How Dyslexia and ADHD Affects my Marriage

Ya’ll, Adam is smart! Like REALLY SMART! I have never understood why he chose me. We have known each other since 2014 and I still think that my ADHD and Dyslexia are qualities that he didn’t know made me who I am!

Adam told me that he knew he would always marry someone who was very type A and put together. It took him awhile to understand why I am the way that I am. I strive to be very scheduled, organized and on top of things because if not I am an absolute train wreck!

Most days Adam puts up with my ADHD by me taking forever to tell a story that is all over the place or me quickly forgetting what he JUST told me he wanted from the store. Not too bad, everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. But there have been a few moments that were really rough.

At the beginning of 2020 we started the home buying process while moving to Savannah, Georgia. It was a typical process but my dyslexia came out in its fullest ugly expression when we talked numbers. Adam would talk numbers out loud because he can do that but I could not keep up with any of the numbers he was saying. I was getting so emotionally frustrated because I could not keep up and it made me feel stupid.

Once I could comprehend that my emotions were simply because we were missing the mark in how to communicate the numbers, I asked Adam to write the numbers down and then we had no problems! This experience was hard to go through but we now know that when we talk numbers we just need to write them down so I can see them.

Being ADHD in marriage is pretty fun most of the time. I manage my ADHD by being very strict on my schedule. This looks like making my part of the bed every morning, eating the same meals every week and being very predictable. These are all great things but sometimes it can be bad because I get so set on what I do and when I do it that getting out of routine throws me for a loop. Then I have to communicate that it is going to take me a second to adjust and then all will be fine in the world!

At the end of the day, I would say that my dyslexia and ADHD have made us stronger as a couple. Adam is so extremely patient with me. He has helped me learn how to not take myself too seriously and to laugh mistakes off. I can say that we both motivate each other to work really hard to pursue our dreams and become who we dream of being.

Thanks for following along during Dyslexia Awareness month!

Your friend,

Colleen Howard

Dyslexia After Degree

After graduating from college I knew I wanted to keep learning. I was for sure that there was a way for me to work full time but also keep learning in the areas I want to learn. A few months went by after graduation and I could mentally feel my dyslexia getting worse. It is hard to explain but I was experiencing a lot of brain fog, stumbling all over my words and forgetting names and numbers faster than normal.

I was so fed up with not knowing how my dyslexic brain worked and how I can best embrace it so I scheduled an appointment with my doctor to beg him to help me. I had already looked for dyslexia exports in Georgia and Florida and came up empty handed. I knew that my doctor would not have a magic answer for me right away but I was just so positive that I needed someone else to help me dive into being dyslexic.

My doctor was very patient and kind with me and all the things I was telling him. After I explained my situation I simply asked for help to find someone who could help me on a deeper level. He printed off some info for me, gave me his cell number and told me he would do some digging and get back with me!

I left with little hope because after my own personal research I had no luck. But three days after my doctor’s appointment, I got a text! My doctor reached out to his buddy who is a psychiatrist who has a patient that is a dyslexia mentor! I called her right away to see if she could help. Within a week from my doctors appointment I was sitting at a dyslexia tutors dining room table doing a quick assessment to see where I could use the most help.

Even though I had successfully graduated college and got a great job working full time, I knew I could continue to grow and learn more about my dyslexic brain! I have been taking dyslexia tutoring using the Susan Barton curriculum since July 2019. This requires me to set aside at least two hours a week for tutoring and budget money to pay for it.

I have learned so much more than I ever thought I would be able to learn! I have felt my brain wake up and a huge improvement in my spelling, reading, writing and overall brain function. The tutoring has improved my confidence so much and I am not even finished with the course yet. Even though this course is designed for school age kids, I have had no problems starting from the very bases of learning to read! It has been hard work but every lesson has taught me something that I was not aware off where a non dyslexic could easily process and understand.

I am so thankful that I did not have a closed off mind after graduating college. Getting my degree gave me a springboard to continue to learn something new and challenge myself. I will never cure my dyslexia but I will never stop working on myself! As I plan to wrap up my Susan Barton training at the end of this year or start of next year I would highly recommend it for anyone who struggles with reading and writing.

My tutor is amazing and so incredibly flexible with my schedule! We started the training with me going to her house and sitting at her dining room table. I can not even put into words the anxiety that I felt sitting at a dining room table and having to read. It instantly took me back to grade school where I spent so many hours crying over spelling words at my childhood dining room table. She coached me through so many great lessons in person and then online when COVID prevented face-to-face and I moved cities for work!

Please know that it is okay to ask for help! There is a big dyslexic population and now there are more tutors to help and programs that work now more than ever before. I so badly wish I had this program when I was in grade school but I didn’t, so I am making the very most of it while I can! I can honestly and proudly say that I have learned some of my favorite lessons after getting my degree!

Much love, your favorite dyslexic blogger, Colleen Howard

This is a great page that my tutor gave me to help me understand what it means to be dyslexic! I had it posted in my office so I could see it every day!
She also gave me this great sheet to keep my strengths in front of me!
The program starts at the very beginning with sounds.
The program is set up to make spelling rules very memorable to understand why we spell words the way we do!
Before my training I struggled with identifying parts of sentences.
Here is a picture of a tutoring session on Zoom…at a Panera because I just have to fit it into wherever I can with my schedule!

The Dean’s List Dyslexic

I never wanted to go to college because I had no confidence in my ability to thrive in the classroom. (Check out my dyslexia experience from K-12th grade on Dyslexia Destroys.) With a little encouragement from neighbors and not wanting to work full time I applied to Valdosta State University (VSU). Once accepted I was not excited due to the fact that I knew I struggled in high school I figured college would be the same way.

I entered freshman year as an Athletic Training major. I grew up around sports and could tape a pretty mean ankle after watching my dad do it over 100 times. Everything as an Athletic Training major seemed fine until about three weeks in and I had my very first test. I studied for two weeks straight but when I got to the test and just saw a whole page filled with text and about 100 blank lines for fill in the blank I think I died and came back to life before even writing my name on the exam. Needless to say I was the very last person to finish and turn in the exam. I did the best I could but ended up failing the test and eventually getting a C in the class.

The same semester I struggled to stay on top of all the learning needed to get good grades in biology class even after going to every single tutoring class available. I got a B in english 101 because I couldn’t get higher than a C on any paper I wrote. It was rough when all of my friends were getting A’s and excelling on everything and I kept falling further and further behind.

After going home for Christmas break I spent a lot of time in prayer asking God if I was suppose to stay at VSU for the following semester. He made it very clear to me that I was suppose to go back. I went back for my second semester in college and really started to dread class. I worked so hard my first semester and only walked away with 2-C’s 2-B’s and 1-A  which was a leadership elective class.

I quickly got behind again in my classes and ended up dropping out of one Athletic Training course. I took time at the counseling center where I did about five online test so I could better understand how I learned. This led me to spending time at the career services office with a great man named Kevin Taylor who set me up with a few different test that pointed out my strengths and what careers would be a good fit for me. He pretty much opened my eyes to the degree in communication where the classes are performance based instead of strictly test based. This gave me hope that I may be able to excel in college even if it means changing majors.

With his help, I quickly switched majors to Speech Communications in the College of the Arts. Switching majors is such a normal thing to do it college but I was over the moon excited for this change! 

With my new major I was so happy with what I was learning and the work that was expected of me. I was able to plan, prepare and get help with every single assignment that was given to me. I knew that my spelling, writing and reading were not strong so I worked extra hard to overcome. I would read all of my weekly reading on the weekend before the class week so that I would not have to rush and read it and not understand the content. I would start writing my papers and doing research as soon as the professor gave me the assignment because I knew it would take me longer than most students. I would even take every chance to get the professor to review the assignments before the final deadline and use the tutoring center to have a older college student read and edit my papers! 

I was so happy with what I was learning I wanted my grades to reflect my joy for each subject. That just took a lot more work and attention to each graded assignment. I was so determined to not let dyslexia get the best of me. I was not paying for college to just get a degree, I really wanted to embrace every topic. I wanted to use my dyslexia as a strength not a weakness in college and I think my time at VSU shows that I did just that.

I remember the very first time I made the dean’s list. I honestly didn’t even know it was a thing because I never made any list for having good grades. I felt like I had overcome the world! I knew that if I did it once I could do it again. I worked my butt off knowing that it was very attainable if I put excuses aside and put the work in! I remember studying for a Georgia history final for my US history minor…dates and events are pretty hard for me to get locked in my brain…I learn by doing and seeing. But that was pretty hard in history right? Well I made it not hard. I build a massive timeline in my bedroom and stood and studied each event in order. I aced the test and as I was answering the questions I could picture exactly what was written on the index card in the timeline.

In life we can make so many excuses. Being dyslexic I have spent so much of my life feeling stupid…college gave me the perfect situation to put aside any excuses of being stupid because I had all the tools needed to succeed. So I chased that feeling of getting on the Dean’s list every semester after the first time! No excuses, no feeling stupid, just hard work to prove it to myself that I am not stupid, that I am capable of whatever I put my mind too.

Much love, your Dean’s List Dyslexic!

‘Are you dyslexic?’

In highschool I was very involved with Georgia 4-H! I had the privilege of serving on the South-East Senior Board with some really great people from all over Georgia during my senior year of highschool. Being on the board was really fun because we got to help make plans for the year, speak at events, and represent our fellow 4-H’ers. Since this was before the time of Zoom and Facetime, we would show up for a public speaking service with an hour to get ready.

I didn’t mind the fast turn around because it felt pretty organized! There was one time where we showed up, had about 15 min before it was show time, 4-H’ers were already coming in to get a good seat and the board was behind stage prepping the speaking order and quickly going over the script.

If you know me you know I have no problem speaking in front of groups! (Don’t I look so happy with the microphone in my hand in the cover photo?) I actually really love it. I have always been pretty comfortable on any stage. But what I don’t love is sight reading. I have gone my whole life not being great at reading and writing. I would do everything possible to get around reading in school. Well, here I was, waiting for my speaking assignment, with just a few minutes until the program starts and I was handed a poem….

I tried reading it out loud for a quick practice and I could not get the rhythm, I could not pronounce some of the words, I could not even make it through the first few lines without needing to start over. It was scary, it was ugly and the fear I had with this poem in front of me has never left my mind.

As we didn’t have time for me to struggle through the poem, the director took it out of my hands and gave it to one of the board members and changed my role to starting the Pledge of Allegiance. He looked me dead in the eyes and asked me if I was dyslexic.

This was the second time in one year where a teacher/mentor asked me if I was dyslexic. I remember trying to focus during our presentation but I couldn’t shake the feeling of embarrassment that I could not read the poem. I could not stop thinking that being dyslexic might explain a lot of things in my life.

Since this is a memory that is so ingrained in my mind as an embarrassing moment, I have fought to overcome it. I am so thankful for every teacher/mentor who helped me in school and in extracurriculars! I am thankful for those who embraced my strengths and helped me work on my weaknesses.

Being dyslexic is so much more than reading letters and words backwards. Here is some information to help you understand dyslexia at different stages from the mayoclinic.org

“Before school

Signs that a young child may be at risk of dyslexia include:

  • Late talking
  • Learning new words slowly
  • Problems forming words correctly, such as reversing sounds in words or confusing words that sound alike
  • Problems remembering or naming letters, numbers and colors
  • Difficulty learning nursery rhymes or playing rhyming games

School age

Once your child is in school, dyslexia signs and symptoms may become more apparent, including:

  • Reading well below the expected level for age
  • Problems processing and understanding what he or she hears
  • Difficulty finding the right word or forming answers to questions
  • Problems remembering the sequence of things
  • Difficulty seeing (and occasionally hearing) similarities and differences in letters and words
  • Inability to sound out the pronunciation of an unfamiliar word
  • Difficulty spelling
  • Spending an unusually long time completing tasks that involve reading or writing
  • Avoiding activities that involve reading

Teens and adults

Dyslexia signs in teens and adults are similar to those in children. Some common dyslexia signs and symptoms in teens and adults include:

  • Difficulty reading, including reading aloud
  • Slow and labor-intensive reading and writing
  • Problems spelling
  • Avoiding activities that involve reading
  • Mispronouncing names or words, or problems retrieving words
  • Trouble understanding jokes or expressions that have a meaning not easily understood from the specific words (idioms), such as “piece of cake” meaning “easy”
  • Spending an unusually long time completing tasks that involve reading or writing
  • Difficulty summarizing a story
  • Trouble learning a foreign language
  • Difficulty memorizing
  • Difficulty doing math problems”

White Coat Ceremony

Saturday, September 19th, 2020 was Adams official Mercer University School of Medicine White Coat Ceremony! We woke up early and drove to Macon from Savannah, Georgia. Adam and I got to meet his parents and brother at the Hawkins Arena before the ceremony.

We honestly thought that COVID was going to cancel this big event that we have been dreaming about for the past three years. Thankfully the university waited just a few weeks and put together a super safe and thoughtful event. Instead of being able to have unlimited guest, the university gave each student four tickets. Mask were required and everyone did a great job of wearing mask the whole time until we got to our seats. The medical students wore their mask the whole time and seemed as if it is their normal…which it is! To have the most safety and to keep social distance, the arena had every two seats zip tied up and a note saying ‘Do Not Use’. When it was time to dismiss, all of the medical students left first then the guest were let out one section at a time!

Once the ceremony got started it was absolutely beautiful. The speakers explained the history of the white coat ceremony and Mercer University Medical School that was pretty fascinating! The first white coat ceremony EVER was in 1993. Mercers mission is to educate physicians to serve in rural Georgia. The school has had over 2,000 MD’s graduate from the program. Mercer is proud to have most of their students that come from deep Georgia roots! The class of 2024 has 63 students at the Macon campus and 62 at the Savannah campus. The President of Mercer University has big plans to grow the medical school program and provide great health care in rural Georgia.

Adam is so happy to be apart of this program and we had a great day celebrating him and his classmates! After the short, 60 minute ceremony, we loaded up and headed to The Rookery in downtown Macon for lunch. We had wonderful food and fellowship! We loved spending time with Adams family and getting to celebrate all of his hard work that has lead to this season. The school could have decided to not have a gathering but we are so happy that they took the risk and let us enjoy a beautiful day!