Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Being Dyslexic

There was an article out today about a teacher who has decided that dyslexia is just an excuse for middle class people who are poor readers to get special treatment. Since I am dyslexic, I did not take this well, and I thought I would explain some of what it is like to be dyslexic.
The first real sign of it is having trouble with left and right. I remember my mom sewing an “L” and an “R” on my gloves to help me. When I give directions you have about a 50-50 shot and me telling it all backwards. I’ve learned to point as I say it to make sure I’m saying the right one. If I am trying to follow directions I have to triple check myself so that I don’t turn the wrong way. That is probably the most frustrating part.
The next thing that happens can be really embarrassing, especially as an adult. Reading words or numbers out loud is terrifying to me. Something short circuits between the page and my mouth. Many people just think dyslexics see letters backwards, but it is a lot more than that. Letters can get jumbled, you can add letters where they don’t exists, or disappear all together. If I don’t follow along with my finger, entire lines will disappear on me. Some days are better than others. If I’m tired or feeling out of sorts then I don’t even try to read. It is just too frustrating. Now imagine all of that happening in your mind while you are trying to vocalize what you are reading. When I was in the ninth grade I had an English teacher that thought the best way to help me was to make me read out loud as often as possible. It was completely humiliating. I was a good student. I always made good grades, but my grade plummeted in her class. I wish I could go back and tell her the damage she did to me that year.
All of this applies to numbers too. Thankfully, I had math teachers who understood what I was going through and would just take off a couple of points if I reversed the answer. There were times that I would reverse a few things at the beginning of an algebra problem and from that point on the problem would be wrong. When I was in advance math classes my teacher took the time to work the problem as I had it written and if I did the work right, I got partial credit. I wish I could tell her how much that helped me.
Believe it or not there are actually benefits to being dyslexic. I have a partial photographic memory. When there is a word that I have trouble with, I close my eyes and picture the word. If I can make it three dimensional in my mind, then I can usually spell it. A good example of that it the word “flour”, I picture a flour canister with the word written on the side, and I haven’t misspelled it since the 5th grade. That one was hard on me because I memorized how to spell “flower” first, and my brain could not understand why you would spell it any other way.
I can read maps and other diagrams in a very special way. When I see a floor plan of a house I can visualize it as if I was walking through the home. Even with the left and right problem, I am never lost. I may have to point to tell you were to turn, but you will never get me lost. It is like I have a map in my mind. If I ever do get turned around it is probably because I haven’t been paying attention.
So, the next time you are reading something I have written and I have something completely misspelled, please remember that I literally can not see the error, and never ever ask me to read more than a sentence to you out loud to you.

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