Thank you for stopping by to read this, what I am sharing with you is very personal and dear to my heart. It took me a long time but when I was 30, I discovered something that changed my life forever. I will share my story and my discovery here with you today and hopefully it could change your life or that of someone close to you.
Growing up as a girl in Suhum, Ghana, I could not read and write even my name. I was usually the last in every subject in school and I always scored zero in everything. My teachers always punished me for each low score and some friends and family members ridiculed me.
They made me feel like I was good for nothing. My confidence went down the drain. I lost hope; I didn’t know what to do to perform better. Though I liked the idea of going to school – it seemed to be the only thing to do, but deep down, I was scared of going to school everyday. School wasn’t an emotionally safe environment for me and I was deeply unhappy yet had no choice but to trudge on when all I wanted to do was give up.
In Ghana, at the age of fifteen (15), most students enroll in high school, but I was eighteen (18) and still just taking my entry examination (BECE) due to several years of repeating classes all throughout primary school and junior high. I remember I couldn’t pronounce most words when I wrote the BECE and that meant I didn’t understand even the words in front of me. Needless to say, I scored very poorly because of my low performance. This was even more embarrassing given that my school at the point, international school, preempting my low grades, rejected registering me as part of their candidates for the 2004 BECE examination. They did not want my scores to taint their records.
Even the very fact of getting registered was a struggle but I knew that I did not want to keep being in junior high school, because I was growing and everything was turning to be boring and at the same time hard for me.
I was registered for the exam in a public village school. Imagine being the only one of all your friends on exam day to journey from your international school to join others in a public village school. Imagine being a young teenage girl and going through such moment in life. It truly was mentally and emotionally traumatic marked by anxiety, fears and not feeling welcomed anywhere.
As if that wasn’t enough, the results came and I had grade thirty-one (31) (the worst possible grade bracket (0-34 being an F))…oh my goodness grade 31? Which high school will accept me with such grade?
I was told many things. Some said it was the end for my education, some said they knew I wouldn’t amount to much. So many unpalatable things were said to me during that time. The worst was that I accepted their words as my destiny. I wanted to give up and find a trade or join my grandmother in her farm.
The thoughts were playing on my mind all time until my boyfriend at that time gave me the words I needed to hear. “Everybody is good at something. You are very good at something, don’t ever think you are not good.” He believed in me, he thought I could be something more, and with his guidance I decided to give myself one more chance. In all my life what I knew best than any friend I had was how to cook. My food is and was always delicious; it felt always like I had magic hands in combing ingredients with little or not effort from my part. I know today it is one of my many gifts!
I proceeded and applied to a vocational school to study culinary arts. I still remember the words of my beloved father who was very supportive of all my decisions telling the head of Liberty Vocational School to give me a chance though his expectations were conservative to say the least.
I started my studies, guess what? That was the environment I needed. I needed an experiential and practical learning space. What started as low hope and just giving myself another chance began my journey into the world of culinary and hospitality.
I found my love; and deepened my talent in combining ingredients and making mouth-watering meals out of them. It opened my creativity and the ability to connect myself with edible plants and other ingredients. This time I was either the first or the second in almost everything: The universe welcomed me into its reality and I embraced it with all my strength.
After my training, I started my career journey and at age 21 I was already working in the hospitality industry, which I still do today. My journey has led me back to school after some years working in hotels for both my Bachelors and Masters degrees in hospitality management. And I have worked in both local and known international brands around the world.
Today I feel I am good for something and more. However I still have not gotten over my inability to read and write fluently. I spend so much time performing tasks, especially paperwork related, that another will take much shorter times. I need to spend a little extra time putting my thoughts together and to make it meaningful for someone to understand.
One time, I was told by someone that I might be dyslexic. I thought to myself, wow what is that? I started reading about it and I could not believe the things I was reading. The examples I found reflected my daily experiences. I got more and more interested and decided to do a test for dyslexia at age of 30. I still remember the emotions I went through during the different phases of testing for dyslexia, which I did in Switzerland where I was studying at the time. After all was done, I was diagnosed dyslexic. I remember the expert saying to me “I do not know how you made it to where you are now with this condition.”
It was that point that I had the desire to bring awareness about Dyslexia to the everyday parent and child. It’s been 3 years since I discovered that I’m dyslexic but it has been tough bringing myself to share my own personal story to go with my quest to create awareness on dyslexia. Today I have embraced that call, for if not now, then when?
As a person who grew up as an unknown dyslexic child; and had a lot of difficulty integrating into society and especially in my education, and after years of self-development and running advocacy towards the condition, these are the few things I believe every parent and teacher should know to make the world more accessible and inclusive to the needs of the ever-amazing dyslexic children who are born into it daily.
To begin with, here are some facts:
- Dyslexia is difficulty in learning to read.
- Dyslexia can be related to hereditary factors or other factors that affect brain development.
- The precise cause of dyslexia is not fully understood.
- Diagnosis of dyslexia involves reviewing the child's processing of information from seeing, hearing, and participating in activities.
- Treatment of dyslexia ideally involves planning between the parent(s) and the teachers.
As a parent, if you were told your child would be a creative, intelligent, big-picture thinker with a strong sense of grit and resilience, you'd be happy, wouldn't you? That sounds like a great set of skills for life success, doesn't it?
Now, what if you were also told that your child would have trouble learning to read and write for the rest of his or her life?
Like two sides of a coin, dyslexia is a gift and a struggle. I know this because I'm dyslexic. So it is genetic and extremely common. It's estimated that 1 in 5 people have dyslexia. Dyslexia is, put simply, a different wiring of the brain. It is not a measure of intelligence. Dyslexic brains find it difficult to recognize how sounds, words and letters match up phonetically. It's an alternative way of thinking. While dyslexic minds process information differently, in lateral way, it also means we are singing a different tune when it comes to literacy, memory and concentration.
It turns out "thinking outside of the box" comes more naturally to the dyslexic brain than the propensity to spell accurately.
It was a relief when I realized as an adult that I am dyslexic. What was even more liberating was realizing that many things I was good at were also because of dyslexia. Each dyslexic has a different set of skills, and weaknesses, but there's a pattern of commonality that links people like Galileo Galilei, Pablo Picasso and Walt Disney.
Dyslexics often think in pictures and can see multi-dimensionally which is why art, architecture, gardening, entrepreneurship and chef are some career paths that dyslexics gravitate toward. It is the support and intervention from an early age that can make all the difference.
Viewing dyslexia as a unique set of abilities with varying patterns of strengths and challenges -- instead of a one-size-fits-all learning disability -- is gaining traction.
Teachers or parents who think a child can "grow out" of dyslexia are wrong. If your child is constantly being told to try harder, write neater, or stop being lazy, then maybe you need to take them to be tested for the world's most common learning disorder. Help is everywhere.
Winston Churchill, as many advocates believe, had dyslexia, pointing out that he dictated, and did not write his speeches and books. He would have found many of today's voice-to-text tools helpful. Microsoft's learning tools also have incredible options for dyslexics, such as tools, which read out text, break-up syllables and increase spaces between lines and letters.
Not every child struggling to read will be as well-known as some famous dyslexics like John Lennon, Albert Einstein, Henry Ford, Richard Branson, Whoopi Goldberg, Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Tom Cruise or Keira Knightley, However, they do not need to be left behind, or relegated to the dunce corner. More teachers and parents need to recognize the familiar signs and be able to help, all the tools to do so are out there, if you just look.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) four (4) address “quality education”, while as number ten (10) addresses “reduce inequalities.” Let’s help our children who have difficulty performing in school feel like they belong and that school is a safe space for them. Let us have a mechanism that will help dyslexic kids and also all persons with disabilities.
Unfortunately, Ghana does not have a lot of centers for Testing, there is still a lot of work that need to be done through advocacy and awareness to push action towards Dyslexia. There is a known specialist at the Ridge Hospital and will be a good place to start from. These are a few online sources that should help with frequently asked questions and self-testing through online platforms. Here are a few.
Please feel free to contact me if you want to know more. I am open for speaking engagements on the subject of dyslexia to parent, schools, teachers, churches etc.
Rosalin Abigail Kyere-Nartey - Dyslexia Awareness Champion
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