You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

'I didn't find out I was dyslexic until I was 21 and training to be a journalist'

Wales Online logo Wales Online 13/04/2020 Bronte Howard
a person standing in front of a fence: Journalist Bronte Howard didn't find out she had dyslexia and dyspraxia until she was 21 and studying for a master's degree © Bronte Howard Journalist Bronte Howard didn't find out she had dyslexia and dyspraxia until she was 21 and studying for a master's degree

Most people would love to be intelligent, creative, critical thinkers who have a knack for seeing the bigger picture.

Who wouldn’t? They’re a great set of life skills that come in handy in whatever you want to be.

But what if, in turn, you had to spend your school years struggling to keep up with your peers and even as an adult had difficulty spelling simple words?

Well, just like a coin, dyslexia has two sides to it.

a woman wearing a black shirt: Bronte struggles with things like maths and spelling © Richard Williams Bronte struggles with things like maths and spelling  

It’s a learning difficulty that makes it harder to read, write and sometimes speak. In short, it affects parts of the brain that process language.

But at the same time a lot of dyslexic people can see details others can’t. And they’re supposed to be more creative, like famous dyslexics Leonardo da Vinci, Walt Disney, and John Lennon.

In fact so many people with dyslexia and other learning difficulties go on to do brilliant things.

It’s something I know particularly well because in 2016, when I was 21 and studying for a master's degree in journalism, I was told that I’m one of the six million people in the UK who have the condition.

And at the same time I found out I also have its lesser-known cousin dyspraxia.

Watch: Children talk about what it's like to have dyslexia

UP NEXT
UP NEXT

Like dyslexia, dyspraxia doesn’t affect your intelligence – but it’s a common disorder that affects your movement and coordination. Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe, a fellow dyspraxic, once revealed that he can’t tie his shoelaces.

For me the conditions manifest themselves in different ways:  

  • I struggle with my left and right. So much so that when learning to drive I would write an L and R on my hands so I didn’t panic and turn the wrong way.
  • I have an annoyingly bad short-term memory. However I’ve managed to figure out routines that work for me. Lists, reminders and sticky notes are a major part of my life.
  • I can’t hold a pen. I mean, I can. But if you’ve ever seen me pick one up, my hand forms an almost claw-like shape.
  • I really struggle with spelling. But, thankfully, spell checkers have come a long way since I was in primary school.
  • I’m terrible at maths. 
  • I walk into things literally all the time.
a person standing in front of a car posing for the camera: Despite finding learning to drive really hard, I managed to get there in the end © Bronte Howard Despite finding learning to drive really hard, I managed to get there in the end

But on the flip side I enjoyed art and music lessons at school and I was actually pretty good at them. I also picked up shorthand (an abbreviated, phonetic way of spelling) fairly quickly – probably because dyslexics tend to spell phonetically anyway.

And, despite struggling to grasp things that seem to come to others so easily, I managed to successfully get my GCSEs, A-levels, and even an undergraduate degree in English Language and Linguistics before anybody suggested I might be dyslexic.

So why did it take me so long to be given a formal diagnosis?

Ever since the educational psychologist sat me down after a very stressful three-hour assessment and told me that it was pretty obvious to her I was dyspraxic and dyslexic, I’ve wondered how different my life would have been if I had the support I needed.

If I had extra spelling classes, one-on-one tutoring and, like my best friend in high school, someone to help me organise my folders, would I have actually enjoyed school? If I had extra time in my exams, would I have passed my maths test first time rather than on the third?

I’ll never know. But I am a huge believer that young people with learning difficulties shouldn’t just be written off or left to their own devices because they seem to be getting along just fine.

When it was revealed in January that Welsh students can’t take the dyslexia test in their mother tongue because it’s only available in English I, like many others, was outraged.

Why should young people have to wait until they’re 11 to have access to the help they need?

Why should someone like nine-year-old me who just can’t fathom the concept of multiplication or swim like their friends be left to struggle?

We should be supporting students with learning difficulties so they feel comfortable learning alongside their peers and can reach their full potential.

Because dyslexia shouldn’t be something that stops you from achieving your dreams or doing whatever it is you want to do.

Look at me – it took me an embarrassingly long time to learn how to spell my own name and now I write for a living.  

For more information on dyslexia, visit bdadyslexia.org.uk.

AdChoices
AdChoices

More from Wales Online

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon