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Skill National Bureau for Students with Disabilities
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Samantha Wright

Dyslexia

I did a PGCE Primary Teaching course at the London Metropolitan University a year after getting my BSc honours degree in Information Communication Technology in Education at the University of East London.

I was diagnosed with dyslexia when I started my degree and took time out to find out how dyslexia affects me.

I always received good reports from school as a child with regards my class work and oral contribution however my exam results never complimented the knowledge I had.

I found out in the year before applying for the course that I did not have the equivalent Maths and English as I was not diagnosed in school and did not achieve the grades needed to teach so I did evening classes during the last year of my undergraduate degree: achieving A* in Advanced English made me feel great.

I had help filling out my application from a supportive tutor on my undergraduate course. As I had been a nursery officer for a number of years, I needed to relay my past experiences in the application and putting things into writing is not my forte. I called ahead of my interview to request a separate room for the Maths and English test we had to sit - this was arranged for me along with extra time. A month after my interview I met with the special needs coordinator to discuss all my needs. Most tutors managed to have blue copies of their handouts (as I have a problem seeing black on white), which meant I could take part in the full session. I had a great network of fellow student teachers who wrote their notes in coloured ink so I could copy these up. I used a Dictaphone to help put information into my long-term memory. I also used a green or blue colour overlay to help read any guest lecturers' notes, and on occasion I requested these notes on blue paper.

I have had good experiences as a student and an employee as well as negative ones. For example, I have had a colleague in the past tear misspelt notices off the wall, as well as not being given time to read data before meetings. As an undergraduate some students did not want to work with me for group presentations due to my disability. They did not know that orally I would have been an asset to the group.

I intend to use all the different ways I receive information in my teaching and will endeavour to be honest with the children I teach and my employees. As I was diagnosed as an adult I had already been using many strategies to get by. Now, knowing a little more about how dyslexia is unique and knowing what my needs are will help me to deliver the curriculum in many ways and my creative ability will help me make my teaching fun and interesting. My unique insight into the problems that the children may experience will benefit my teaching as I have to deal with it myself on a day-to-day basis. Often children with specific learning difficulties may have low self-esteem and knowing that their teacher may need help from them on occasion can be positive.

I applied for Disabled Students' Allowances to pay for support and specialist computer equipment to help with my studies. Hard work, a positive attitude and a good support network will all help.

Soon afterwards, I was offered my first teaching post and I felt positive enough to let them know I had dyslexia and I expressed how my dyslexia would help me to teach in some ways. I mark the children’s work using the coloured overlays, I ask for help from my new colleagues to mark spellings. I have an electronic organiser to help my poor short-term memory. I use my Dictaphone to prompt myself and use a handheld spell checker if problems occur during teaching. I have put my techniques into practice and am learning some new ones from my colleagues.

It has been my lifelong ambition to become a teacher and dyslexia was not going to prevent me from doing it. Yes, it took me a bit longer and I needed lots of determination but I know that there are dyslexic teachers and teachers with various disabilities and they have succeeded. So can I and so can you. Use your inner strength to realise your dreams.

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