How does a diagnosis of dyslexia as an adult change the way you see yourself?

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Receiving a diagnosis of dyslexia can be a bit of a game changer at any age, but particularly when the diagnosis comes in adulthood. At this time it can trigger a multitude of conflicting emotions, positive and negative, both for the individual, and their friends and family. Receiving a diagnosis can present a number of different questions around how it could affect different aspects of life, particularly when it comes to working life.

Devinia Malcolm, a Business Psychologist from London, was diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of 20. Now 27, having navigated these challenges and questions, and pursuing a career she loves, she shares her experiences.

“Through school I didn’t have many issues. I had a few difficulties learning to read but they didn’t really impact me in primary and secondary school. It was at university that I started to notice I was having difficulties. I was reading words wrong, and concentrating was difficult. I also found that assignments were taking me longer than for other people.”

Devinia approached the university disability team and had an assessment which concluded that she has dyslexia. Following this, she was assigned a specialist tutor, and a variety of equipment, to support her through her studies, as well as additional time in her examinations.

“For me, it was a sense of relief”

Upon receiving her diagnosis, Devinia experienced a number of different reactions; some were positive, and others more challenging. “My family didn’t understand. My Dad asked me if it meant that I’m stupid.”

Dyslexia is caused by differences in the way the brain processes and stores information, and is certainly not a sign of low intelligence. Many individuals with dyslexia are actually very intelligent and successful. “My Mum was more understanding, particularly about my short term memory. She said, ‘That’s why you forget what I tell you!’ ”

Devinia herself says she felt a sense of relief: “It gave me a reason for the difficulties, and meant that I could do something about it, to help myself.” Devinia’s uncle reacted to her diagnosis in perhaps the most supportive way: “He printed off photos of lots of celebrities and successful people with dyslexia, like Richard Branson and Einstein — that was really encouraging”.

Devinia explained that there were times when she questioned her abilities while she was at university, such as when revision was taking a very long time, and there are still days when she feels low in confidence: “I have to tell myself that it’s not my intelligence, and remind myself of the other people who have done well, and all the tools available to me. I just have a different way of learning.”

Devinia also explained that she received a discouraging reaction from her assessor. Devinia was herself studying for a Psychology degree at the time: “I told her that I wanted to get a good grade; she told me that I just needed to pass.” Unperturbed, Devinia worked hard and believed in herself, and achieved a 2:1 in her undergraduate degree. She is currently studying a masters degree alongside a full time job.

Devinia would recommend that anyone thinking they may have dyslexia gets tested. “You should do it. As soon as possible. Whatever is standing in your way, it’s never going to be as bad as you think and 99% of the things we worry about never happen. There is so much support you can access.”

“Things are always a lot scarier when you think about them than when you actually take action”

If you receive a diagnosis, look at it as positive outcome, because you have an explanation for why certain things are challenging for you. Whether studying or working, whatever your position, there are many sources of support that can help you to manage your difficulties, and maximise your strengths so you can fulfil your potential in your chosen career and other pursuits.

Even if you don’t receive a diagnosis, an assessment will help you to understand your brain’s strengths and weaker areas, and this will increase your awareness and knowledge of yourself. “When you know your weaker areas, you know where you need support”.

Written by Abigail Tew, Junior Assistant Psychologist & Case Manager at Lexxic

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