SYDNEY, N.S. — Growing up, Maggie Marston-Berk was constantly frustrated by four lowercase letters — q, p, d and b.

Now she has them tattooed on her left arm.

The 22-year-old Baddeck resident was diagnosed with dyslexia when she was in Grade 1, and like many people with the learning disability, she often mixed up “q-p” and “d-b.”

WHAT IS DYSLEXIA?

SOURCE: Dyslexia Canada

So rather than hide her problem from the rest of the world, she got a tattoo of the blended letters as a reminder she can overcome anything.

“I put it on my wrist just to remind myself that dyslexia is something that I have, and it’s not something I need to be ashamed of and it’s not something I need to let hold me back from anything I want to do,” said Marston-Berk, who recently graduated from Cape Breton University’s bachelor of arts in community studies program, making the dean’s list and earning two scholarships as she works on her bachelor of education degree.

“It’s something I think about a lot being in the education program. I always have worries: ‘Am I going to be able to be a good teacher and make sure the students learn everything they need to because I will still mix things up, or not know if a word is spelled wrong?’ It’s something I need to remind myself of a lot — everyone is going to make mistakes and you just can’t let them hold you back from what you want do.”

Giving back

Marston-Berk said while she had already developed techniques to manage her dyslexia before she arrived at CBU, she relied on the services and supports offered through the university’s Jennifer Keeping Centre for Accessible Learning, which helped her reach her academic goals by working with her professors and providing note-taking services.

“The centre had a lot to offer and for me, I have a lot of test anxiety, obviously, because I struggle with being able to read all the questions fast enough in the time frame, so I was able to use the centre as a safe space to be able to write my tests and complete them at my own pace.”

How common is dyslexia?

In her fourth year at CBU, Marston-Berk found a way to help other people with dyslexia by creating a website (https://dyslexialookingfor.wixsite.com/dyslexia) filled with information, videos, links and other resources.

Her work even caught the attention of Dyslexia Canada where she now volunteers by writing stories to inspire and inform people about the learning disability, as well as clear up some common misconceptions.

“When I found out I have dyslexia and I would tell people, a lot of people would automatically think I don’t know how to read and write. That’s definitely not the case. It’s a spectrum and when I was doing my website I was finding out a lot more about how it affects other people,” she said.

“When I was younger and I had dyslexia, it was just something I had. It was never talked about so you feel kind of like you’re the only one, and honestly there’s so many who live with dyslexia. Getting to know more people who have it and provide some more resources all in one spot for people to utilize is why I started the website.”

Distinguished Dyslexics

The International Dyslexia Association estimates as many as one in five people has dyslexia, a brain-based learning difference that makes learning to read more difficult.