Dyslexia: the fifth member of our family

On Saturday 21st November,  myself and my husband were honoured to be asked to speak at the Dyslexia Scotland members day and AGM about the impact that dyslexia has on our family. I have had something of an education throughout my ten year marriage, and fifteen year relationship, with my dyslexic partner. From believing that dyslexia was simply a difficulty with reading or writing, which could be ‘solved’ by extra time, or the right support, to understanding that it affects and infiltrates, both positively and negatively, every single aspect of a person’s life. Paul was/is a master of disguise, a proud man who didn’t really believe in asking for  help. He had managed to build such a sophisticated and intricate web around himself that, in the early days, I didn’t really see any impact relating to his dyslexia on our relationship or family life. As time went on, however, and our family grew, the mask started to slip a little. When our beloved son arrived Paul’s timekeeping became an issue, or that extra hour he needed in the office to finish a piece of work meant he missed bath or bedtime. Those early days of family life were hard on Paul, he was frightened of losing control and letting go of the frameworks that enabled him to cope and manage his dyslexia, but also wanted to be the best father and husband he knew how to be. Dyslexia had reared its head and it became apparent that it required our full attention.  So, we evolved, we grew, we talked and we adapted our life accordingly. Maybe he would have to miss a few bedtimes and bath times, maybe trying to read bedtime stories late at night in dim light would not be a pleasurable experience for now and maybe we all have to show a little more understanding and compassion for each member of the family and do what is right for us. There is no ‘one size fits all’ in this life after all. After our beautiful daughter arrived in the world, the need to be more organised threatened to overwhelm us again. Sleep deprivation, colic and Paul undertaking a diploma all contributed to the utter chaos we found ourselves in.  Again, the need to re-group, adapt, talk, laugh and find a new way around was the only way forward for us. This year our son started school and needs help with his homework.  Paul has learned to ask for help too.  Our family probably doesn’t look like any other. There are a lot of laughs, a lot of noise, a decent amount of chaos and a whole heap of love. Paul is the soul of our family. He is who he is because of his dyslexia. Paul describes dyslexia as ‘the fifth member of our family’ and I think that description is spot-on. Like any member, it can be demanding, unreasonable, unrelenting, but it also has the capacity to bring great  joy, love and fulfilment into our lives. Dyslexia cannot, and refuses to be, ignored. Our lives don’t look the way we imagined they would ten years ago, but one thing is for sure we are all better, stronger, more compassionate individuals because dyslexia has touched our family and, honestly, we wouldn’t be without it.