Raising awareness and understanding of Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and Dyscalculia.
To mark Dyslexia and Dyspraxia awareness week, we caught up with Kelly Lee, Sales Operations Manager at ANS, to share her experience with the conditions and discuss how she broke through the barriers and stigma in her life.
Where do I start?
Well for a long time I was just Kelly, but Kelly that tried hard but bless her ‘she isn’t academic’. Kelly that was clumsy, ‘butter fingers’ they would call her when playing netball. Kelly that would get laughed at for walking into walls, walking into lampposts, falling over her own feet. Kelly that would learn a dance routine and then get completely lost on the stage as the room shape was different. Kelly that struggled with using remote controls, Kelly that couldn’t figure out how to move a bumper car at the dodgems. Kelly that would read and read and read but didn’t digest or take in anything that was in the book. Kelly with no self-esteem, low confidence, and no idea what the future looked like.
Then I was Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and Dyscalculia. I wasn’t Kelly anymore; I was a diagnosis. I was apologetic, I was ashamed, I was confused, and I was angry. My brothers were neurotypical, they were also clever, and their futures looked bright. Why? Why was I the way I was? Why was I so different? Do I tell people? Does that mean I can’t get a job? Would someone hire me if they knew? What if there was an entrance exam?
It is more than just a label; it is an identity crisis and the way it is presented to you is ‘this is what’s wrong with you?’. I remember my mother looking at me with such sadness and guilt. She felt guilty because she knew how hard I worked at school and how much I struggled, she thought that it was something she should have known all along. I never understood that entire moment until I found out my son had Autism Spectrum Condition; a mixture of relief but also guilt that I didn’t fight enough for him sooner, but that’s a story for another time.
Finding out as a young adult was hard, because I felt angry that I didn’t get the help I needed throughout my education. However, I am a stubborn and determined individual so if I had found out earlier I might not be the same person that I am today. My teachers told me I wasn’t good enough for college, but I proved them wrong. I just about scraped enough GCSEs to get into college and I worked my damn hardest. My teachers said I wasn’t clever enough for university, but that motivated me so much that I worked my damn hardest to prove them wrong and I did, I got into University. My teachers said I would struggle to pass my English degree and guess what, I proved them wrong and just about scraped a 2:2.
It was after my degree that I discovered I had severe learning difficulties; I was severely Dyslexic, as well as Dyscalculia and Dyspraxia. Honestly my head fell off and so did my mother’s, I wasn’t ‘thick and stupid’ like I had been labelled year after year by every teacher. That’s where the Anger comes from, everyone I had encountered within my education had in some degree let me down and made me feel as though I could never amount to anything. Thank goodness I’m so stubborn and wanted to prove them all wrong, because it could have easily gone the other way.
After the anger subsided, I then grieved, I grieved for my past and then I grieved for my future. I didn’t see the diagnosis as an opportunity for greatness, I saw it as a barrier, a wall I would never be able to knock down. I decided not to tell people, I kept it my secret for a long time. I didn’t tell anyone in my personal life, I didn’t disclose it on my CV or job applications. I didn’t tell my boss or any future bosses for years to come. I avoided applying for jobs that required you to sit competency exams, I gave up on jobs that had ‘numeracy skills’ on the job spec. My diagnosis held me back for so long, because I was ashamed of myself and what I thought I could never do. I didn’t believe in myself and I certainly didn’t give myself a chance. I genuinely thought that if people knew I ‘couldn’t do maths’ then I’d never be given any opportunities with responsibilities that included numbers. If people knew I was Dyslexic then I’d never get to do the things that I love, I’d never get to teach and watch people grow professionally, something I’ve always been passionate about.
In 2019 I came out. I decided to embrace my true self and to share with the world who I was. There were several reasons as to why; for the first time in my entire employment history, I had a manager that believed in me. He actually asked me if I was happy in my role, and I said not really, I want to do more and he said show me and I did. It took a while to get into the rhythm of things and most weeks I cried because I felt like my brain was going to explode. I tried so hard and he challenged me week after week. Every 1-1 I felt like everything I had done wasn’t good enough. Critic after critic, correction and questioning after critic. 12 months of blood sweat and tears and suddenly I was embracing being out of my comfort zone. Suddenly the way he was talking to me made sense, I understood him and what he had been doing all along. He was helping me in a way I had never been helped before.
I became optimistic and I no longer saw myself as having problems, challenges, or something to be ashamed about. I discovered an employee network and met like-minded people. I didn’t need to feel alone anymore, I got to know other people that thought in similar ways to me and I was able to open up about my struggles. The network helped me open up to my family and then I opened up to my colleagues. I posted a blog not dissimilar to this and shared with the world who I was and what my superpowers are, my neurodiversity.
I am now Kelly, just Kelly. I am not defined by the 3Ds, but I fight for everyone and anyone that is neurodiverse. I want to make sure that no one feels the way I felt for so long. I don’t want anyone to feel ashamed, that they don’t belong, that they can never grow and learn and be more than they ever thought they could be.
My name is Kelly and this month is Dyslexia and Dyspraxia Awareness, hello 😊