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Daring to Deal With Dyslexia

I remember the day I found out. At first it was quite exciting really, I had the time off school and when you’re twelve, that always feels like a treat. We drove miles to a grand old building, the rooms were big and the people there looked very clever, they made me read out loud, do spelling tests and they gave me biscuits. An hour later they told me that I was dyslexic. On the way home we stopped off at a pub for scampi and chips, because it was the 1980s and everyone had scampi back then and we talked about what this all meant. I felt daunted by the whole thing, I felt different and a little embarrassed. That’s how I felt for years afterwards too; I got called lazy and stupid, so I stayed away from words, they were no friends of mine. But then something changed. I finally figured out that being able to spell correctly has nothing to do with being a good writer, it’s about having something to say.

Tom is an author and illustrator with dyslexia.
being dyslexic is actually like being a member of a very exclusive club

The way I see it is that being dyslexic is actually like being a member of a very exclusive club. You should embrace it rather than be afraid of it. If anyone comes at your work with a red pen, take it off them, chuck it out of the window and tell them they can have it back when they’ve actually read what you’ve written - tell them to see the story, not look for mistakes.

Day-to-day my dyslexia comes and goes, sometimes I can’t spell the simplest of words that I was fine with yesterday. So some days I draw stories instead. Comic strips are a great way to write without words. Poetry’s brilliant too, because it gives you a structure to work to. It’s like having the foundations and all you have to do is add the walls and roof. I know what you’re thinking, poetry’s lame, but if someone as hip and street as me likes it, it must be cool - right?

Never be afraid to talk about being dyslexic. People are really interested. It also helps you feel comfortable about who you are and what you have. Take the time to look it up on the internet, see what it means to be dyslexic. You should never be afraid to get things wrong, or getting mixed up. I’m going to say something that’ll shock you now, teachers are actually nice people. They just want to help. Be nice to them and they’ll look after you. If you find reading hard - like me, look elsewhere for stories, audiobooks, podcasts, they’re just sat there waiting for you. Being dyslexic should never be an excuse for not being a writer. Being dyslexic means you having a brain that works differently to everyone else and being different is never a bad thing. Being dyslexic is who you are, and who you are is amazing - so stop reading this and go write your 500 words!

By Tom McLaughlin, author and illustrator with dyslexia. @_TomMcLaughlin

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