Dyslexia … what does it feel like in everyday life?
So, let’s start with how I can’t actually write or spell DYSLEXIA - Dslexica Dylescia dyslexica – no I am not taking the micky or not trying hard enough to spell! It just does not make sense to me, I have spent the last two minutes sounding this out in my head and failing, thank goodness for spell check that tries to recognise my words (in fact spell check has helped me 5 times in this first paragraph).
What does this feel like? Well its me and I am used to it, I thought it was what everyone did and then realised that some people were a lot quicker than me in writing at school, usually one of my good friends and this where the pattern started, I would just ask them and get the information I needed, I would copy and not understand and then we would laugh and find it funny. I felt a bit silly and not as clever as them, however I had supportive parents who installed in me that being clever does not just come from being academic, and they gave me the tools to laugh at things I found difficult and they helped me with all the homework and projects these always took about 4 times as long as a lot of my friends. Don’t get me wrong, my Dad who is extremely clever ‘academically and every other way in the world’ would sometimes say ‘well you know, it spelt like that’, my Mum ‘who became academic and could always laugh at herself and install fun in everything she and we did’ would say ‘well no she doesn’t get it or she would of done it’. We would then work out a different way for me to learn my spellings. My Dad would read me amazing bedtime stories and bring words to life! I was (and still am) an avid reader, I would ask what words said or meant and get great responses from the adults in my life. We would have a word of the week and try and use this, we would have a word that we didn’t know and discover its meaning, see supportive families make all the difference, in my case they ensured I did not feel that I couldn’t do it (10 spell checks in this bit including spel).
I digressed quiet a lot then, but I think it was worth it to get the point across of supportive adults. So, what does it feel like in everyday situations; well think fight or flight mode and feeling a little anxious each time I start to write a word I really want to use (and I know a lot of big words I just can’t write them). My brain must really engage, I mouth how I am spelling the words and a little knot forms in my stomach, will it be right? Then I feel huge relief and success if I get it right. If not I sound it out again as spell check doesn’t always give me the word I want and a dictionary is like a different language. I often substitute words for not such good ones and have to change my meaning ( I find this very frustrating, as it changes my thoughts). Thank goodness for computers or I just would not be able to express myself in the same way! The more I write the worse my spellings get and words pop up in wrong places. I love writing notes (as my lovely colleagues will tell you, if you come on a course with me you don’t ever need to take notes, I write/type everything, so I do not miss a thing).
I find it much easier now to tell people that I am dyslexic because it avoids awkward moments. Telling me email addresses for instance is difficult, I just get them to write it down for me or over the phone is a bit more tricky, I tell them they will need to go slowly if they want me to have the right address. And for goodness sake don’t even think using about the ‘NATO or phonetic alphabet’ PAPA ALPHA, what’s that all about giving a word that represents a letter, confusing beyond belief! I now just laugh at it and say sorry I can’t possibly do that (basically because to me its so stupid). See that is the other thing it can make me a bit angry as my brilliant business partner will confirm, we write for Universities and this is hard but very worthwhile, we sit with blueberries (to help us be clever) and chocolates for treats and we actually squeal with excitement and cheer when we get it right. We know our subjects but that does not mean everything is easy, in fact the saying ‘everything is difficult until it is easy’ sums up my dyslexic journey perfectly (about 45 corrections from helpful Ms spell check).
Summing up dyslexia at my age now. I would say everything takes longer and I have got used to feel confused and a bit overwhelmed; A simple life task like transferring money to a friend will need to be at least an hour of free time; which I really don’t have and the euphoria of completing is like winning a small lottery (about £3k).
Really, I think what I am trying to say is that I am very pleased with my resilience and perseverance and for the ‘resilience builders’ in my life. I have learnt that by being honest I get more help (I might feel a little silly for 2 mins ) and understand things better, I have had to develop confidence to ask and ask again and again and not feel like I am not clever. However, this can be very tiring, and I can sometimes become exhausted by the constant challenging and trying.
I truly believe everyone is clever and must not be judged just by academic standards, it would be such a shame to miss out on these talented, clever, funny individuals who I am privileged to know (and count myself amongst). We have about 6 people in my family and 3 at work who are not the academic norm and they are all the better for it, their personalities and creativeness are awesome.
And a top tip for teachers and adults working with all age children: if a child says they cannot read out in front of everyone then don’t make them, if you don’t want rebellious people in your class then find out what each and everyone of them can and cant do. Listen, understand and work with strengths and develop together.
Dyslexia is not an excuse it is part of the person and this person has already worked at least 4 times as hard to get to where they are, so remember everyone is unique and help don’t judge (rough total 100 words spell sorted and some I couldn’t find).