Why I Sought a Diagnosis for Dyslexia and ADHD
In Year 6, there were signs that I had dyslexia. However, I felt more mature and confident to undertake the diagnostic process formally just a few months ago, aged in my 40s. It seemed like the right time, after spending years helping autistic adults and children with their diagnosis. I wanted to be able to come out openly, face the challenges and put things in place to overcome the challenges and change my life for the better. I wanted to know what I was great at and what I was not good at. Around this time, I also realised that I have always had creative and innovative ideas but that my attention often wanders and that I rely heavily on processes to organise my work and personal life.But getting a diagnosis is not easy, even as someone with first-hand experience of working with clients in our health system. My local GP was incredibly skeptical about why I needed a formal referral to see a psychiatrist about my reading, writing and attention.
She asked me about a lot of personal issues. There was some judgment and I had to justify my challenges about why I wanted a referral at this age. It wasn’t an ideal situation. The most hurtful part of the process was not being believed. After all, according to the GP, I’m a psychologist. How could I have challenges with spelling, writing and attention that would be impacting my quality of life? As part of the consultation, I was asked to take a urine test to prove that I wasn’t seeking medication to get high.
Eventually, I did get my referral to be assessed by a psychiatrist. First, I had a two-hour pre-screening assessment with a psychologist. Then I completed a series of computer tests to measure my reading and writing ability, as well as my attention. Finally, my mother and I had a 90 minute discussion with the psychiatrist to go through my early life and adulthood to discover the key issues.
The whole process cost me approximately $660, although I claimed at least half of the money back through Medicare. Finally, the psychiatrist wrote up a letter and said that I had dyslexia and ADHD.
The diagnosis has opened up my understanding about myself as far as why I have challenges in some areas. I’m also finding new strategies to manage my stress around certain things to do with writing, spelling and organising. In my psychology practice, I use technology to help overcome some of my challenges. I use a grammar program called Grammarly which reminds me of the correct grammar and a speech to text program called Dragon Naturally Speaking. Using speech to text in my clinic helps me articulate my thoughts easily and efficiently. Routines to help me stay organised and access to a mentor have also been helpful.
I don’t feel labelled by these diagnoses. There’s a wealth of knowledge from experts who have spent years helping people like me. It’s far better for someone like me to learn from them. Through a diagnosis, I was able to embark on a self-discovery of my strengths and weaknesses.
Because of these diagnoses, I am feeling more focused on sharing my professional knowledge but also my personal struggles at work to help others. I’m now putting all my energy into growing my Thriving Now clinic as well as sharing my story with those ready to hear my insights. My company is the perfect merger of my greatest strengths and passions: Complex problem solving to help people understand their individual profile of abilities using my knowledge in psychology, Inventing by creating original programs in NeuroDiversity and communicating clearly and simply complex ideas. I want to start a movement to empower neurodivergent (brain works differently than most) individuals to embrace their strengths and overcome their challenges.
I believe dyslexic people have such wonderful strengths to be proud of if they can find strategies and an environment that helps them to thrive. The world is changing for the better for dyslexic people and we want to be involved in accelerating the speed of that positive change. Many people remain uninformed or ignorant about the true prevalence or impact of dyslexia on individuals. Roughly 10% of the population is believed to have dyslexia, but very few of that number have an official diagnosis. Yet dyslexia is a common feature for many successful Australian stories. Jessica Watson, who famously sailed around the world at the age of 16 by herself, has dyslexia. We also have other great Australian’s who are speaking up about their challenges such as openly dyslexic Queensland politician and Shadow Minister Trevor Watts and host of the TV show ‘Destination Happiness’ and open about her ADHD Angie Hilton.
I want to encourage other Australians to come out and say “I have dyslexia or ADHD and here’s what I can do.” Speaking is a talent that is natural to many of us. By speaking aloud, we would help banish the silence and stigma around the challenges associated with neurodiversity or thinking differently to most. And it’s incredibly brave and freeing to be yourself, especially as more companies are becoming aware of the benefits of neurodiversity in the workforce.
Few teachers would have predicted the level of success that I have achieved today. I remember that a year 8 english teacher once told me that if I didn’t know what an adjective was in year 8, I might as well join the dole queue right now. But the truth is, I do help people find work as a practising psychologist at my clinic and in the community. Happily, I am proving that teacher wrong everyday.
I will be speaking about how companies can start their own neurodiverse hiring program at the upcoming Sydney Neurodiversity Symposium. For more information or to buy your ticket visit www.neurodiversitysymposium.com.au.