My earliest memories of struggling in school float back to me from my first year at Primary school. (I did all my schooling in the UK. I was 5 in what was known as “first year”. My teacher would write a sentence on the black board and we would have to copy it into our books and then draw a picture. My Mum and teacher couldn’t understand how I could possibly make spelling mistakes when I was just copying the text down.
“Nicola, you have to try really hard to focus” my Mum would tell me at home when she was looking at my school book. I tried.
Atrocious spelling became a reoccurring theme for me. I had a simpler solution to the mysteries of punctuation. I avoided it entirely. No matter how many times it was explained to me, it seemed to be an impenetrable code that was just far more effort than it was worth. I didn’t use a single capital letter or period until I was about 10 years old.
I developed a similar technique with math, which, was also completely impossible. Instead of spending hours agonising over a page of addition or subtraction, I simply filled the answer boxes with whatever numbers came to mind. Simple, painless and my teacher could see that I had completed the page so I was allowed to go on to an activity far more enjoyable.
This was a short lived solution, unfortunately, because getting 0% correct day after day was a red flag for both my teacher and mother and so math homework became a reoccurring theme in my life also.
My Mother was a Special Education tutor. Through the eyes of a child this was a problem. I was quite happy to sit at the back of the classroom and quietly fail. It was much easier and once you let go of the whole “enjoyment of getting things right” mentality, school was quite palatable.
My Mother on the other hand wasn’t happy with this situation and started teaching me at home. She taught me through games so I would forget that I was doing something I hated and found hard and just enjoy the fun of the game.
Slowly over many years my long suffering Mom won the battle. In doing so she taught me much about fighting for what I want and work ethic. Today, I have a university degree, a good career and if you met me, you wouldn’t know that I have both Dyslexia and Dyscalculia.
My brain is wired slightly differently to yours, this gives me tremendous benefits. I wouldn’t change my learning disabilities and years of hard work for a more traditional life.
On March 8th, 2012 I will be sharing my experiences and providing a resource workshop for parents who are starting to wonder if their children are on track in school. Join the conversation yourself at Hillcrest Community Centre 7 – 8:30 “Wondering about skool?”