Australia: How Dyslexia Couldn’t Stop This Teacher

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Her childhood memory of a piece of paper labelled “was” beneath her pillow still haunts Lucy Senior.

She had a hard time putting the three letters W.A.S. together, yet a word as complicated as “elephant” she had no trouble grasping and reading aloud.

“‘Was’ I always got stuck with because I could never quite get that word, I slept with it under my pillow to try and remember,” Ms Senior said.

“I really struggled with being told I was lazy, being told I wasn’t good enough.

Ms Senior was not diagnosed with dyslexia until her first year of university. Later, she was also found to have ADD/ADHD, which was discovered three years later.

Her view of the world began to change.

“I’m not stupid. My brain is just not wired to learn with literacy, its pathways are too long, so it misinterprets information, it sees one word in every form that it could be,” she said.

Due in part to her own dissatisfaction with some instructors throughout her school years, Ms. Senior was driven to pursue a career as a teacher.

“I had teachers that would sit down and put the extra effort in and thought I could do it,” she said.

An Art teacher, librarian, and teaching assistant at St. Joseph’s Catholic Primary School in Blackall, a rural hamlet about a 10-hour drive north of Brisbane, Ms. Senior works with pupils with special needs.

“Luce just comes with a different lens and real insight … she’s such an asset to the school,” principal Samantha Suthers said.

“It’s not just with the kids too, it’s actually for the parent community body as well, so Lucy has come, and she’s made us think outside the box.”

She serves as the school’s art instructor, teaching students how to express themselves visually.

“I couldn’t read so I could communicate through pictures, I could read a picture book, I loved visualising so it was something that I could do as well as anyone else.”

Australian Dyslexia Association estimates that one in ten Australians has dyslexia.

One in five instances may be moderate to severe, but that figure might rise to one in five if the continuum of mild to severe cases is taken into account.

In the words of Jodi Clements, the association’s president, neurodiverse instructors like Ms Senior might make a significant contribution to the educational landscape.

“Because of that lived experience, when they work with children who have similar neurodiversities, they can understand what they’re going through, and they can relate at a really high level with empathy.”

Because of all of the work she’s done to develop “tools” to deal with her learning handicap, Ms Senior is especially appreciative of the fact that her school is receptive to her suggestions.

“There’s that open dialogue there as well, so I can give a voice to those kids that neurotypical people might not understand.

“I don’t just do research in that stuff now, I’m consumed by disability, I want to learn as much as I can in that regard.”

However, she acknowledges that overcoming the negative stereotypes regarding dyslexia has taken time.

“A lot of people were like, ‘If you can’t spell, you shouldn’t be a teacher’,” she said.

“I can spell, I just muddle the letters up sometimes. One day I’ll be able to spell a word, the next day I can’t produce that word because my brain is just not wiring that pathway just yet.”