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Dyslexia and Writing
“Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability. Dyslexia refers to a cluster of symptoms, which result in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading. Students with dyslexia usually experience difficulties with other language skills such as spelling, writing, and pronouncing words. Dyslexia affects individuals throughout their lives; however, its impact can change at different stages in a person’s life. It is referred to as a learning disability because dyslexia can make it very difficult for a student to succeed academically in the typical instructional environment, and in its more severe forms, will qualify a student for special education, special accommodations, or extra support services.”
“Dyslexia Basics.” International Dyslexia Association, 10 Mar. 2020, dyslexiaida.org/dyslexia-basics/.
A small collection of public figures with reported dyslexia -
Leonardo da Vinci
F. Scott Fitzgerald
(I do not claim all these people had a clinical diagnoses of dyslexia, but rather they are widely reported on as having it.)
I am clinically diagnosed with Dyslexia.
[Disclaimer - I did only minor edits to this newsletter. This is to show my initial writing when my words spill on the page. This is done in an attempt to show some of my challenges.]
This is a hard topic for me, something that cannot be seen about me on the surface, but impacts my every day life. From work to communication with friends to my writing, I struggle. It rides as a hidden passenger in every moment of my life. It’s a thing that many people might not see, and that’s because I work on every message, taking longer than most for a single sentence. I tend to be reserved and more formulated in my responses, sometimes coming across as aloof, sterile and/or dry. But when I say a word wrong because my mind mixes the syllables, typically because I am moving as fast as my brain, and someone corrects me before I can correct myself, it’s like every single moment when someone points out my mistakes hits me. It takes me back to being a child looked down on by their peers.
I was diagnosed early, so early it's fuzz at this point, but around the age of seven. I write my letters and numbers backwards, which I own and is a fun conversation starter. Granted this is not a sure sign of Dyslexia, nor is the fact I always get my left and right directions mixed up. But as much as I own this part of me, it does not make anything easier nor do I normally actively choose to talk on it. Growing up in the middle of nowhere, where there were limited resources and limited few other people with learning problems, only made everything harder. I remember having a set aside time block several times a week at my early grade school to go down to the learning center and work with the teacher, normally this is where kids went that excelled, there were few others that were behind and only one I remember had a learning difficulties like me. The thing they never taught me was how to accept it as a part of me.
The whole things was terrifying and otherizing from my peers, only made tenfold by having the advanced students one door over. Leading to a gap of feeling my peers were normal, somehow better and me something else. I had many factors in my life only expanding this gap, but life is not fair. I remember clearly being in a parent teacher conversation hearing “for his level (second grade) he is behind, his reading is that of a kindergarten and his writing is worst.”
I don’t remember ever passing a spelling test, I was so excited when we hit the point our school did not do them anymore. I also remember plenty of times getting laughed at for simple mistakes.
Kids tend not to be nice, especially with things they don’t understand, which is heightened in the middle of nowhere and there are so many reasons you are already different from them. There are few childhood relationships I look back at and think they were healthy, and those that were did not come till near the end. Even then I was a kid with plenty of adult problems that I struggled to process, which did not make it easy for those kids. So for those that stuck with me all these years I raise a glass.
I still struggle, there are times where I have to take several seconds to think how to spell what I am trying to spell. Then there are the times spellcheck has no idea what I am spelling and I have to ask someone or google a synonym or google my poor spelling hoping it can spit out the correct spelling. Sometimes just opting out to write my way around the problem, by writing it differently. Being in a quick back and forth text conversation with me is a wild ride sometimes. It's not always the spelling itself, but grammar or my brain choosing to spell a similar word in meaning or spelling. For instance the highlighted “wild” on my first draft of this came out as While then on a quick fix swapped to Wide. But that is half the reason I spend so much time and energy writing then reading, rereading and pouring energy into editing everything I do, yes even those simple text messages of a few words. I am just thankful for all the patience it’s taught me, and the skill to accept my word for what it is, and the writing habits its given me. Also spellcheck and other more advanced tools, such as AI assisted things, that can look at my spelling and help me fix it or pick out a grammar issue, are amazing for me.
I noticed with stress, or sleep deprivation, or alcohol, or running behind, or too many things at once, or short quick text methods of communication or dozens of other potential things, it makes it exponetionally harder.
But I would not give it up, its one of the reasons I fell in love with stories.
My mother, after a long day of hard manual labor as a single income, would make an effort to read to me every night. She had already been reading to me, but her efforts had redoubled with my problem. This passion I still carry with me, and hope to pass on to my own children through reading at night to them. I remember one day picking up Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix because we were going to slow and deciding to read it, that was the moment I made a conscious thought to be better. I remember reading every single Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, The Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter books, The Chronicles of Prydain (The Black Cauldron books), The Sword of Shannara Trilogy, Enders Game and other books in those early middle school days, quickly moving on to things like Dune, granted at that point, some things went over my head as I lacked the life experience to fully understand and appreciate.
Today as someone that writes, it makes every draft a nightmare, it makes the moment I share a piece a point of where the world crushes me, a fear of everything being misspelled that the story cannot even be followed nor enjoyed. But it makes me work so damn hard, to be better, to keep up with people, to hit my goals, for people to feel the story and not the words that convey it.
I remember another parent teacher conversation, in seventh grade. “ …reading comprehension is at a advanced high school level, but his writing comprehension is still behind at a sixth grade level.” A small win for a young me, but its somethings that boost me at points still in my early thirties. It’s always interesting how your childhood, its wins, its losses, echo through out your life.
To learn more about this learning issue please click the button below, or visit dyslexiaida.org.