Saturday, May 14, 2016

Dyslexia and Me

I found out at 29 that I had dyslexia. It made a lot of sense. When I was a kid I used to write my d's and b's back to front and my Mum showed me a piece of paper of my writing once that kind of freaked me out - every single letter was written backwards! It was kind of awesome. It was like I'd invented my own language. I have no memory of ever writing like that though. Looking back on my childhood it kind of bugs me that no one ever noticed I had this stupid thing. I can remember telling my teacher's I could not read the black board and that I could see weird floating balls of light in my vision. No one listened. Surprise, surprise, I did not do well in school. I grew up thinking I was stupid. I stopped trying at all in school eventually - it didn't help that I also had dyscalculia and dysgraphia on top of my dyslexia and dyspraxia.

It wasn't until I was in Year Nine that I met a teacher who actually paid attention to me. I can't remember his name now (and this bothers me) but I can remember he was from Canada and here on exchange. He would turn up at school in shorts on days the rest of us were freezing and tell us in his hilarious accent "What are you talking about? this is not cold! this is beautiful weather!"

He was the first teacher who ever gave me an A. I was so used to seeing D's and C's and F's I thought it was a mistake when I saw that A. He was also the person who encouraged me to start writing. I would give him my stories to read and he would critique for me. He said to me once "When you become a published writer and your book comes out in Canada I will be in first in line to buy it." I wonder if he ever knew how much he helped me or gave me encouragement I desperately needed. Up until that point I thought I was good at nothing but he showed me I could be good at something if I worked at it. And that was that. I became a writer. It consumed me. I poured all of my energies into learning creative writing and slowly - bit by bit - my grades began to pick up a little as my love for writing trickled over into other grades. Amazing what a little attention from a teacher can do to a troubled student, eh?

I'm learning more and more about my disabilities and how they affect me when I get older. I tried to take a couple of grammar classes in university and apparently for a person like me it's like trying to learn Klingon. I tried really hard but my brain is just not wired to understand grammar that difficult. I know the basics - barely - but the fact is there is just too many grammar rules to remember. I think even a "normal" person would struggle to remember all the different terms. And let's be honest important is it really that we need to know what a modal verb is? I think most people probably wouldn't know what it is. The more I tried to stuff more grammar knowledge into my brain the more I forgot what I'd already tried to memorize. Somehow though I passed both units. And learnt a valuable lesson...grammar is not my friend!

What's been annoying me about dyslexia lately is I've been realizing more and more how much it affects my writing and reading ability. I can read OK enough. The words do not move, I don't do the backwards writing thing anymore, but I do have problems with light. But the thing that annoys me the most is my spelling. I insert random words into a sentence that have nothing to do with what I wanted to write. I might plan to write "The cat wears a brown hat" and somehow - randomly - insert an extra word in there like "e-mail" maybe because I got distracted for a fraction of a second and thought about sending an email. But when I go back and re-read that sentence I might miss the extra word. I do other things like write "administrate" instead of "administration" and since the word is so similar to the one I wanted and written correctly I will miss it.

Sometimes this will mean I will make some hilarious mistakes. I sent an email at work once telling people I'd found a thumb drive and asking if it belonged to anyone. Instead of writing "sand disk" I wrote "sand dick" but did not realize it until after I'd sent the email. When I realized my error I collapsed into fits of giggles. I corrected the mistake and sent the email again. Whoops!

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