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At High School, I really struggled writing essays and with math but was one of the more capable students in my Music, Drama and English Literature classes. I always felt that I was only just keeping my head above water in the academic subjects and couldn’t understand why this was. My confidence and self-esteem was really low during this period and after dropping out of doing my A Levels, I felt really lost and wasn’t aware of what my strengths or skills were.
I took a number of jobs after leaving College, including a Store Trainer role at a Supermarket and a Medical Receptionist role at a GP surgery. What I really liked about both these roles, was that they needed me to verbally communicate and written communication was very low. I started to realise that verbal communication was a strength of mine and also the ability to empathise with others.
In 2007, I moved to London and started working for a large training provider in an administrative role. I found the role incredibly challenging as the volume of admin was really high and my organisational skills weren’t strong enough to cope with this. Again, I found myself trying to keep my head above water which knocked my confidence and caused me to feel intense anxiety and stress. I somehow managed to stay in this role for 3.5 years until I moved into a different role as an IT Software Trainer.
The IT Software Trainer role was great on one hand, as it allowed me to use my verbal communication skills but on the other hand, very challenging as the complexities of the software were difficult to grasp. I also had to read and respond to very long emails with multiple questions, which put a lot of pressure of my working memory. Again, I started to beat myself up over why I couldn’t remember things and also compared myself to others around me.
After about 4 years in this role, I attended a Specific Learning Challenges Awareness presentation by Janette Beetham. As soon as Janette started to describe some of the challenges people with dyslexia face, I started ticking a few of them off in my head and came to the realisation that I could be dyslexic. After completing a questionnaire that gives an indication whether or not you may have dyslexia, I then decided to go for a screening. As soon as we met, I realised this was someone who really wanted to help me, wasn’t going to judge me and someone who I could talk freely to. During the screening it was clear that I had difficulties with my working memory and towards the end of our meeting, Janette asked me ‘do you find yourself apologising a lot?’. At this point, I started to cry and was overwhelmed with emotion, the question made me realise that I had been apologising all my life for difficulties I had no idea that I had.
Janette was a great emotional support to me and explained clearly what the challenges were that I was facing but also made me realise what associated strengths I had. After the screening, I immediately felt my confidence rising as I finally had answers to why I struggled with certain things. Shortly after the screening, I met Janette again for a workplace needs assessment. This was extremely helpful as we were able to go through all parts of my role, identify the challenges and then Janette suggested a few strategies which helped me cope better. Once I had put these coping strategies in place, I felt I had control over my work tasks and the confidence to talk to others about what I found challenging, and what adjustments would be helpful.
I later met with Janette again for some specialist coping strategy coaching as I was moving into a new role which would present new challenges. The support I received was amazing! It really helped to boost my confidence, allowed me to gain control over my work and also made me realise what my strengths were. I would strongly recommend anyone that believes they have a specific learning challenge to get support from Janette as the support I have received has completely changed my life. Thanks to seeking specialist support, I have increased self-awareness, better self-esteem and the belief that I can do anything I put my mind to.
Thank you for writing this and saying we can share this David, we believe others will be inspired by your story.