Being dyslexic like me is never an excuse for being late
My two sons, aged ten and eight, are brilliant and bright. Like so many young boys, they think they’re invincible, that they can do anything.
I hope they feel this way for as long as possible. Because, like me, they are dyslexic, a condition that at times can make you feel stupid and useless. At school, my nickname was Special Needs.
teased for my specially prescribed pink ‘ hippy’ spectacles, my frequent mispellings — and misreadings — often saw me become the butt of the joke.
I still remember blushing right to my toes after I mistakenly asked my science teacher about orgasms, rather than organisms.
Dyslexia also played havoc with scheduling since, like many dyslexics, I can struggle to read analogue clocks. It took me far longer than my peers to learn to read the time. Luckily, I became a fast runner, teachers described me as a blonde streak through the corridors, sprinting everywhere, just in case I’d read the time wrong.
yet though dyslexia has made my life trickier, and at times felt humiliating, it has also made me determined. It’s taught me to check, double-check and re-check my work and my schedule.
I was insistent my dyslexia would not be a reason to fail, or be unprepared, or late — that I wouldn’t always be seen as the ‘thicko’ who needed extra time in everyday life as well as the exam hall.
But I fear this is exactly the negative view that has been given credence by the result, delivered this week, of a discrimination lawsuit brought by a dyslexic security guard against his employer.
Raymond Bryce, from Stafford, west Midlands, accused his boss of discrimination for firing him for serial lateness. He said his condition meant that he would be ‘late for his own funeral’ and that his managers should give him a ‘leeway of 15 to 20 minutes’ to his official start time. the judge ruled in his favour.
It’s ridiculous. Does Mr Bryce ask for the same considerations when catching a plane, warning the airline that his condition might make him 20 minutes late, so please can you hold the flight? Should cinemas wait for the dyslexic audience members to arrive before starting the film? Should hospitals delay operations for dyslexic surgeons? of course not. Being punctual is about respecting those around you.
Because, no matter who you are, you can’t expect your employers — or life — to wait for you. to do so would be rude, which is nothing to do with being dyslexic.
Nowadays, I spend hours prepping myself, my belongings and my poor beleaguered family so we are always on time. to leave the house in the morning, everything needs to be ready the night before.
I set alarms on my phone to help get the kids dressed and ready for school. timers are set when cooking. I save reminders for tasks, medications and appointments.
Now,my family may find these behaviours amusing, but I’ve learned the hard way what can happen if I don’t follow them. As a child, I found that arriving late to drama club meant I got cut from the play, and in the same way, as an adult, I’d have lost many gigs in my career as a tV presenter if I had not been on time.
However, in my teens and 20s, my eagerness to reply instantly to texts from boyfriends, meant I failed to seem desirably unobtainable. And though I tried to be the traditional late bride on my wedding day, I was stress-sweating my make-up off and almost ran up the aisle.
Now I’m hobbling around with a broken metatarsal in a clomping surgical boot, but that means I allow twice as long to get anywhere.
Because whether it’s dyslexia or a broken foot, I don’t think anyone should feel they are ‘allowed’ to be rude — and it’s not the message I want my sons to take on board.
I want to teach them strategies to succeed in spite of their dyslexia, rather than giving them (or anyone else) the message that it’s an excuse to fail.