An interview with Shae our founding Director

Dyslexia affects 2.5million Australians. That is 1 in 10 people in our community. Dyslexia is a neurobiological specific learning disability which creates considerable difficulty learning how to decode and read words because of challenges in processing the sounds of language and understanding letter patterns (Lyon et al., 2003). This means we struggle reading words which in turns affects reading speed, fluency and comprehension (Berent, 2017). This leads to difficulties with spelling, grammar and writing.

Signs of dyslexia are vast and dyslexia is on a spectrum from mild to severe. Those with dyslexia can also have difficulties with their working memory, motor skills including balance, organisation skills, how they express their thoughts on paper, maths and my favourite, left and right confusion (Alexander-Passe, 2018; Lyon et al., 2003).

Dyslexia is a lifelong disability and is often genetic in nature. My research supports international literature that all these challenges and a lack of understanding of dyslexia in our community leads to many people have poor mental health and wellbeing and overall poorer quality of life outcomes.

Tips for living your best life as a dyslexic

  • Never be afraid to ask for help, everyone has strengths and challenges.
  • Technology is our best friend from text to speech. Grammarly to google maps technology can help us literally get from A to B.
  • Don’t be afraid to aim high and want the best for yourself. As far as I know we only have one life and everyone deserves the best in life. With the right support and tools, I believe everyone can accomplish, achieve and succeed.
  • Look after your mental health and wellbeing. People with dyslexia are twice as likely to suffer from anxiety and depression and are at greater risk of attempting suicide. I know this as I have been one of those statistics. Seek help from a professional as and when you need it. Put strategies in place to ensure you are looking after your mental and physical health. If we don’t feel good about ourselves we are less like to be able to achieve and reach our full potential.

Explaining life with dyslexia to the world

Life as a dyslexic is most of the time for me frustrating. From getting constantly lost, flying into the wrong cities, having to ask Siri how to spell words all the time, the day-to-day tasks taking much more time and effort than for those who don’t have dyslexia. Unsurprisingly, you feel mental exhausted by the end of the day. You can have ongoing feelings of self-doubt, shame, embarrassment and sometimes resentment that you can’t do simple things like read and write like everyone else can.

Each day can bring a different battle. It’s a battle because there is such a lack of awareness and understanding about dyslexia within the community and currently, we are set up to constantly fall and fail. I truly believe that when the societal barriers are taken down all of those with dyslexia will finally have the opportunity to thrive and succeed.

Once you free yourself from the shame and embarrassment I think you can learn to accept your differences. This can take time. I don’t know if the self-doubt ever goes away but if you surround yourself with people that support you and you do things you are good at then I truly believe you can begin to live your true authentic life.


Overcoming challenges and striving for success whilst living with Dyslexia

Have a good psychologist! Without someone to support us and our mental health we end up depressed, anxious, full of shame and we can’t live our best lives. Surround yourself with people that are going to support you and help you on the good days and the bad, this could be a friend, family member, a work colleague or through a peer support program like the ones we run.

As I said before technology is our best friend. Learn what technology works for you.

Have a growth mindset. If we lead with the mindset that we are always learning throughout life, then I think that this attitude can help when we face challenges. It will also enable you to learn what your strengths are and allow you to work to those rather than focus on the areas you struggle with. Also look at what learning style best suits you. Can you learn through listening to books and podcasts or watching YouTube clips? There as so many ways we take in and learn information apart from just reading. I don’t think there is any reason why we should stop learning because we have dyslexia.

Finding your happiness and learn to put it first

I think you find happiness when you are able to become your true authentic self. I found my true authentic self when I started my charity Dear Dyslexic and now my new company re:think dyslexia. Through my work I have been about to not just share my own story but many other dyslexics stories, we are now more vocal about our difficulties and our strengths! Establishing and working in the neurodivergent space isn’t easy and sometimes it’s hard to block out all the noise. At times, I still doubt myself and what I am trying to do. However, I think by bringing it back to my vision for my life and my values, the desire to be in service of others and live an authentic life, the beautiful and the ugly helps me to stay focus. I believe if we work towards our and goals in life then can we feel happy with ourselves and the life we lead.