We are pleased to welcome Lucy Volpin to the Barrington Stoke blog. Lucy is a children’s author-illustrator who has overcome many challenges that being dyslexic can throw up – a true testament that these challenges are to be celebrated and not feared! We shared the stage with her this year at the Edinburgh International Book Festival talking all things dyslexia and are now delighted to have her on the blog putting what she said on stage into word form – welcome Lucy!
Happy Dyslexia Awareness Week!
Awareness is a magical thing. It can change people’s preconceptions and bring knowledge to a subject that has previously been misunderstood.
Stupid, slow, lazy, simple, dumb, and thick are just a small collection of names I have been called in the past by people who essentially knew no better. The phrase “just get it right” was a common note within my work books, scribbled in red biro ink by a disgruntled teacher, and I spent most of my time at school drawing in the corner of the room while the rest of the class learned to read and write. I might as well have drawn myself in a dunce’s cap. Dyslexia was still a very new concept with very little research 20 years ago, and I feel so incredibly lucky to have had such a supportive mum who was willing to hop me from school to school in search of support.
The one thing that is consistent with dyslexia is that it is different for each individual. No two dyslexics are the same. For me, I had great trouble recalling information and struggled with memory, especially names and numbers. Letters and their sounds were boggling to me and it wasn’t until I landed in a forward-thinking school that this started to change. I was given extra group sessions and was introduced to the coloured overlay, which was a huge help and is still an aid I use to this day (though now in the form of coloured glasses). As well as reading to me most nights, Mum organised occasional after-school help in the form of a sweet old lady who, although she smelt of biscuits, patiently listened to me attempt to read. Touch type lessons were also a weekly occurrence which was great because although I have trouble remembering spellings, I have an incredible memory for patterns and so many of my spellings are learnt through the pattern in which my fingers move on a keyboard. With this extra support I was finally reading sentences at the age of 12.
After pushing my way through primary, secondary and college, my attitude towards my dyslexia changed when I arrived at art university to find that many other students and tutors were also dyslexic. It was as if the mother ship was calling me home! It felt natural to work in a studio and I was finally allowed to let my dyslexic creativity fly free.
Being dyslexic can be extremely difficult at times but sadly dyslexia is often only seen as a disability, and many are unaware of the positives that come from it – positives that I use every day as an author and illustrator. Dyslexia is so much more than a difficulty with reading and writing; it is a way of thinking, and because of the physical differences in the brain, dyslexics are able to see connections that not everyone else will notice. This often results in creativity, imagination, curiosity, intuition, multi-dimensional thinking, spatial awareness, visualising ‘the big picture’, pattern spotting, reasoning skills, lateral thinking, the ability to articulate ideas and create them!
There is a good reason why 40% of all self-made millionaires are dyslexic!
These useful traits make dyslexics fantastic teachers, 3D designers, web developers, research scientists, chemists, engineers, architects and inventors, including Thomas Edison (the light bulb), Alexander Graham Bell (the telephone), Henry Ford (the car), Steve Jobs (Apple Computers) and The Wright Brothers (the airplane). So, where would we be without dyslexia? In the dark, talking to ourselves while walking very long distances.
You learn many survival skills as a dyslexic, and one of mine is humour. I distinctly remember returning home to laugh with my mum on how I had managed to lower an essay grade from a D to an E by adding more to it, and I have in the past written letters to my ‘grand pheasants’ instead of my grandparents.
Being misunderstood for so long really took its toll on my self-esteem but from this came determination, drive, ambition, persistence and resilience. I knew that I was far more capable than people thought and I wanted to prove them wrong. Yes, I still make spelling and grammar mistakes, I still have to ask a friend’s help to read fancy fonts on restaurant menus, and I am still a slow reader, but my creativity, storytelling and idea-making far outweigh the negatives.
I am incredibly proud to be dyslexic. It is what has made me the author, illustrator and person I am today and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Thank you Lucy! You can check out Lucy’s work on her Etsy site here.