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Neurodiverse Me: A Journey Through Dyslexia and ADHD as a Women

Growing up, my memories often feel foggy, a common experience among many with ADHD. However, one memory stands out vividly: the day we discovered I was dyslexic. I recall sitting around the large circular table in our family home. My dad guided me through spellings, trying to explain the difference between 'b' and 'd', yet they remained the same to me. I remember murmurings of dyslexia being spoken about amongst my parents and feelings of inadequacy washed over me, as if implying there was something wrong with who I was.

Neurodiversity encompasses a spectrum of neurological differences, including ADHD and dyslexia. However, these conditions are often overlooked in women. ADHD in women may present differently, with symptoms like disorganisation and forgetfulness, leading to underdiagnosis or misdiagnosis. Similarly, dyslexia in women may go undetected due to compensatory strengths in verbal proficiency. Societal expectations and gender bias further complicate recognition and understanding. By raising awareness and advocating for inclusive support systems, we can empower women to navigate the challenges of ADHD and dyslexia with validation and resilience.

Throughout my education, I found myself in various rooms with school visitors, often tasked with solving puzzles. These sessions felt like being prodded and probed, leaving me wondering why only some children had to do this.

As I got older, I noticed letters dancing around the page and bright lights flashing as I read. The brightly lit classrooms, with colourful displays half-falling from the walls, only served to heighten my distraction. I would get headaches from the cold, white lighting and the ongoing classroom noise. These spaces were not for my learning, they felt unnatural, neglected and devoid of warmth.

Struggling with reading, spelling, and particularly maths, I found traditional subjects lacking in addressing the profound questions I had swimming about in my mind. Why do we know more about the moon than our own oceans? How did language emerge? Why must everything be categorised as good or bad, right or wrong? I did not understand why we were learning and what it would provide us with later in life. These lessons became dissatisfying to me and as boredom set in, my imagination would take hold.

To most adults, I presented as a bright and articulate young girl. I didn't disrupt class or seek attention. Enthusiastic about education, I served on the school council and participated in fundraising events. Yet, my adeptness at masking my insecurities often led teachers to overlook my struggles. I was often overshadowed by louder, misbehaving students. Feeling unseen I started to doubt my ability to learn and then mentally withdrew from education.

Amidst these challenges, I found solace in the arts. Creativity became my sanctuary, a realm where rules were meant to be broken and questions led to deeper inquiry. While peers sketched vases and flowers, I conjured dark, enigmatic creatures and delved into new identities through drama. In art, ambiguity thrived, offering liberation from the confinement of the ‘rights and wrongs’ of conventional education.

During university, I received an ADHD diagnosis, initially viewed as another flaw to be remedied. Yet, as I delved into my neurodivergence, it became a source of empowerment. Like art, the rules of my brain were meant to be challenged. I thrived in the quiet embrace of dimly lit spaces, my thoughts racing at hyper-speed in the morning. Understanding my neurodiversity facilitated connections with those in need of support. I embraced my role as a teacher, discovering a love for reading, writing, and maths along the way. Teaching became not only a career for me, but a process of healing and self love. Working with young people I learned that learning, for me, was about finding a path that resonated, rather than a deficiency to be overcome. It wasn't that I couldn't learn; I simply needed a different approach.

If your child needs a different approach. Check out our new service Nurturing Neurodiversity.

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