I’m not sure when dyslexia became a common word. I remember seeing a commercial for it when I was younger, but in school I was labeled dumb, lazy, and a “slow reader.” People seem to think it goes away when you get older. It doesn’t. You just learn how to work with it.
Dyslexia is like someone telling me that I’m mispronouncing a word, but then not telling me how to pronounce it correctly. I know I’m doing it wrong, but I don’t know how to do it right.
The most debilitating for me is that I can’t keep numbers in order, but I work around it. Smart phones have helped a lot with that. If I read aloud I have to go slowly and concentrate on forming the words. It makes reading my pages to my audience impossible. That makes me a little sad, but it’s a small sacrifice to make in order to have the words in the first place.
The reaction other people have to learning of my dyslexia goes one of two ways. It’s either nothing but a few backwards letters or it’s a debilitating disease that I should be on disability for. For me it’s neither. It’s just a different way of thinking that I don’t consider a disorder or a disability.
I flip letters. The letter L and the number 3 are my worst offenders. I can’t put my hand to my forehead and call someone a loser because most likely the L will be backwards. Sad. I also put letters in the wrong order when I type. Auto-correct is my friend. I once had a fellow salesperson accuse me of writing in code in the database in order to keep him away from my clients. I wasn’t. I did turn off the auto-correct though.
The best way I have found to describe dyslexia is like this: think of your brain as two sisters. The left half is your mom. A 1950’s, pearl-wearing, vacuum-loving, June Cleaver mom. Ask and you shall receive: Mom, where’s my socks? I need graph paper! How do you make a soufflé? Kind of mom.
Right brain is your crazy hoarder aunt. She collects all kinds of stuff. There could even be a few stray animals running around her house that she doesn’t know about. But she’s a super sweet, go with the flow, sing-dance-paint, enjoy life kind of woman. Her music is too loud, her hair too messy, but if you need anything, she’ll be there for you. Just not the exact way you want her.
Need a ride home from school—she’ll show up two hours late on a three wheeled bicycle in a bikini. It may be embarrassing, but it gets the job done. Need the name of someone you love, she’ll reach in the drawer and give you a name. Granted, you were looking for your niece, Stephanie, but your dog, Joe was close. Most people find it funny when I call them in a three name sequence like Joe-Lou-Steph.
For most people these two sisters are very close and talk constantly. But in my case, they’ve had a falling out. I have severe dyslexia so these sisters don’t talk to each other at all. Mom still gets all of her work done. I can walk and talk and function normally. But all communication and memory has fallen on my crazy aunt’s shoulders. And she’s trying. She’s really trying. Her filing system is unique, but she can retrieve the important things and I google the less vital stuff.
She’s not much of a talker, but she likes to write and sing and she enjoys reading. I read at an average pace, which is painfully slow when compared to my peers. But books aren’t races so I don’t mind.
She hates numbers. Any and all numbers go in the trash. I have to hide a few around the house, but only the most critical ones like my kids’ birthdays, ages and my telephone number, and that’s about it. And it was a struggle keeping those. Sometimes my own age and the street number to my house get chucked, which gives everyone a laugh when I can’t remember how old I am.
Dyslexia is a different way of thinking, not a disability. All the volume is turned to one side of my brain—the creative side. Yes, I’ve lost some abilities, but I can’t even describe the abilities I’ve gained. It’s a superpower. As with any decent superpower it takes time and training to figure out how to first control it and then unleash it.