A Desire to Help Others - My Dyslexia Story
I found school to be very hard. I didn’t get good grades. I would read the work that was given to me, but not really understand what I was reading. When I was in high school my grades were C’s and D’s. I would try so hard to study and memorize but it was a waste of time, I would not remember. In fact, it took me three times taking my history class before I passed it. Of course it didn’t help that I was not interested in that class at the time. But you can’t pass high school without history class. Doing so made me miss my graduation. I passed high school in summer school of my last year. And being the oldest of my siblings I really embarrassed my mother. She never saw me graduate. When I got married she told my husband-to-be that I was “special” and to have patience with me, meaning I was sort of stupid or semi-retarded or something.
Higher Education with a Desire to Help Others
I became a beautician and had a talent for fixing hair. My only problem was charging people. I didn’t have the heart to charge like everyone else so I was pretty cheap. I lived in Norman, Oklahoma when the when the Oklahoma City bombing happened. I drove to the site to help the wounded but was turned away from the National Guard since I didn’t have any credentials proving I was in the medical field. I cried so hard. It was then I had the idea that I needed to go back to school. I initially fought the idea. I remember how hard school was and told myself I would never go back to school again.
I really think God was calling me to go back and I fought with this idea for a few weeks before I finally gave in. I chose to study to become a Paramedic. When I was in my EMT class and took one of my tests, I questioned the teacher as to why she was asking questions about “police” on our tests. She had me read the questions to her and then corrected me that the word was “policies”, not police. She asked me if I was dyslexic. I had no idea what she was talking about. Well it happened to be, that she was dyslexic and she saw the signs in me that she once had. She made an appointment for me to see her doctor.
When I found out I was dyslexic, they had me read with many overlays until I found one that would calm my mind. That was really all that happened. They may have told me that I needed to see another doctor, but, if they did, I didn’t pursue it anymore. I already knew I had trouble learning, and I had five children at home which I was responsible for, and I was working at the beauty shop, had a husband, and I didn’t have any more time in the day for anything else nor the money to put down.
NOTE: In a literature study of the efficacy of colored overlays in the dyslexic, authors Arcangelo Uccula, Mauro Enna, and Claudio Mulatti, found that the use of colored overlays as a remedy for difficulties in reading experienced by the dyslexic individuals as controversial - http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00833/, and that American Academy of Pediatrics has claimed that there is not empirical evidence toward the efficacy of colored overlays in reading, reading acquisition, or dyslexia, and did not recommend their use. However, this is what Marie used as a tool so we share this within the context of her story. - HSN
“I lived so many years thinking I was stupid.”
I lived so many years thinking I was stupid, so I decided that I had to find a way to help me learn. So when I went to paramedic school, I actually lived at Denny’s Restaurant. For that year or a little longer, I went to work and school and studied. I missed my kids, because I was not home, but I already knew how hard it was for me to learn and I had to just concentrate. I would read, and write down what I read, and highlighted what I was reading and then I would make myself tests to take. You have no idea how many hours I spent trying to learn all the information. When we finished and was supposed to graduate, my teacher had me stay after by myself and he had me go through many scenarios, and what I would do for the patient, before he would pass me. When I took my National Registry Test, and I walked in with my green overlay, the inspectors all took turns looking at my green overlay to make sure I wasn’t cheating.
I know that I need a light green overlay to help me read, settle down my mind and keep the words from moving so I can understand what I am reading. I was astonished to find out that I actually had a learning difference and I wasn’t just stupid or special like my mom would say.
Dyslexia on the Job
I became a paramedic and the dyslexia really didn’t bother me since I was doing hands-on skills. My partner did the driving, and I was responsible for patient care. However, when I changed jobs and was required to work on a computer looking at social security cards and entering these numbers in the computer, I found I had trouble. After I mixed up a couple of numbers a few times my boss put me on a performance improvement plan and I was not allowed to work on the computer. I became scared because I had looked at these numbers at least three times and didn’t notice that I had mixed them up. I felt like I was experiencing dementia or Alzheimer’s. My boss told me I had to get a medical evaluation/diagnosis for my dyslexia. The hard part about this was that the doctors I was looking for, worked with children, not a 61year-old woman.
I found that I had to leave that job and stay away from working with a computer for work. To work for a company where I can mess things up because of mixing up numbers or letters, that kind of job is not for me. I found a new job. I am now working at a behavioral center with adults that have drug and alcohol problems. I can use my paramedic skills as I triage these people, and help them get the treatment they need, whether it is letting them sit while they are coming down from the liquor or drugs, or having them go into the back for treatment with our nurses or calling 911. I became a paramedic to help people so even though I am not on an ambulance now I feel like I am still helping people.
I also write books and have an editor that catches my mistakes. At the age of 61, I feel like I have learned to live with my learning disability and I am not going to go for any more testing. It would be a good thing for the young to get tested and help for this disability, but it won’t do anything to help me now. Hobbies, Passions, and Strengths My kids and grandkids are my life. For the longest time my hobby was photography. I entered many contests and won or placed in few. The last few years I have been writing books. It is not the easiest but I enjoy it. When I would look at my work, I think, boy did I do a great job. But then I would give it to my editor and when I got it back to make corrections, I would be amazed at how much I mixed up.
Many thanks to Marie for sharing her story with us!
Uccula A, Enna M and Mulatti C (2014) Colors, colored overlays, and reading skills. Front. Psychol. 5:833. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00833 -http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00833/full