I think the problem with things like dyslexia and dyspraxia is they can be brushed aside. The word “only” is often attached to them, as if it not frustrating to want to draw a picture but have to stop because your hand won’t let you. As if a calf cramp from walking out your front door is just one of those things. As if forgetting how to spell your own name is something you can brush off.
While there are so many conditions so much more profound and so much more difficult to live with, here’s my shout into the void about what it’s like being a dyslexic and a dyspraxic kid growing up and facing college.
As a baby, I never learned to crawl. As my family so affectionately put it, I bum shuffled along the ground until one day I decided to walk.
When I was seven years old, I couldn’t spell my second name. I couldn’t tie my shoelaces. I couldn’t run as fast as my friends, I couldn’t kick a ball as high.
When I was ten years old, I cried because a boy in my class made fun of the way I spelled soldier. I’m sure I butchered the word.
When I was thirteen, I started to get angry. I started to hate that my body didn’t work like it should. I started to hate that my friends got to run and jump and play in the community games, while I couldn’t run the length of the classroom without getting a cramp.
When I was fourteen, I was diagnosed with dyslexia and dyspraxia. Microsoft Word is telling me to correct dyspraxia, that it is not a word. That’s how much information there is about the condition.
I started going to these meetings, where kids where told about the condition and asked to talk about their experiences. I was surrounded by people who were angry, or indifferent. I decided that I was going to be neither.
When I was fifteen, a close family friend went on holiday to Spain. Her balcony collapsed from underneath her. She’s in a wheelchair now. This same lady once said that there is nothing in this life that can be worse. She still believes that.
When I was seventeen, I was in all honours classes, except for one. My teacher couldn’t understand that I knew the formulas and how to solve an equation. It wasn’t my fault the numbers wouldn’t stay still.
When I was eighteen, I was accepted into college, 100 points clear for the course I wanted. I went to my first lecture and my hand cramped. I recorded it on my phone. I finished that module with a 68.
I had my first college exam and got mixed up with all the numbers I had to put on the front of the booklet. I got an invigilator to sort me out. I passed that first year. There is no shame in looking for help.
When I was nineteen, I got shortlisted for an internship with the Irish Independent.
I’m twenty. I am twenty years old and one year clear of graduating university. I am twenty and I am a dyslexic writer. I am twenty and guess what? I still can’t tie my shoelaces.