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Today we received an e-mail from one of our Leaving Cert Students. She took it upon herself to write her first essay and wanted us to share it with you. She has gone her whole schooling life without knowing she had Dyslexia and has only recently been screened by one of our tutors and is now waiting for her official diagnosis from an educational psychologist. To say we are proud of her is an understatement and this student has a bright future ahead.

Tension: Real Life Versus Glided Promises.

 I have decided to write about my life versus the gilded promises of life, by talking about my journey through education from play school until now and my future. This is my story about being diagnosed with dyslexia and how it has affected me in the learning environment.

 September 2005, I started play school, I can still remember how excited I was to this day! I loved going to play school every day. I had loads of new friends to play with in the sandpit! We would get vanilla ice-cream in wafers during the summer. There wasn’t a worry in the world on me and that is what life is all about. I had no problem with knowing different shapes or colours. My mum and dad were probably babbling them to me when I was only a baby. I knew for a fact that I loved the colour pink because I simply refused to wear anything else! It would be a very odd day if I was wearing a different colour. Anything that I learned in play school I was fine with. I had no trouble learning shapes, colours or even numbers ( for the most part!) I enjoyed every aspect of play school, then again what 3 year old didn’t like play school? All we did was have fun all day, every day.

 It wasn’t until the following September of 2006 when I started to struggle a little bit with learning as this is when I started junior infants. I remember my wheelie green and pink bag, I thought it was the heaviest thing I had ever lifted in my life. I remember walking into the classroom in my brand new pinafore and cute school shoes. I was by far the smallest person in the class,( I still am to this day) everyone seemed like giants to me on that first day. We played lots of games on the first day, I wished that everyday would be like this. But unfortunately it wasn’t! The day finally came where I had to learn the dreaded alphabet. 4 year old me didn’t have a clue what was going on. What were these this things that the teacher was asking us to write down? They all just looked like squiggles and circles with lines coming out of them to me. Yet, my teacher passed no heed on me. I sat there quietly, trying my hardest to copy these letters onto the dotted lines in my copy. It took me a while to get the hang of writing my A,B,C’s and when I finally did, I was told I had to make words with these letters. How on earth was I supposed to do that? I used to go home and get my mum and dad to help me but I would be none the brighter once I put my copybook back into my schoolbag each night. I was struggling but no one noticed, I seemed to be good at hiding this. When we progressed to putting these words into sentences, it seemed impossible to me. I wasn’t able to make sentences to save my life, I couldn’t even put the simplest word such as “cat” into a sentence, even the cat herself would be able to do that! But for me it was the hardest thing in the word.

 Then in senior infants, we started learning how to tell the time. When I looked at the circle on the wall that had number going out the outside, I did not understand how people were able to tell the time from it. My teacher kept talking about the hands on the clock, the ‘minutes’ hand and the ‘hours’ hand, but I could not see any hands with four fingers and a thumb on this very strange circle. It was very frustrating not being able to tell the time. I wouldn’t know how long It was until I was able to go outside and play hopscotch with my friends and I wouldn’t how long until I could eat my Nutella sandwich. Then in first class we moved onto adding and subtracting big numbers, if only I knew that calculators existed back when I was 6, because I definitely needed one! Still, none of my teachers had even considered the fact that I could have been dyslexic. It probably didn’t even come into their minds as I always just stayed under the radar. I was very behind on school work, I always just struggled through, and I suppose I pretended that I knew what was going on in class. My parents didn’t even consider it, as they were always told that I was doing fine in school. second, third, forth and fifth class carried on the exact same way, I was constantly struggling through each subject, especially maths and English. My Drumcondra test results always came back with a Sten of 5 or 6 so I was just average, this is why teachers never picked up on it.

 Funnily enough, I never seemed to struggle with Irish, that is until I was in sixth class!. Everything got so much harder for me. You may as well have been speaking Swahili to me instead of Irish, I hadn’t a bull’s notion what my teacher was saying to me! And don’t even get me started on conjugating verbs! Everyone around me in class was able to speak Irish and always understood the homework we were given and then there was me who instead of doing Irish, would be organising my books by alphabetical order ( I had got the hang of the alphabet by then!),colouring in pictures or reading a book that was anything but Irish. And as if Irish wasn’t hard enough, they decided to bring back a retired teacher and teach us some French. I dreaded every Thursday when we would have French. This is not what primary school should have been like, I should have loved going to school. I avoided eye contact with the teacher in hope that she would not ask me any questions. I used to hide behind my enormous pile of books every Thursday, being short payed off then I must say!

 Then, in 2014, I made the huge jump from primary school to secondary school. If I thought my bag in junior infants was heavy, my bag in first year must have been two stone heavier. It was in secondary school, where I really began to struggle. Now I was studying way more subjects and it was very stressful. I would do my homework from the second I got home from school until I went to bed. I always spent so long doing my homework and still not understanding it sometimes. Yet, I studied so hard for all my tests, soI always got good results, so again, none of my teachers realised that I was dyslexic. When I was in third year, I got diagnosed with lyme disease and was unable to attend school. Teachers never sent home any work for me to do so I had to study by myself for my junior cert. I only sat half of my mocks and at that I did them at home. None of my teachers realised that I was sick and one even gave out to me for missing school so much. None of them seemed to realise how much extra work I had to do and still have to do to be at the same level as some students. I ended up getting the best result in the case for my science mock exam and my teacher was annoyed by this as I had done all of the work myself at home and had not learnt much from her at all! I quickly figured out that to learn things, I had to write notes out myself and do spider diagrams to help me study. This is not how it’s supposed to be, teachers are supposed to show you how to study, you shouldn’t have to figure everything out by yourself.

 Being dyslexic means that I learn in different ways, I don’t learn by listening or just by reading so it takes me a little bit longer to learn things and study. I didn’t end up doing my junior cert as I was out of the country for treatment, the only things I completed were my home economics and music practicals but they are worth less then 40% each. So when I received my envelope on results today, I saw two huge F’s beside home economics and music. This is not how I expected my junior cert to go, but now I look back and laugh at the fact that technically I failed by junior cert but it does not make one bit of difference to me!

 Fifth year, this is the year I was actually diagnosed with dyslexia. We finally decided that maybe I was dyslexic. And sure enough, when I got a screening, I was. On one hand I was relieved as it was always in the back of my head but on the other hand I was extremely annoyed, how could none of my teachers never have noticed even the slightest thing that may lead them to think that I was dyslexic. It annoys me to this day. I could have got help for years and improved but I am only getting it now. I cannot get any exemptions for my leaving cert as I have gone this far without needing them. I know I will do fine without them, but they would always be a help! It could be a lot worse I suppose! I know that in college I will have more support available to me which is excellent. In the future I hope to become a home economic s and biology teacher, it will take a lot of work but I know for a fact that I will love it. I know that I will definitely keep an eye out for any students that might be dyslexic or who are struggling because I’ve been there and I know exactly how it feels to be in their shoes! Thing don’t always work out the way you want them to, and if this isn’t clear in my story, I don’t know what is! Everything will work out the way it is supposed to in the end. Look on the bright side, I only have to stress about one state exam now! You would be surprised how many people in the world are dyslexic, including Walt Disney, Leonardo Da Vinci and Albert Einstein, and we all know how successful and well known they are! Who knows, maybe I will be the next Einstein?!