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My neurodiversity story: Erin Reid

Proud to be dyslexic and dyspraxic

Erin Reid, Learning Mentor


When and how were you diagnosed as neurodivergent?

I was diagnosed at 7 years old with moderate/severe dyslexia and mild dyspraxia, and that diagnosis was reconfirmed during my first year at university.

Dyslexia and dyspraxia are lifelong conditions however there is a common misconception that you can grow out of the conditions. As a result, at university the exam support I had received at school, such as a scribe, reader and extra time, was threatened to be withdrawn unless I was retested. My diagnoses were confirmed again at a specialist testing centre, and I was able to keep the support I needed.

How does being dyslexic and dyspraxic impact you?

Out of both my conditions my dyslexia has had the biggest impact on my day to day life. I struggle with very basic tasks such as

  • following instructions (my brain can’t retain information very well)

  • filling out forms

  • reading directions and timetables

  • writing emails or texts

It also affected my school life, and has resulted in me suffering from anxiety. Having to retake multiple exams despite revising for considerable periods of time, and having a private tutor, really knocked my confidence. At that age I believed I was unintelligent because I watched all my friends pass exams seemingly with ease whereas I had to retake maths 4 times in order to pass my GCSE. Similar struggles at university meant I suffered even more with anxiety and stress.

Post university, I wanted to do a PGCE to teach PE. However i failed the compulsory maths exam (and only passed the english one after 6 attempts) and wasn't able to get on the course. I believe it was the mental arithmetic that caused me to fail as my type of dyslexia makes it extremely challenging to retain information.

What are the best things about being dyslexic and dyspraxic?

The best thing about being dyslexic and dyspraxia is that it has made me incredibly determined: if I don’t succeed, I keep on trying until I do. Another great thing about being dyslexic is I have a fantastic memory for anything not academic related! My mind is also very imaginative and I have the ability to always think outside the box; both are brilliant traits to possess.

What are the most difficult things about being dyslexic and dyspraxic?

The biggest thing I hate about being dyslexic or dyspraxic is when someone mocks me or makes jokes about it. Recently I was working at a school and I asked another member of staff how to spell something. They said "you’re such an amateur" in front of my two students. Whether this was serious or meant as a joke, it was highly inappropriate and humiliating.

Have you had any challenging experiences in the workplace as a result of being dyslexic and dyspraxic?

At 16 years old I was working at a major UK retailer in one of their stores. I disclosed my dyslexia to the manager and as a consequence they wouldn't let me use the till. Without consulting me they assumed I wouldn't be able to read it. I was asked to work in a non customer facing role in the store room as a result.

It is assumptions like these about how peoples' disabilities impact them that lead to incorrect decisions about where people will be best placed in an organisation and the support that they need.

Do you have any tips for employers, managers and colleagues to better support dyslexic and dyspraxic people?

I would love all employers and staff to understand what dyslexia and dyspraxia is. An organisation-wide training, such as within an onboarding process would be hugely beneficial.

Secondly, if I disclose my disability I appreciate being asked how I can be best supported rather than for people to make assumptions or assume all dyslexic and dyspraxic people are the same.

Finally, please don't ignore disabilities if you don't know how to help. I am very willing to discuss more about my neurodivergence and what I need in order to get the best out of me in the workplace so just ask me!

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