STUDENT BLOG: How living with dyslexia has made me stronger

People often assume that her struggle with dyslexia is a weakness, says GRACE STROER-JARVIS. But she argues it has made her stronger. The 16-year-old RGS sixth former, studying physics, maths and  chemistry at A-level, explains how she is being supported in her determination to turn setbacks into steps forward

WHEN I was little, I was yelled at for not being able to spell ‘Lamb’.

This seems to be a shared childhood memory for those of us who struggle with learning difficulties. A cocktail of misunderstanding and pressure can do a lot to a child and in my case, it led to an anxiety spike during every ‘read around the room’ and spelling test. During my primary education I was made to take lower level spelling tests and at one point my spelling was two years behind what it should have been.

Despite my inability to picture words and a family history of dyslexia, I was diagnosed quite late, aged 10. My diagnosis was not even prompted by a teacher. I was in advanced reading, maths and technology classes and only my parents realised I was genuinely struggling, and that it was not the ‘lack of effort’ my teachers claimed it was.

So, I was tested, diagnosed and sent back to school with a shiny new attitude, hoping that everything would be better.

I was not.

Surprised? I was too.

Misconceptions about dyslexia run wild. I am perceived as lucky for receiving extra time despite having a disability I struggle with on a daily basis. People believe that words simply move on the paper and in some cases that is true but in actuality it varies quiet drastically from person to person, like most learning difficulties. Personally, I struggle with word sounds, where I simply cannot sound out words in my head.

Support in each one of the schools I have attended has been different and, in most cases, lack lustre or not helpful, another common experience shared throughout the disabled community.

However, of the schools I have been to, RGS has been the most accommodating. The mentality here is: If you need it ask for it. There is a team of dedicated teachers who genuinely care and try to help in every circumstance. The support I receive from school is 25 per cent extra time in any test I take, this includes public examinations.

For those of us who receive support, internal exams in are taken in a different hall to ensure we are not disturbed and that we can utilise all our extra time.

I know of students who attend extra English support lessons, receive break periods in exams due to anxiety, wear tinted glasses or receive coloured paper and use laptops in essay-based exams. There is a range of support available and I am sure that if a student needed a new form of access arrangement the school would make it happen.

I am incredibly fortunate to be in a school which recognises and helps to alleviate my dyslexia. RGS allows students to achieve what they are truly capable of, through their excellent teaching, continued support and genuine sympathy.

Throughout my life I have been told that my struggle with dyslexia is my weakness as an academically inclined person. I would like to disagree. My dyslexia has strengthened my problem solving, my ability to catch mistakes in my work and my drive to get my message across concisely.

After all, what makes someone truly intelligent is not how much they can remember, it is how they turn setbacks into steps forward.

*October is Dyslexia Awareness Month. For more information, visit British Dyslexia Association at