Deciphering Me


Why have an assessment as a young adult? For Summer Riley it will allow for accommodations as she trains to be a sign language interpreter. She was also eager to understand herself after years of struggle.

I am dyslexic. Typing that brings happy tears to my eyes. I can now look back on my life with immense amounts of pride and empathy for myself, more so than self-consciousness, confusion, anger and sadness. This diagnosis has lifted such a mental and emotional toll from me. I now know I’m not stupid. I’m not useless. I’m dyslexic.

This diagnosis has lifted such a mental and emotional toll.

I was always engaged in school, but most days were draining. I compensated for what I thought was me ‘not being smart enough’ or ‘not trying hard enough to learn’ by having negative self-talk, over-working myself and not giving myself a break if something was less than perfect, or feeling I could’ve somehow put more effort into it. Logically I knew I was working hard, but I assumed other people who enjoyed school were putting in the same amount of energy and time that I did.

I often wondered why I found some subjects or concepts difficult and couldn’t ‘get it’. I’d spend countless hours studying, over-learning subjects so they would stick in my memory and asking question upon question, so I fully understood. From these experiences I learned valuable skills like perseverance, dedication and hard work. Now I can pair those with accommodations, self-compassion and a much deeper understanding of myself, which will allow me to succeed further now that I am in-tune with myself and how I learn.

I can pinpoint a myriad of different situations where being dyslexic impacted me, both negatively and positively. Looking back on my life with this realisation has been eye-opening, relieving, bittersweet and, ultimately, incredible.

I am about to start at Auckland University, studying for a Bachelor of Arts degree in New Zealand Sign Language Interpreting. It will take me three years to complete and I am very passionate about it. NZSL is a deep and rich language with many intricate parts that work together to create a clear visual picture. The idea came from first taking an optional NZSL class at intermediate school. I found the visual, kinesthetic, hands-on learning style flowed well with how I think and how I process information.

In preparation for uni, I am learning how to touch type, and have bought fidget toys to help with my restlessness (Tangle, Infinity Cube, chewable jewellery aka ‘chewlery’, and Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty). I also hope to get accommodations – my assessor recommended I use a reader, writer (or computer), and have extra time for all exams, assessments and tests. Sadly, I didn’t get accommodations at school because I hadn’t realised I was dyslexic, so this got very stressful around exam time.

I was so grateful to receive a $300 subsidy to enable me to have a SPELD NZ assessment. Knowing I’m dyslexic fuels self-acceptance and starts deep conversations. I can now reconcile and heal from my past struggles. The negative self-talk has finally lessened and I am joyfully dyslexic.