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When Life Gives You Melons

Debate’s Meoghan Craig reflects on life with dyslexia

Illustration by Leo Walton

Hi! My name’s Meoghan and I’m a dyslexic. Being a student with a learning difficulty has not come without its...difficulties.

“Learning difficulties seem to be non-existent nowadays,” is something that I hear a lot. It’s just so wrong. What I know is that the shame that people with learning difficulties feel means that it’s not talked about. These learning difficulties are way more common than anyone realises. Research has found that it doesn’t matter what ethnicity, culture, gender or socioeconomic background you come from; Dyslexia. Doesn’t. Discriminate.

Three out of the four people in my immediate family are dyslexic. My dad’s the only analytical thinker in the house and is surrounded by people who would be much happier creating multi-coloured mind maps than standard bullet-pointed lists.

“What is it like to be a dyslexic?” I hear you ask. It becomes your normal. When I read books the words used to dance on the page. Not even in a metaphorical way, they would literally jumble up as I watched. Imagine the opening scene to that Percy Jackson film where he can’t read properly because the words scrabble themselves, but he seems to be able to understand Greek perfectly. Tone that down a notch, subtract the ability to read Greek and being a demigod and you have a dyslexic. I mean... as far as I know I’m not a demigod. Dyslexia is like being in a bubble where there’s all these ideas swimming around you, but as soon as you go to write them the pen pops that bubble. You’ve often got tons of strength and stamina, but you just seem to be so slow in comparison to others. It’s frustrating.

School was really hard for my brother and me. Throughout primary for me and high school for him we were refused official help because “Dyslexia doesn’t exist”. In the mid-2000s teachers, schools and even the Ministry of Education were not prepared to recognise the struggle that students with this learning difficulty faced.

I loved learning. I loved going to school. I was a sensitive 9-year-old who was always trying my best, but I was still being screamed at for not being able to spell. Think about everyone you know looking at you like you’re a toddler in a lecture theatre. It was always an uphill climb to keep up with any work I was given.

I felt unbelievably, unquestionably, stupid.

But, as a generally positive person, life moves on and so do you. I grew and my learning improved. Don’t get me wrong, high school was hard, but I loved it with every fibre of my being. I’m just one of those people. Every assessment was a challenge, every achievement was a celebration. I would get to school at 7:30 and leave at 5. I BUSTED ASS! And I made it. So, here I am! I’ve survived and I’m now a second-year communications student.

It’s tough. Essays and exams, which make up the majority of AUT courses, are a dyslexic’s worst nightmare. I just think a little differently.

The government officially recognised Dyslexia in 2007. Although, recognition is only good when partnered with action. Years later, students were still limited with the level of help they were able to obtain. You had to provide a written assessment by a professional who had diagnosed you with said learning difficulty. Depending on where you go, assessments like these can cost between $1,000 - $5,000. Schools could still choose to not recognise it.

From 2014 onwards, help was provided (at least at my high school,) that included extra time, reader/writers and the use of laptops. To each their own, the options provided were catered to what best suited each individual student. Here at AUT, the very same help is offered to students with learning difficulties. There are many aspects of support that go across the spectrum that you can look into on the AUT website under ‘disability support services’. No one needs to be left in the dust.

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