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Saturday 19 April 2014

Dealing with dyslexia: Case study

Emma Matthews, 33, from Monkstown, is programme manager with the Career Path for Dyslexia course run by the Dyslexia Association of Ireland. She says she was her own worse enemy at school, yet feels her teachers were too understanding of her different needs in a classroom environment.

"No teenager wants to make a song and dance about themselves, I never liked making a fuss of needing extra time to read or for exams," says Emma.

"You also have a situation today where parents don't like to have their children labelled, and don't make their needs known to teachers," she says.

"I was diagnosed with dyslexia at age seven. Dyslexia runs in the family and the nuns were very quick to pick up on the fact my academic progress wasn't matching my input in the class. At that age I felt special being different from my friends.

"But they didn't know what to do with me in secondary school. To be honest, I was fooling them. I would say I hadn't done an assignment and they'd excuse me. Then I found I could get off homework and it was happy days. I'd tell my parents one thing and my teachers another.

"They exempted me from my Inter Cert and I thought: 'What's the point of being here?' I was spending a lot of time alone in the art room anyway, because I was good at art, and not attending other classes. So I left school at age 16 with no exams under my belt," says Emma.

She goes on: "I have a personality which takes me anywhere so I probably wasn't as frustrated as other people in the same situation. For three years I worked in animation, they were my college years as such. When the company closed I studied music management at Ballyfermot Senior College. I flew through the work projects but again was too proud to ask for extra time for reading in the exams and lost out," says Emma.

"I did spend a few years in New York working in music management. But it was when I did the Career Path for Dyslexia course run by the Dyslexia Association that I really found my niche. I looked around the room and saw people who were so relieved to finally be understood they were tearful. Some have been so affected by living with this difference they are angry and bitter about losing out," she says.

"Dyslexia is an isolating experience. After I completed the course I trained to be a teacher on it. I love it. I never lost my confidence, yet so many people with dyslexia do. Yet with the right support anything is possible. After all, I'm a teacher now," says Emma.

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