Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Dyslexia, It is a personal thing.... Part !

I want to write about "Dyslexia", a name for a learning problem in people.  Note that I wrote "people", not children, boys, young adults, or white kids.  It is found throughout our population and around the world.

A disclaimer:  I have Dyslexia and I am not an expert on its cause or a solution.  I have lived with it for over seven decades--what I write in this blog will be my opinion and thought--nothing more.

While Dyslexia has been written about, not necessarily understood since the late 1890s not much has been written for the school teacher.  I do not remember any learning problems being discussed in my undergraduate education classes but I will admit I don't remember much of those classes at all.

My first involvement with this learning problem that I can remember was in early grade school in Harrison, New York, where a special teacher taught me how to read.  Everyday I would go down the hall where I would sit and.....I'm sorry I don't remember more.  All I know is that I learned to read.  It was many years later that I realized that I read differently from most people.  I seem to follow what is now know as Evelyn Woods speed reading methods where my eye scans the paragraph in a circular motion akin to speed reading.

In fact all through school I could out read most of my peers.  I remember a number of teachers checking that I really read the book by asking me questions which I could answer.  From this they assumed I was smart.  I may have been smart but not in everything.  My writing, particularly spelling was atrocious all through school.  I also had problems physically writing because somewhere in the early grades I had to switch from writing with my left hand to writing with my right hand.  There was a time as a young adult I could manage to write with both hands at the same time in different directions.  I find that I cannot do that anymore--age maybe?

I also had a terrible time with numbers.  I disliked arithmetic from the start.  There are some who say this isn't part of Dyslexia but I wonder.  I had problems lining up the numbers to add in my mind.  I could do it on the blackboard as a student but not on paper at my desk.  Why

Let me digress here for a moment.  When I read (not as much as I grow older) the words on either end of the sentence line in a book "float" or move around.  It is sometimes difficult to continue the sentence because when I leave the right hand side of the line I have to find the right place to start again on the left.  If I focus, concentrate, it is a doable thing.  But I have to work at it.  That is why "scanning" the paragraph is so much easier.  I very rarely read word by word.  So if you put a word twice in a row in a sentence I am likely not to have seen it--the sentence looks looks normal.

A number of teachers during my K-12 journey through education told my parents that I was smart but lazy.  That seemed very strange to me as I thought I worked harder then most of the kids in the class.  However, they also said that I was good in music and art.  Interestingly enough now that we know a little bit more about Dyslexia we find many who have it are good in music and art.  Perhaps it is a clue that suggests that this learning problem is neurological.

I do remember one incident that rankles me to this day.  Fourth grade in Richland, WA.  My teacher took us out to the playground to play softball.  I was never very good at athletics and normally was the last one picked for teams.  I remember trying to "hid" so that I wouldn't have to play.  But my teacher made me get up to bat.  It may have been the first time for me to swing a bat......  Someone pitched the ball and for some reason I hit it well.  I stood there quite surprised.  Everyone started to yell, "run, run, run."  So I third base and then on to second.  I never made second.  The teacher stopped the game and took me by hand and walked me to the first base and then to second and then to third and finally home, all the while my classmates were yelling and laughing at me.  I remember not wanting to go to school the next day but I never told my parent why.  It was humiliating.   To this day I think it was the Dyslexia that reverses things that had me do what I did.  Along with the fact that I had never played softball before.  

Let's see now--P.E., spelling, arithmetic, writing and memorization were things I hated.  HATED!  But as I learned later on students with Dyslexia learned to cope.  They figure ways to get around learning problems.  I had learned how to read.  One problem solved.  I solved arithmetic problems with the invention of the calculator.  I always use a calculator.  Even today, right now, I am wearing a wristwatch that tells time, is a calculator and holds a number of telephone numbers for me.  I used my wrist calculator last evening to figure out 20 percent for a tip after a dinner on the town.  Mathematics people are probably falling to the floor with laughter right now after reading that last sentence.  They are saying "20 percent is so easy you can do it in your head."  But they don't know the fear of screwing up the numbers.  I still have that fear.

Coping.  In high school I took Biology instead of Chemistry.  In chemistry you had to memorize things.  Biology was easier for a kid with Dyslexia.  And I wouldn't take theater because again you had to memorize things so I took an art class where I excelled.  I did poorly in Algebra--letters and numbers.  But I also sat in the very back of the class and didn't see the blackboard very well--it was the beginning of my glasses era which remains with me to today.  Dyslexics learn to cope.

But there is a thread among those that write about having Dyslexia that seems to be a part of each person.  Most want to succeed and most are over achievers.  They do know they are good if not smart but they will acknowledge they are different.  While I can't prove it, many are loners. They don't join a study group because they study differently from others.  Note taking is not a method but a punishment.  

Here is a bit of humor.  A number of us Dyslexic once talked about how we got through college. It turns out when a prof said we would have to write a term paper but that we would write the outline first, the Dyslexics to a person wrote the paper first really struggling to get it done in the early part of the course and THEN we would do the outline.  If we remember correctly we all got good grades because our paper and outlines were seamless.  

Another interesting part of me that I believe Dyslexia had a hand in.....  During my high school years I've already said that I would pick carefully what courses I took.  For some reason, I signed up for beginning typing.  Hey, this was 1949 and guys did not take beginning typing.  It was for girls.  But I sensed that by learning typing I could do better--better than what I don't know....   But I took the course.  I did well.  Because I am ambidextrous I easily did the fifty words per minute.  There was one girl in the class who I could not beat--but she let it be know that no "boy" was going to beat her.  She wouldn't even go out with me on a date.  

I took advanced typing which was mostly formatting and I also took Machine Calculation.  That turn out to be fortuitous.  Until the advent of the computer I excelled (pardon the pun) at calculations.  I was cool.  Dyslexics have a inner sense of who they are and know what they have to do.

I never knew I had Dyslexia.  It wasn't mention in schools and even at my undergraduate college days if you had a learning problem--tough!  Maybe you shouldn't be in college.  Dyslexia affects your personality.  You screwed up.  Do it over.  Plan more time to do the task.  Plan ahead.  You keep trying. But you also get creative.  In one education class I took years ago, we had an assignment to visit a school during a holiday break and bring in a written report of what we found and what we thought.  I visited a new middle school and took a camera with me.  I took two rolls of black and white photographs of the school.  I had them developed and then I basically told what was in each of the photographs that I selected.  I mounted the pictures on cardboard and cut and pasted my typing to fit.  The prof was elated with my report and showed it to the class.  I remember several of my peers asking how I had come to view the assignment that way--now I would say, Dyslexia.  

A SPECIAL NOTE TO PARENTS OF COLLEGE BOUND STUDENTS.  If your child is Dyslexic, seek a college or university that has a Student Services Learning Department where they help students with learning problems.  That department can let professors and instructors know that this person has a reading problem and can request more time on tests.  It's no big deal for most profs.  Some universities still do not have a Student Services department to help students.  Find out which one do.  Remember success breeds success.

There is a special ending to this blog.  I managed to get through undergraduate college and become a music teacher and grade school teacher on my own.  I had struggled in some of the classes but I made it.  I graduated.  And I went on to graduate school.   I also married a woman who for more then fifty years has read my writings and corrected my spelling and punctuation and......even going so far as to challenge my thinking and conclusions.  I would not have gotten through those other courses without her help.  At least not until the computer and spell checkers were invented.  But even today I tried to spell a word  and the spell checker just looked at me blankly--it couldn't even figure out what the word should have been.  "Lynn, how do you spell...," I shouted  and as normal, she helped me out.  It's not easy being a Dyslexic.

1 comment:

  1. • living “lexi” a walk in the life of a dyslexic is the book i wrote of my 12 year old daughter’s life who has dyslexia…the book is now published and available either on my website, or (whsl/dist)

    • I have spent the past 7 years researching dyslexia and finding contacts all over the world that I feel would be interested in using my book as a resource… (that is how I found you)……my intent is to offer a book that dyslexics can relate to and want to read, along with offering pages of resources (websites, books, associations, etc.)

    • I hope you will go to and check out my book …come take a walk in the life of a dyslexic, it’ll have you laughing from the start and you just may shed a tear for yourself or someone you know

    contact info: