When I was first asked to write something, my impulsiveness kicked in. 'YES! I said. "I'll write something IMMEDIATELY and get it to you yesterday...'
Well that didn't happen, but I did get there in the end as you will (hopefully!) see. I also had to stick to one idea - there were a few thrown around, which I'd love to talk about, but for now let's start with me...
Growing up with Dyslexia and ADHD is not the worst thing that can happen to a person by a long shot, let's just get that out there. However, I will explain my story and put my perspective on how it's helped me to discover my 'why' - which is to inspire people to realise their potential, so in turn they can do the same for others. I've not always got this right, but I am trying.
I have dyslexia, ADHD and dyscalculia. The latter two affect me the most as I've become an adult. Numbers make me react like Superman to Kryptonite. I'm outta there quicker than you can say "why are you wearing your underwear on the outside?"
In school I was given a book to work through - really helpful, right? - rather than engage in the lessons, as I was considered too disruptive. I was disruptive because I was bored. But, how do you expect me to sit there and read a drab book about numbers that I don't understand in the first place, whilst I'm shaking with adrenaline because I've got this awesome idea for a new game I could make, or whatever else I'm hyper fixated on today?
Point 1-Make sure your learning isn't boring and that people can engage in it, in a way that works for them. I wish I'd known that sooner. It took me a while to realise that everyone isn't the same as me! What has this meant for me as an adult though, and those I work with? My previous role was training people how to teach fitness classes to kids and how to run princess parties (that is a real job, look it up!). It meant I got to put those creative ideas into action. Our kids don't always get that chance, so that leads to Point 2 - Create opportunities for kids to succeed, unlock their potential and unlock their unique ability. Actually, point 2 can extend to adults so let's rewrite that and add in adults.
Point 2-Create Learning opportunities for adults and children to succeed, realise their potential and unlock their unique ability.
When I came into this world, the 'fun' wasn't always there. I couldn't work out why. I later realised that there is a time and place for the shenanigans I came up with, but blending the idea of fun and engagement for people is a challenge that gets the hyper fixated part of the brain flowing! So, how do we bring out the best in someone with dyslexia, dyscalculia and ADHD? What do I wish people had done for me?
I once heard someone somewhere describe dyslexia this way: imagine a broken hoover. A dyslexic brain can picture it in their mind, spin it around in 3D, look at all the possible reasons why it's not working, come up with ideas on how to fix it and ways to make it work. But, ask them how to put it back together once that moment has passed and it's gone.
In my childhood, I would join in all the discussions in class. I'd verbalise everything, any problem, issue or challenge and imagine how to rebuild or reconstruct that 'thing and make it better. But then I'd have to write it down... hence the 100% GCSE fails I received at school. School was not the place for me.
Practical life skills also haven't come easy. How can I describe dyscalculia? I don't understand the concept of numbers. I struggle to associate a number with a value, to see it as a 'thing - you may as well be talking Latin. However, and this is a strange one... if you do talk to me in Latin I'll try and unpick the familiar sounds and word patterns that have made their way into our language now. Etymology has become an interest as I've got older.
Back to my point, what do I wish people had done for me? I wish they'd allowed me space to think in 3D and given me opportunity to explore maths problems in the real world. I was never going to be great at maths, but the life skills needed to work out the day to day stuff would have been great. It would have been helpful to have more opportunities to talk through exams, to verbalise what I'm thinking. I know the answer just as well as the next person, but the constraints required for me to succeed in a written format means that I am always playing catch up.
Thank goodness for vocational learning. This is something I have such passion for, hence why getting kids on to the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme and similar schemes is so important to me. It allows them to be someone else outside the school environment.
It creates opportunities for people to be an achiever, to be ‘top of the class’ and "Time is the one level the playing field for anyone, from any background. I refused to engage in thing all of us can the Award when I was a kid because it was for - and I quote my younger self never get back, so here - the 'posh kids who like outdoor shit. That is absolutely not what it is giving it to someone about and I implore you to help young is the most precious people realise what it can give them.
That leads me to Point 3-Take the thing you can." time to help young people understand the value in those extra-curricular activities. I wish someone had done that for me. It's good for your CV doesn't cut it. Help me see the short-term goal, what it means for me tomorrow? Heck, if it's because it's fun and I'm going to enjoy it, then tell me that. Tell me about the activities I'll enjoy - and it doesn't have to be about the activity itself. Let's take sky diving as an example... (I'm totally going out on a limb here!). If you know I like wearing boiler suits and hard hats, then sell that part to me. I've gone way off piste here to try and make my point, but breaking down a passion into smaller parts and discovering the different ways a young person can enjoy it and relate to it is important.
Take the time to know a young person, remember stuff about them, remember what they like so you can help them grow. And give them time. Time is the one thing all of us can never get back, so giving it to someone is the most precious thing you can.
Thank you for reading my waffle and for giving me your time. No refunds and please exit through the gift shop.
Edmund is a training and participation manager at a fostering agency. He engages foster carers, young people and colleagues in learning and ensures they have their voice heard, through creating training packages to managing participation.