Charlotte’s Story

SPELD Victoria is honoured to be able to share with you a remarkable story of resilience.

We hope that one day Charlotte will no longer feel that being dyslexic still holds a stigma that may hurt her career.
Workplaces need to catch up with the reality that dyslexics are out of the box thinkers who can bring innovative solutions to intractable problems.
Until then, this story will simply be called Charlotte’s Story.


Click the + for Charlotte's Story

Dyslexic, really? But you seem so intelligent!

I would be rich if I received $1 for every time I heard the above statement.
Now 40 years old and I still need to wrangle my unique learning and working style.
I am proud of who I am, how I became me and feel privileged to have travelled the difficult path of growing up with the then diagnosis of dyslexia.

As the youngest in the family with two older brothers and two full time working parents it was hard to be heard. Especially as my oldest brother was considered, after being tested, an academic genius!
I have always thought perhaps my brother got all the skills and there was none left for me!
In grade two, I was diagnosed with dyslexia. At an elite private girls’ school, they were proudly proactive in providing early interventions. These interventions were mainly around motor skills which highly offended me. I could manage myself around two sporty older brothers. Who were these condescending people throwing over-sized balls to me? Even at seven I understood the concept of someone being condescending.

Oblivious to my academic struggles, it wasn’t until I moved to a new school in grade four that I became aware. My new school was ahead, and I was even further behind. Despite my parent’s contestant efforts to help me find my way, at my new school I learned one thing – to try and fail deeply hurts your soul. To protect myself, I stopped trying!
When stress free I was a very happy, bright and socially enthusiastic. However, each night after school was filled with self-doubt, worry and crying. My self-esteem was getting a battering.

My mother was relentless in searching for new and lateral ways to help me. I had tutors, educational psychologists, went to seminars on dyslexia, wore blue glasses and was provided with a plethora of extra-curricular stimulation.
There was only one known element to my learning style and that was the impact of anxiety. If I got anxious I became dysfunctional. It didn’t take much to get me anxious.

With my parents help I struggled through school to finish year 12 with a TER of 46 out of 99. I received an A in every subject and a D- in every subject. It was very confusing. I had managed the impressive effort of getting through school without ever reading a novel. I developed exceptional aural skills. I would ask each of my friends about the curriculum books and then compile an understanding of the content from their various perspectives. This skill provided me with a clear advantage over my school colleagues – critical thinking. I am still proud of this skill today.

Under extreme pressure I became dysfunctional. I have a few memories which best highlight how anxiety effected my performance:

• During weekly spelling tests in grade four I would manage to eat my pencil. I would either consume the entire pencil after shredding it with my teeth or it would be left it in a wet soggy pile on my desk. Either way it left me without a pencil which was a relief as I couldn’t attempt the spelling.

• During my very first exam in year 9 there was a reading comprehension question. Confronted with a large body of text in a justified block I got highly anxious. I began to hallucinate and the words on the page began to move and unravel. The lines joined up and created the most beautiful ornate Chinese dragon. I can still see that dragon in my mind. I couldn’t do the exam. I ran out of the room and pushed the teacher standing in my way. I was severely reprimanded.

• During my year 12 English exam I had been allocated special consideration. I was allowed an additional 15 minutes of reading time and an additional 20 minutes of writing time. To prepare for the exam my mum and I had developed a strategy we thought might work for me. I concentrated on only one text, rather than the four or five texts that were being studied. I chose Arthur Millers’ ‘The Crucible’. I could recite it from cover to cover. This strategy would mean I didn’t have to read all the exam questions and I could concentrate on my strength, creative thinking. This strategy backfired! Everyone’s reading time had finished and it was time to start. As I had chosen to concentrate on the one question I was ready to write. I picked up my pen in readiness. The examiner approached me and said, in front of the other students, “You can’t start. You have special consideration and another 15 minutes of reading time”. I tried to compose myself. I focus on the task at hand, but my head was so full of ideas. I couldn’t order them or get them down. My head was about to explode. I started to cry uncontrollably. Once I was allowed to write I couldn’t stop the tears. I managed to draft a detailed structure of my essay and got down one paragraph, but the entire page was covered in wet drips and blurry writing. I failed! After a review, they let me slip through with a D-.
I finished school and completed a degree in fine art, ceramics and sculpture. To my surprise I excelled in art history and chemistry rather than the practical subjects. Once again, it was very confusing.

I entered the workforce as an Office Manager for a start-up executive recruitment company. I’m pretty sure my boss was just like me. In my first week I was asked to format, merge and print 500 introduction letters. This letter had been drafted and edited numerous times by numerous people. My boss spent approximately two weeks hand signing each letter before they were sent out. The next day I was reprimanded and told perhaps I wasn’t working out. The 500 letters that my boss had personally signed closed with ‘Yours sensually’.
I have since completed a Master of Marketing, worked as the head of marketing and or fundraising for several high profile organisations. The Arts Centre, the Royal Academy of Dance, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Wesley Mission Victoria and currently I’m in senior communications role. I am writing and crafting content every day. Each day is a struggle and I keep my struggle to myself, but I am good at my job.

My husband is a tremendous support and he complements my strengths and weakness and helps me to excel.

Having a learning difficulty has taught me how to:
• Work hard and dig deep
• Fail and try again
• Think laterally, strategically and creatively
• Think critically
• Solve problems
• Be comfortable with being different
• Appreciate difference in others
• Empathise with others and not judge them.

I wouldn’t want to be any other way.