What is it like being dyslexic?

Dim sgoriau eto. Mewngofnodi i Raddio

What is Dyslexia?  

Dyslexia is a learning difference or disability which primarily impacts you reading, writing, and reading abilities. It is a lifelong condition which impacts a variety of skills relating to these areas including, but not limited to, word processing, reading speed, memory, verbal communication, handwriting, and one’s ability to follow written and verbal instructions. It is usually picked up when a child starts school and begins to learn to read and write, however, some people fall under the radar like myself.  

My Experiences in School 

I struggled a lot with reading in Primary School. I remember sitting with teachers and going through phonics, over and over again; reading my reading book aloud to teachers and my Mom and being frustrated because I couldn’t read fluently; having to retake reading tests because I scored particularly low for my age, and feeling behind everyone else. 

There was a corridor at the school with lots of bookshelves and all of the books were categorised in order of difficultly and colour coded, starting at green (the easiest, big font, pictures) and ending at black (harder reads, small font, no pictures, novels). Several of my friends made it to black by Year 6 and I never did which didn’t feel good.  

I found tests hard too. Because my reading was so slow and I struggled to process test questions, I used to panic at lot during tests and I’d check the clock frequently. Someone noticed at one point because I had a reader for my Maths SATS, but that was all the help I got. I managed to get through Primary School without outstanding issue, so I fell under the radar.  

Secondary School was the same story and because I was able to manage the challenges I faced with reading, I remained under the radar and received no help. I accepted that there was clearly either something wrong with me, or I was just awful at reading. I found English GCSE particularly challenging, not just because of the sheer amount of reading that was demanded of me, but it was also embarrassing and self esteem destroying. On the few occasions I was asked to read aloud in class, I sounded like a robot reading. I would constantly pause, lose my place, not know how to pronounce words, stumble on words, and I could feel the impatience of the other students. Once I became closer to my teachers, I’d ask them to never pick me to read because it made me feel out of place.  

I managed to get through GCSE and A-Level English with the help of audiobooks and YouTube revision videos. Teachers would often ask questions like, “have you made it to chapter 10? I need you all on chapter 10 to continue”, and I’d have to lie and say I was all caught up. If I was honest, I had no excuse, I didn’t know why I was so slow at reading. Maybe I just wasn’t as intelligent as the others. 

It was extremely difficult to keep up, but the exams were the next hurdle. I always struggled with processing and decoding exam questions, and because no one had suspected I was dyslexic, I had to do all my exams without any extra help e.g., extra time). Although the grades got me to university, I think a diagnosis and exam help would have not only improved my grades, but also my self esteem and confidence. By the end of Sixth Form, I firmly believed I was just less intelligent than everyone else and incapable of reading properly for no reason.  


In my first year of university, I made a friend who was dyslexic. I explained how I never did any extra reading for my course or for leisure because I was too slow, and, among other things, they suggested I get an assessment. Curious, I did some research and online “Am I Dyslexic?” quizzes and related to everything. I contacted Student Services and arranged a screening and we found that it was highly likely I was dyslexic. Unfortunately, because I had fallen under the radar at school, I had to go through a private assessment.  

In January 2020, I was diagnosed with dyslexia. I learnt a lot during the assessment, one thing being that dyslexia impacts more than I thought it did (e.g., memory, handwriting, quick naming, visual processing, shape and pattern processing, committing information to long-term memory) but the main thing I learnt was that I am not stupid or unintelligent. Everything made sense.  

Working at Tesco  

Not long after my diagnosis, I briefly worked at Tesco. I worked in the online shopping department and found that my dyslexia impacted my ability to do the job. Although it was frustrating that I couldn’t do the job as quickly as everyone else, I found it interesting that dyslexia could impact these things.  

When you’re collecting online shopping orders, you have a scanner and a trolley. The scanner tells you what product the customer wants, the location of it in the shop, and how much it costs. Already, this is a lot of information to process. Once you find the item, you scan it and a coloured shape will pop up on the scanner. Each coloured shape represents a different basket in the trolley. Once you’ve put the product in the right basket, you scan that too. Simple, but for a dyslexic brain, numbers, words, colours, and shapes are a lot. I often found myself really struggling to process all of these different elements, making mistakes like scanning the wrong product, misreading labels or prices, forgetting to scan the baskets, which really slowed me down.  

This made me very frustrated with myself sometimes, but there isn’t anything I can do about it and that’s okay. 


Receiving this diagnosis really helped with my degree. It allowed me to get exam provisions (extra time and the use of a computer), some software for my laptop and a study skills tutor to help me with my studies. These resources really helped, however completing my degree was still very challenging. Essay assignments were especially difficult because of the amount of research I had to do for each. Reading paper after paper was exhausting and it was not uncommon for me to have deadlines extensions because it took me so long to process the information, organise my ideas, and write my essays. At first, I was a little embarrassed that I almost always had an assignment deadline extension. Everyone would ask, ‘have you finished the essay? How did you find it?’ and I was never finished in time. But eventually, I figured if that’s what I needed to complete my degree, that’s okay.  

I also found that following written instructions was a challenge for me. During my degree, I did one module which included field and lab work. We were given a work booklet with pages and pages or instructions and activities and tables to fill in. It was really daunting for me. Luckily, the fieldwork was partnered which really helped me get through the relevant pages of the workbook. The lab work, however, was harder because I had to read the instructions, process them, remember what to do, apply it to the practical, do the practical correctly, and then right down my results in the work booklet. At this point in my undergrad career, I wasn’t comfortable asking for help and I was the second to last person to finish the practical. Again, I felt embarrassed, but I look back and realise that this is just how my brain works and that’s okay. 


Since my diagnosis and working out what works best for me, my confidence has increased significantly. However, there are still elements of the condition that I struggle with. For example, I haven’t read a book for leisure in years because I find books so daunting, exhausting, or I get frustrated because it takes me so long to read one page. I often find long emails intimidating and I struggle to follow instructions. Some days, it can be really challenging to read at all. I still compare myself to others even three years after my diagnosis: my sister reads constantly and reads long classic novels; students I knew on my course did lots of extra reading for their modules and assignments, and finished their dissertations sooner than I did; and I envy those who can quickly get through long emails, follow instructions easily, and don’t get tired when reading things. Reducing how much I compare myself to others is something I still need to work on, and I still have to remind myself sometimes that I’m not, and never was, stupid, or less capable, or lazy, I just need extra time or help.  



Dolenni defnyddiol

Elusen Gofrestredig

Undeb Myfyrwyr Aberystwyth #1150576