

Dyslexia spellings

What is Dyslexia? Dyslexia is a learning difficulty which affects at least 10% of the population in Britain. It mainly affects the way individuals read and spell words. It is particularly related to mastering and using written language, which may include alphabetic, numeric and musical notation. Individuals may struggle in any or all of these areas if they are displaying signs of Dyslexia.

What can a person who has Dyslexia experience?

  • Dyslexia is not only about literacy, Dyslexia can also impact the way information is processed, stored and retrieved
  • Difficulties in short term and working memory
  • Perception of time, organisation and sequencing
  • Spoken language and motor skills
  • Difficulties with auditory and /or visual perception
  • Weakened spatial awareness

Many people with Dyslexia are also sensitive to the glare of white backgrounds on a page, white board or computer screen. This can make the reading of text much harder.

Can anyone familiarise themselves with any of these thoughts?

I see things from a different perspective
I can come up with solutions no one else has thought of and I think fast on my feet
When I am reading, and occasionally a passage will get all jumbled up, but when it happens, I have to read and re-read the passage over again
I know what I want to say, but I can never find the right words
In interviews, although I know what I want to say, I struggle and my mind goes blank and I panic
I have the right ideas, but I can’t get them down on paper
It’s like my computer crashing with too much information!
Sometimes when I am assigned things to do, the words I hear get all mixed up in my mind and I just can’t take in what is being said to me
I tend to ramble non stop and get my words in the wrong order
At times, I would say I am going to the bathroom but mean the bedroom
Why is this happening to me?

These thoughts can be experienced throughout an individuals’ life, in school, at university, when applying for interviews and whilst at work. Although, they may seem as strange thoughts, they are thoughts that an individual like myself, with Dyslexia experiences and is illustrated below.

My Experience as a Dyslexic

Since I was a young child, I always found that learning in school was difficult for me, but I did not know why. I had problems with spelling and needed speech and language therapy to help me understand and vocalise simple words. My parents did not know what was wrong and my teachers assumed I was too distracted too learn so I basically got a hard time for getting wrong answers to my tests more than correct answers.

Over time I developed low self esteem, because I had a passion to learn but for some reason I got increasingly overwhelmed e.g. in exams I often experienced “ my minds got completely blank” so I panicked. When individuals get stressed, their dyslexic difficulties become more apparent and often hinder education rather than support it!

I experienced difficulties with word association, processing and retaining information. My working memory and short term memory was affected to the point where I would often forget information given to me. I much preferred doing activities rather than lecturers and learning because I got overwhelmed so quickly.

I did not know straight away I had dyslexia until I reached university. I knew I had a different way of learning to other people and I struggled in lectures but I did not know this was dyslexia. School teachers in the present day are more equipped now with training in identifying children who exhibit signs of this learning difficulty.

Everyday life challenges for me

  • Interviews - I found challenging because I struggled to think on the spot and provide answers due to me not being able to process the questions fully, which affected my self esteem and confidence
  • Spacial awareness - I find this is to be more affected when my alertness to my surroundings weakens due to fatigue.
  • Poor concentration - I find my concentration is affected due to the level of information I retain.
  • Time management and planning - my awareness of time is somewhat impacted but is easily be managed through developing positive coping strategies and reflective practice.
  • Word association and literacy - I have tendencies to say phrases in the wrong order, or get my words mixed up.
  • Sensory processing such as interpreting new information.
  • Working and short term memory.

Challenges as an OT student

When I got accepted into university, my tutors were able to pick up that I had some form of learning difficulty and eventually I was tested. I was tested for Dyslexia by an Educational Psychologist. The tests was funded by the disabled student grant which universities have in order to support students who have disabilities. The test involved memory processing, writing and numeracy, background info leading to my difficulties. After numerous tests, I was diagnosed in 2008 with Moderate Dyslexia with Dyspraxic and Dyscalclic tendencies.

Exams and lecturers I did not like as I struggled to retain information I had learned so intern I got overwhelmed.

Group exercises, presentations, placements I enjoyed the most as I learn by doing practical activities. I learn best through concrete experiences rather than having a lecturer dictate information to me.

What helped me?

  • Acceptance
  • Looking up on the internet or going on forums on how people have coped
  • Being mindful of the signs and adapting them to make me feel less overwhelmed
  • In interviews, I notified the interviewers which helped me as they re-worded questions and allowed me more time to answer them
  • In interviews, I listened to questions carefully, if I struggled with understanding questions I asked them to repeat it. The more I understood, the more I was able to answer questions confidently.
  • In university, I had more time allowed in exams and I had extensions to my assignments/essays
  • In university, support from my guidance tutor helped a lot, I was able to complete my university degree.
  • In practice, using supervision guides my learning and my professional development in practice.

Helpful hints for Occupational Therapy students

  • Have a balanced routine. Enjoy being a student as well as having time for yourself as it does get stressful.
  • Take a learning styles questionnaire which may help provide you with helpful tips and coping strategies.
  • If you need support during your time at university, speak to your guidance tutor about being referred to a dyslexic tutor. A dyslexic tutor will help support you throughout your academic years and help you prepare your essays, presentations and be there as another supportive network.
  • Reflect using a reflective cycle.
  • Make time with your guidance tutor as they will support you in transitioning to each year.
  • Speak to your peers on your course. Peer support is equally important as academic support from your tutors.

During Placements:

  • Make your educator aware that you have Dyslexia and be clear about your needs whilst on placement so they can fully support you. e,g, " I have dyslexia, these are my challenges, and I would like to work on x, y and z. The more information they know, the more they can support you.
  • REFLECTION - I found reflection crucially important in my development into the therapist I am today. Reflection is a good tool to use to learn from experiences you have encountered along your journey.
  • Time management and Planning - Always plan your next working day, the day before as it helps with your time management and stress levels. Keeping diarised appointments helps to keep on track when care plans need to be reviewed. Furthermore, keeping a to do list helps with time management and prioritisation as you can order items of importance. I keep a traffic light system of Red to urgency, Green to non urgency.

Helpful hints for during interviews

  • Be clear and concise the best you can. I know it isn't easy, but you can do it!
  • Hold a pen or take a bottle in, if you are nervous, distract yourself with something in your hand.
  • At the interview, alert the interview that you are dyslexic, they will allow you more time to complete written assessments. Interviewers may also reword or rephrase sentences to help you understand the question.
  • If you do not understand the question, DO NOT PANIC! Just remain calm and ASK the interviewers to rephrase the question.e.g. " I'm sorry but I don't understand the question can you ask it again or rephrase it for me please?"

Read my guide on interview tips to help you prepare for your interview.

Helpful hints for qualified Occupational Therapists

  • Time management and Planning - Always plan your next working day, the day before as it helps with your time management and stress levels. Keeping diarised appointments helps to keep on track when care plans need to be reviewed. Furthermore, keeping a to do list helps with time management and prioritisation as you can order items of importance. I keep a traffic light system of Red to urgency, Green to non urgency.
  • Delegation - delegate small tasks as much as you can. It will help build up good teamwork skills and time management as you will be able to focus on urgent priorities such as care plans, new referrals or discharge reports. Using delegation can also assist you to develop good prioritisation skills.
  • Supervision - Use supervision as much as possible. It is there to guide your development, to assist in your development. Meet regular or as little and often to discuss your targets. If you experience any challenges, supervision can be used to reflect with your line manager who will support you. If they are not aware of your difficulties they cannot help you.
  • Reflection - Reflection aids reflective practice and helps you learn from events that were positive and stressful. Reflection helps with developing your skills and knowledge to continue with your professional development.
  • In practice, using supervision to guide your learning and your practice. Observe and reflect. REFLECT REFLECT REFLECT! It is the best way to learn and develop your skills

Each individual will find what works for them. It is trying to find your strengths and use them to help guide you when you are struggling.

At the end of the day, you are an individual. You learn in a different way to other people and can see things from other prospectives.
It is not wrong to believe that working in a pressured environment will have its stressors, we cannot avoid stress, but we can cope as long as we use coping strategies effectively and they differ from person to person.

Categories: Occupational-Therapy

Tags: Assessments Children Course Difficulties Disabled Dyslexia Experience Interviews Knowledge Learn Learning-styles Occupational-Therapists OT Placements Questions Reflection Reflective-Practice Skills Students Supervision Tutor Workplace