'Dyslexia isn't about getting your d's and b's muddled up.'
There were particular difficulties being a mother: 'When you're dyslexic, it's difficult helping your children with their homework. I used to go to my neighbours for help, as they knew about my dyslexia.'
Filling in forms can also be extremely difficult: 'I remember going to Social Security and was asked to fill in a form. I said, 'I can't fill it in, so can you help me?' He said, 'No, you have to go and ask a friend.' So that week I didn't get any money for my kids. I am a woman of colour, but when I can't do something because of my dyslexia, I'm treated less than dirt. That makes me angry.'
Sandra has now become more confident: 'I've learnt to assert myself now. If I can't understand something, I say so. I say, 'Excuse me, explain that to me.' It used to be hard getting around, for example reading where the bus was going. At that time, I wasn't ready to ask people, but now I am. If I go into a restaurant, I say, 'Excuse me, can you read that for me please?' They look at me and I say, 'I'm not stupid. I'm dyslexic.' It's important, particularly as a female to assert yourself. I was in a pub doing some coursework and I asked this guy to spell a word for me, then another and then another! As long as you show respect to the person, they will help you.'
As a tutor, Sandra considers the needs of dyslexic students: It's important to ask dyslexics if they understand something and give them the opportunity to say no. Students need to have some of the information in advance, so they have plenty of time to study it. Dyslexia isn't about getting your d's and b's muddled up. It's about walking into a room and thinking, 'what am I doing here?' The education system claims it's supporting dyslexics, but when you get a nineteen-year-old coming up to you, unaware of his problems, you have to think there must be something else we can try, other strategies we can adopt. Because people with dyslexia process language in a different way, they may find it difficult to follow conventional teaching methods - which is why they never learn to read and write at school.'
Sandra believes dyslexics are intelligent, only in a different way. she thinks there should be more information available about dyslexia, but in an accessible form: 'There should be drop-in centres, where people can talk about dyslexia, not just read about it, where you can hear things and then go out and spread the word.'