Do you struggle with dyslexia/dyspraxia? Do you fear that it will hamper your efforts at school, college or in your working life? Susanna Gray, Manager at Axcis Education has kindly shared with us her own experiences in this area and how she has overcome these challenges in her life and gone on to be not only highly successful, but a true inspiration to her colleagues here at Axcis.
Tell us a bit about your background growing up
I struggled with my studies and always took longer than the other children to read and would always lose my books/school bag. Until I was about 12 years old, it was just as if “oh dear – Susanna is just a bit slow and not very organised”.
When did you find out you had dyspraxia and dyslexia?
One of my teachers recognised that I was very fast verbally and could enter debates and in depth discussions. She also noticed that I was better with homework but not very successful at work during classroom time.
Was the process of getting a statement of special needs difficult?
We had to get an assessment with a private specialist who noticed that I struggled with coordination and reading which was unusually slow. She also noticed my writing was unusually untidy.
How did it affect your educational life?
I went to a highly academic school where people confused my lack speed as lazy. I was often compared to my academic parents (my dad who was a well known headteahcer of an academic school and my sister who was a bit of a whizz kid.) It got to the point where school was just a struggle. I could sing, but I couldn’t read music and all of the lines just blurred together and nobody understood this as I’d been attempting to read music all my life in cathedral choirs. I also got accepted for roles in theatre companies based on my singing and dance skills. However, I cold not remember the routines and would randomly lose balance and fall over.
What was the most positive experience during this time?
I found a dyslexia tutor who helped me with mind maps. This was a break-through moment. I also got a laptop. Overnight my grades went from Es and Ds to As and Bs. It was extraordinary. I managed to get a place at Cambridge University. Another student was a very clever girl from school who saw me and asked “ what are you doing here?” I will always remember the lady who helped me learn from mind maps and showed me new processes as it has changed my life.
What was the most challenging experience during this time?
I think it would be reading aloud. I remember the moment when I said “he pee’d over the hedge” instead of “he peered over the hedge”. It provoked laughter and it was one of many similar instances.
How did you find that it affected you when seeking employment?
Luckily it didn’t affect me too much. However, there have been a few jobs where I have needed to produce timed written work. I also was on many reserve lists for music colleges – with the main objection being that I could not read music.
When did you join Axcis?
I joined Axcis in August 2009.
How has your dyslexia/dyspraxia affected your working life?
I have become quite used to making up for my downfalls with the attempt of using my personality. Previously it has affected my organisation. I have struggled with time management but have overcome this with support that I have received from Axcis to the point that I am now a manager. Axcis has a group of fantastic managers who have helped me to progress to the point where my time management is now fantastic. I have worked with routines that have really helped but it requires self motivation.
What would you like to say to the students out there who are currently doing their own battle with dyslexia/dyspraxia?
I think that finding the right support is vital. It is what makes me passionate in finding staff for children who have special needs. My story is one that I don’t share often but I feel underpins my passion for what I do. I think that everyone who suffers from dyslexia/dyspraxia actually has an advantage. You have to work a bit harder at every day activities which in the long-run will make you a hard-working individual in everything that you do.