Zoe Williamson shares her experience of living with dyslexia, a condition that affects 10% of the population…
“When I was first diagnosed with cerebral palsy, my parents were told this could impact on my reading and writing. I went to a mainstream school and really struggled year after year. My cerebral palsy is mild so even friends and peers weren’t aware of it but reading writing and spelling were very difficult for me. I found schoolwork hard and wasn’t supported – if I asked for help, I was labelled as naughty and sent out, eventually I did play up because I had nothing to do as I couldn’t read what was on the board or keep up with what was taught.”
My mum fought to get me an EHC plan at the age of 9 and at that point I was diagnosed with dyslexia by the Educational Psychologist, but Mum had to battle for another four years before I was eventually moved to a special-needs school at the age of 12. Things really changed for me then: there were just 13 kids in the class, a support assistant and a teacher. I had good support at the special school.
The Positives And The Challenges
The most positive thing is that I have learned to ask for help! I never stop trying or taking the opportunity to learn. Even having my little boy gave me the chance to help improve my reading. The battles I faced with dyslexia have made me stronger and more determined! My biggest challenge is still my spelling, I can write the same word so many different ways.
My Greatest Supporter…
At college I had a dictaphone and that helped a lot. I recorded my lectures and then Mum or I typed up the lessons that evening. My mum has been my biggest supporter, she really is amazing. She faced so many difficulties with trying to get me the help that I needed, she started studying and became a teacher and got her degree as I turned 12. I’m so proud of her, she’s a special needs coordinator now she has been so driven by my experience and the lack of support. She is now a Deputy Head!
My Biggest Achievement
Setting up my online shoe business Tripalot is my biggest achievement. It started from me having cerebral palsy and needing two different size shoes. I worked in a shoe store for 13 years and I often met people like me that needed odd sizes and amputees that were obliged to buy a pair of shoes. I felt passionately that I could offer an affordable solution. It hasn’t been easy, especially the paperwork. I’m quite shy about my literacy struggles but with work I just try and get on with it! I have an online website and the business is growing. It’s so rewarding to help people.
My Advice For Someone Recently Diagnosed With Dyslexia…
Don’t give up, keep on trying and ask for help if you need it. There’s so much more information and support out there now for people with dyslexia. Years ago, when I was diagnosed, it wasn’t really talked about but thankfully it’s very different now.
A huge thank you to Zoe for sharing her inspiring story with Hidden Strength. We wish Zoe a very healthy and happy future – and lots of luck with her fantastic business! Thanks also to British Dyslexia Association (BDA) who have been the voice of dyslexic people since 1972. You can find lots of information, resources and support at the BDA website: https://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/