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Short Read: Understanding and Navigating Dyslexia and the Neuro-Diverse Spectrum as a Muslim Counsellor

by in Identity on 12th September, 2019

My experiences have helped me to discover that we are all working to do our best with the challenges we face. Hiding or ignoring learning challenges can often make a person feel lonely and sad. We all have challenges in common. If anything, sharing and overcoming them together is a new reality.

We’re all different, and that’s a good thing. Remembering that we all have something to offer the world: a thought, a story, a new way to do something or share some creation that may change the world for the better.

The story I share today is one that may come as a surprise to many. I am a qualified psychotherapist working in the South West of England. My journey of self-awareness and inner strength came from the desire to be better than I was the day before. Growing up I struggled at school; I was labelled the ‘average’ or ‘slow learner.’ I was desperate to do just as well as my peers. I would fill my evenings learning my spellings, writing them over and over again. I was desperate to get ten out of 10 or even get a gold star. It never happened. This never deter me, I had this inner strength to trod on.

Secondary school, I still struggled and never gave up, I failed my GCSE’s the first I sat them. I was determined to sit them again, I passed some and failed other. So I tried the third time. Third time lucky! I then was determined to do A levels, I failed! But then I still WAS determined to go to university! That didn’t go high either.

Years later, the desire to make a difference, to help others and a difference in other people life were so important to me. I realized I had a high level of empathy that others didn’t have. Only later to discover it was a classic trait for someone on the neurodiverse spectrum.

While training to become a psychotherapist, I was diagnosed with a neurodiverse condition. The name of this condition is dyslexia. It is for many the unspoken disability, especially within the BME community. I think its hidden because of the pressure for kids to achieve and to get high grades is immense, the pressure to become either a doctor or an engineer is also tremendous, so if a child has dyslexia or dyspraxia, a lot of shame is attached with questions asked such as: ‘what will the family say’?

What is Dyslexia?

So, what is Dyslexia? It is a neurological disability that can result in a variety of constitutional difficulties including feelings of anxiety, frustration, anger, and depression. The primary reason would be the poor working memory.

The built-in poor working memory can cause difficulties in remembering simple instructions such as memorizing the timetables. It has a significant impact on a dyslexic person’s self-confidence and self-esteem.

Children can get labelled as either being below average or slow, and this label continues to haunt them until adulthood unless the condition is diagnosed. Very often dyslexia is disguised behind the idea that a child or adult is suffering from anxiety and depression. Unknown to the individual it is baggage that they have been carrying all through childhood. It can be so debilitating that it can take up a colossal amount of energy.   Just keeping up with day to day activities can bring up a feeling of complete isolation, overwhelm and despair.

The misconception that dyslexia is just about muddled words or the inability to read and write is just that: a misconception. A lot of people don’t even know that they have the condition. The neurodiverse conditions such as dyslexia and dyspraxia affect people of all ages, races, ethnicities, and religions. There needs to be more awareness with our communities.  Let us not suffer in silence, surely greater awareness could help alleviate the pain and suffering of those on the spectrum.

Having been diagnosed so late in life, I was able to reflect on past failings and frustrations from my academic achievements, acknowledging all this time I wasn’t a failure. Pure grit and determination helped me to get where I AM NOW!

I am presently doing a Masters at Bristol University. And working in my private practice in Gloucestershire. I think it is so important to raise awareness of the neurodiverse conditions that affect so many.

Tahirah Yasin

Tahirah Yasin

Tahirah Yasin is a qualified Counsellor and Psychotherapist, a Registered Member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (MBACP) and abides by their Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy. Also a member of the Muslim Counsellor and psychotherapist Network (MCPAN); offering Muslim clients a confidential, supportive and non-judgement environment which to express and explore their difficulties.