Growing up college was an impossibility. College was for people with money, who had solid families, positive support systems, people who were smart and who excelled academically. In other words, college was not for someone like me. Instead, my home was broken, toxic and poor. Neither of my parents went to college, and neither had any hope I would be any different.
Like any child, I grew up having big ambitions. My dream was to be Indiana Jones; both a hero and a teacher. He was smart, brave and selfless; all the things I admire most. In first grade, I learned people have limits and I found mine without even knowing it. I had a tendency to stutter when I read out loud as I had difficulty translating what I saw on the page verbally. Testing for learning disorders was not as common then, so instead of testing and addressing the dyslexia, I was placed in special ed reading classes. As I got older, my spelling also suffered and I slowly started struggling more and more academically. By high school, I had labeled myself “stupid”, as did my parents. “Know your limits and don’t dream beyond” is what I was reminded of daily, and my dream of being Indiana Jones quickly died.
– Hannah Siller
The above excerpt is from the essay I wrote as part of the application of my doctoral program. It details my personal struggle with an undiagnosed learning disorder and shows a glimpse of the abusive home in which I was raised.
Growing up I really did love Indiana Jones, so much so that I was granted the nic name “Indiana Hannah” by my peers. I had high ambitions of being just like “Dr. Jones” and also earning my doctorate. But my home life brought with it trauma and hardships I feared I would never escape. Eventually, I did…but that is a story for another time.
At the age of 22, I started taking classes at the local junior college and it was here I would first learn about dyslexia. I was lucky in that my case was not severe and with some tips and tricks, I was able to improve academically. Without this hindrance, I began to do well in school and actually started to enjoy it. I would go on to receive my Bachelors and Masters with a 3.9+ GPA.
These degrees were great achievements but there was still something missing. I still wanted to be like Dr. Jones, I wanted to educate others, and I wanted to make the biggest difference I could. So in the summer of 2018, with my story about Indiana Jones, I was accepted into a Doctorate of Psychology program.
Dyslexia is a learning disorder that affects the processing of written word to the brain. Those with dyslexia may have troubles with the following:
- Spelling (transposing or omitting letters and numbers)
- Slow reading
- Understanding what they are reading
- Transposing words (reading or writing)
- Omitting words (reading or writing)
- Have difficulty sounding things out
If you feel you or someone you know may be experiencing symptoms of dyslexia I encourage you to get tested.
- Seek the help of a school psychologist
- Do some research
- Reach out to a specialist
(See International Dyslexia Association for information on dyslexia and a list of providers)
These are personal tips I use for managing my dyslexia. These tips may not work for everyone or be useful for more severe cases or in the presence of additional learning disorders. It is always better to get a personal diagnosis and an individualized plan.
- Utilize spelling and grammar tools such as spell check and Grammarly
- Run essays through google translate or other audio sites in order to hear your writing rather than relying on visual methods.
- Practice reading out loud.
- If you must make a speech use bullet points rather then reading it fully
- When needed, take things slow. (example: I know I struggle with transposing letters and numbers to if I must spell something out loud I take my time).
- Build confidence. When we are stressed dyslexia can feel worse. Remember that you are not alone and there is nothing wrong with you.
- Get tested so you know your problem areas.
I have dyslexia, am a public speaker, college graduate and just wrote this blog. Nothing is impossible!