Hello, my name is Shelbi – I am an adult with dyslexia and Developmental Language Disorder (DLD). I was diagnosed with dyslexia towards the end of secondary school and DLD only three years ago as an adult.

I went to a mainstream school, college and passed university (with a lot of support!). I currently work for a service that has an amazing, supportive and understanding team.

What was your experience like as a child, including at school?

I have always had a difficulty with my speech and language – I would point to things that I wanted, mumble my words and get very frustrated when people did not understand me. I had speech and language therapy when I was in primary school.

I always felt “different” but I did not know why. I think I was in a bubble – where I knew I couldn’t speak right but in my head I was saying the word right and didn’t understand that I wasn’t. I received unkind comments, but it wasn’t until secondary school where I became more aware of my difficulties. I’m so glad that I had my sister, she is a year older, so I relied on her so much and she always stood up for me when people were unkind.

Did other people recognise your difficulties growing up?

My speech difficulties were obvious – I needed someone to explain what I was trying to say and advocate for me. However, I don’t think people really had fully understand all my difficulties.

People thought it was just a “delay” that I would “grow” out of it – which I did not. Some people thought I was “rude”, “lazy”, “stupid” or had “bad behaviour”.

I did receive support throughout primary school, secondary school, college – but it was not until I went to university where I felt I had the most support with my dyslexia (full assessment & support) and my mental health.

I did receive support throughout primary school, secondary school, college – but it was not until I went to university where I felt I had the most support with my dyslexia (full assessment & support) and my mental health.

I know this is not always the situation for others with DLD and work.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face now, as an adult with DLD?

So many! I have not outgrown them. Some key ones are expressing my ideas, thoughts and knowledge, making speech errors, talking to new people, transitions, word-finding, answering questions, spellings and grammar, short term memory if it is out of sight it is out of mind! It is so exhausting trying to process, understand and complete a task.

All the difficulties I have does have an impact on my mental health, selfesteem, self-confidence and how I view myself.

Do you think that you stand up for yourself and your beliefs in social and work situations? If yes, how do you do it?

When I was younger I definitely did not – or I tried to but failed as when I was emotional it was extremely difficult to get the words out at all. Some people may have said I was cheeky in front of others as I tried to fit in and to be liked.

I am still working on the self-love part. I am more aware of my difficulties as these does not define me as, “I am more than a label; I am more than capable and able!” I want to encourage others with hidden disabilities that it is ok to be who you are, be yourself and love who you are!

What advice would you give to teachers working with students with language difficulties?

To listen and recognise their thoughts, feelings and needs. To look beyond their difficulties and see their abilities.

Some people may stand out or blend in or even go unnoticed. Make a communication-friendly classroom where everything is named and labelled with clear visuals.

You play an important role in supporting and changing their lives. Your support and help matters more than you know!

What false ideas do people have about DLD that you want to change?

That DLD is a “delay” or “you grow out of it” – DLD is a lifelong condition that does not go away when you’re an adult. Everyone with DLD is different.

DLD desperately needs more public recognition, awareness, understanding, training, funding, research and support for adults!

If you had been diagnosed with DLD when you were younger do you think your school years would have been less of a struggle?

Yes, massively – the diagnosis is so important to ensure you receive the right support. It would have remove the negative misconceptions and judgement. It would have help those working with me to understand me better, know why I have these difficulties and know how to support me. It’s very difficult to explain my difficulties and what DLD is – when not many people are aware of the invisible disability. It would have improved the way I viewed myself, self-esteem, confidence, reassure me that there isn’t anything wrong with me and improved my mental health.

Early screening and intervention is so important this is why I love Language Link and Speech Link – a great tool for primary and secondary schools to screen and monitor all children’s speech and language needs throughout school. I can’t tell you how much of a positive impact this will have on all aspects of a child’s life.

Is there anything else you would like to add about the speech and language therapy you received?

I am very grateful to the speech and language therapy professionals – who inspired me to help others and how important it is to use your voice to communicate. Thank you for all that you do to support those with SLCN.

What message would you like to share with students with DLD who are currently going through the school system?

Do not give up or lose hope! I understand how challenging and difficult it is but keep going, and if someone tells you “you cannot do something” prove them wrong! You are NOT ALONE!

You could say I am a very creative person – I like to write poems. Two have now been adapted into children’s books “DLD Why Can’t You See Me?” and “I’m just like Nora May”. To purchase copies go to: www.amazon.co.uk

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