In Aid of Dyslexia

This April, I am taking on the massive challenge of running the Virgin London Marathon in aid of Dyslexia Action.   I have never taken on anything quite as mammoth as this before but when Dyslexia Action asked me if I would run for them I found it impossible to say no, given how the cause is so very dear to my heart.  I wonder if you could take five minutes out of your day to quickly read the reasons why I decided to say yes.   Fundraising is never easy but with the internet and the amazing Just Giving pages you can set up now-a-days it’s becoming easier.  
Any donation would be hugely appreciated.
Firstly let me tell you a little bit about Dyslexia Action and the reason why I wholeheartedly support what they do.  Dyslexia Action is the biggest dyslexia charity in the UK and they provide a wide range of services to people of all ages who have dyslexia and struggle with literacy.  There is somewhere between four and five percent of the population who live with dyslexia and it is estimated that there are about 375,000 pupils in the UK with dyslexia and a total of some two million people who are severely affected.

When I was at school, in the later years of juniors, I became aware that I was slightly different from the other children.  I had a real sense of being an outsider.  I had difficulty with math’s concepts, problems understanding the rules of grammar and mastering spelling was hopeless.  I reversed letters and numbers and took much longer to think and respond to questions.  I was a very slow reader back then and the thought of having to read aloud in class petrified me.  I spent most days daydreaming at the back of the room, doodling and drawing.  Unlike our education system today, my silence in class did not arouse suspicion in the teacher that something was amiss.  However, she found my lack of concentration and progression galling to the point where every morning I was called to the front of the class and told to repeat ‘Claire is stupid’ to my fellow classmates, a humiliation that has haunted me for a lifetime.  Justifiably I had massive problems with my self-esteem and a great sense of underachievement and after time, I really did indeed believe I was ‘stupid’.  This manner went on for some months and it wasn’t until my mother turned up at class one day and witnessed what I was forced to do that my life turned around.  I never knew why my mother turned up that day, maybe I had a dentist appointment or maybe it was a mother’s intuition that something wasn’t right.  Whichever it was, my parents whipped me from that school so fast my feet didn’t touch the ground. 

I was lucky… but I was also, by then, accustomed to disguising myself and my learning differences, which is typical.  It is exhausting being insecure, back then my only pleasure was role-playing, singing, dancing and being someone else. I had always dreamed of being a writer, but no one could understand a word I wrote. So what was the point in striving for something that could never happen?   I wasn’t aware of how dyslexia assessments on children worked, but my mother being a teacher herself, knew something was not right and she had me tested and it was confirmed… I was dyslexic. 

Some people with dyslexia are able to disguise their weaknesses, compensating and often do acceptably well or better - but there comes a time in higher education when a threshold is encountered, where they are no longer able to compensate for their learning differences.  I’m reluctant to use the word ‘weakness’ because although back then it felt like a weakness I’ve later learnt it most certainly isn’t.  Dyslexic people simply learn differently, we are active and visual thinkers, who learn best by hands on rather than lecturing.  Along with the endless list of things dyslexic people struggle to do, dyslexia is not an intellectual disability; we have many natural strengths that could even be construed as unique traits.  Yes we get bored easily; we’re inattentive and seek stimulation, preferring unstructured situations with lots of freedom.  But we are aware of everything; we are highly perceptive and intuitive.  We are curious risk-takers, capable of doing multiple things at the same time.  As I’ve already said we’re highly creative and artistic with vivid imaginations.  We have drive and ambition – we think in pictures instead of words and are capable of seeing things differently from others – outside the box if you like.

I know exactly what if feels like to be told, ‘You’re different.  You have to go to a special school.’ It broke my heart, I was embarrassed, ashamed and I never believed in a billion years I would stand and tell assemblies of teenagers about it, write blogs about it or even run a marathon in aid of helping people who live with it.  My confidence has come a long way and I will do everything in my power to help and encourage others with dyslexia.
I spent my final two years of junior school under the wing of a phenomenal teacher, who gradually drew out the creativity in me and gave me back my confidence.   Now my coping strategies are in place I almost feel I have ruled out my dyslexia.  I am still a slow reader and I occasionally have to re-read sentences to make sense out of them but I love, and always have done, the art of storytelling, whether it’s through music, film, theatre or books. You can carry away so much from a good book and live several lives whilst reading it, as I hope the readers of my debut novel DEAD GAME will.  Yes, I have written a book and I have three beautiful children to teach and inspire.  Literacy is so important, it is a great way of communicating and a socially acceptable way of expressing yourself, it is an essential tool that every person should possess.

I was so afraid of being judged when I was younger but now I just think; surely if life had wanted me to think ‘by the book’ I would have been made otherwise. The bullying I experienced at school has made me far more determined to help others living with dyslexia and help them to be who they are and not shy away or be demoralised.  Remember two or three children in every classroom struggle to learn to read and write. Many will progress well with good phonics (sound based) teaching but for those with more severe needs it is essential that they have access to specialist teaching. Currently many of these children do not get the help they need due to lack of trained specialist staff and their difficulties can go unnoticed or unexplained.  Without the correct identification and support dyslexia can be a barrier to learning and can lead to failure at school, exclusion or anti-social behavior. For many children who struggle to learn, their behavior and confidence can be badly affected.  If you can’t learn to read, you can’t read to learn!

By sponsoring me to run the Virgin London Marathon and donating to Dyslexia Action you will be helping so many people, children and adults, who live with dyslexia, they will receive assessments or screening tests, free face to face advice from experts and tuition and support through individual teaching programmes.

We need to change the face of how dyslexia is viewed and how it is remedied. I endeavor now to take away any shame behind the word dyslexia and swap it for pride.

Donating through JustGiving is simple, fast and totally secure. Your details are safe with JustGiving – they’ll never sell them on or send unwanted emails. Once you donate, they’ll send your money directly to the charity and make sure Gift Aid is reclaimed on every eligible donation by a UK taxpayer. So it’s the most efficient way to donate - I raise more, whilst saving time and cutting costs for the charity.

Even if you can only donate £1 – every little helps.  Thank you so SO much.

Link to give.
With all my love,

PS If you would like a really good laugh – take a look at what the Marathon News is saying about me!