As some, if not most, of you, will already be aware, I am dyslexic.
Today’s blog is going to be about Dyslexia.
Bing Dictionary defines Dyslexia as
Impaired ability to understand written language: a learning disorder marked by a severe difficulty in recognising and understanding written language, leading to spelling and writing problems. It is not caused by low intelligence or brain damage.
As you can probably guess my favourite bit is the last sentence.
But this blog is not going to be about the doctor’s definition or coping habits (although I do have several). Instead, this is going to be about the frustration caused by Dyslexia and the people out there in the world who either don’t understand or worse refuse to understand.
As I can only really speak about my experiences I have decided, I will share them.
I feel I need to say again that my Dyslexia is not that severe (it feels it at times, but there are people out there with far worse conditions than myself). My Dyslexia manifests in my inability to spell common words. It also affects my ability to tell left from right; people say turn left and I have to consciously think about which hand I write with and go the opposite way. I also tend to do things backwards; I am referring to things like tying knots.
My favourite way to describe myself is that I am left handed but with my brain, not my hands. I understand things but sometimes have to take a different route mentally to get there.
When I was young, about 5-6 years old, my parents were told by my teachers that I was an odd child. My reading age was far higher than my writing age. This was put down to the fact that I was a happy little thing that talked ALL THE TIME. My parents and I were told that if I could only concentrate more then, my writing would be okay. To this extent whenever I made a spelling mistake I was punished for not concentrating.
Suffice to say not concentrating had nothing to do with it. To this extent, I would get frustrated. I have and probably will always be something of a people pleaser; I hate people being angry at me and will go to great lengths to avoid this. So I worked my little backside off trying to get my writing better. While other children played, I would take a notepad outside and practice my words. I was still a happy little soul, but I was becoming an increasingly frustrated one. I also started to resent my teachers quite a lot; I worked very hard and yet suffered constant criticism and was often made to stay in or to stand outside the classroom as a punishment for ‘not concentrating’.
Eventually, when I turned ten, I was diagnosed. I thought that now things would get better, but it didn’t. Even with a diagnosis, I suffered punishments for not concentrating, low marks for homework and barely average scores on exams. In Secondary School, I was officially enrolled in a help class, but to my recollection, there never was a help class except on paper.
I won’t bore you with my somewhat depressing Secondary School years, suffice to say that I got shouted at a lot, cried a lot and almost gave up more than once. I was even at one point accused by a teacher of out and out lying about Dyslexia “it doesn’t exist; it’s an excuse for lazy little girls not to do their work.” Or something to that effect. My mother complained to the school several times, but nothing ever changed. So I kept my head down, read a bazillion books and worked stupidly hard to be barely average.
When I was about to sit my GCSE exams, I was told by my tutor that I would not achieve more than three GCSE results and they would all be low ones, E’s. I sat my GCSE’s and got nine. All of them (except maths) were a C grade, or above, I even managed a couple of A’s. To this day, I have no idea how I managed this.
I left school the minute they opened the doors. However, my family had drilled into me that if I didn’t have a good education, I would struggle in life to get the things I wanted. So I went straight to college. College was excellent, at least socially and teacher wise. However, the ‘help’ class at my college which I instantly enrolled myself in was awful. The first day I arrived at the Help class I explained that I didn’t need much of their time, all I needed was someone to proofread my homework. I was then asked if I wanted “big blue paper and a red pencil or big green paper and a blue pencil?” This was all asked of me in a very slow voice. I stood up, thanked them for their time and never went back.
When college finished, I went to university. University was much, much better. There were still ignorant teachers who couldn’t understand why I did so well in class only to get average scores in exams. “You should be getting the first Kate, why then are you only getting a second?” (First class degree and second class degree). “You know all the answers why don’t you put that on paper?”
Anyway, long story short, I left university with a Law degree (which I have since updated to a Masters in Law) and a Post Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice.
Suffice to say I am not stupid or lacking in intelligence.
However, even today at 27 years old, I still struggle with ignorance and down right rudeness. I am still told Dyslexia doesn’t exist; I’m just lazy because of spell checkers on computers. I am still picked at because of my not awesome spelling, and I am still punished for not concentrating. People I go to for help tell me I am lazy, an example being when I wanted Grey Wings reviewed and paid money for this to be done, as I knew there was no way I could trust myself to spot all my spelling and grammar boo, boos. I was again told that Dyslexia is no excuse; people can learn to spell and learn punctuation. It took a lot of effort on my part to remain polite, suffice to say I did not use the service again.
Ignorance and Frustration
There are days when this gets me down, further down then I would like to admit. You would think to get this from the age of 5 I would be used to it by now and able to ignore or dismiss The ignorance, but I find it gets no easier, I still get hot behind the eyes after a harsh criticism, and I still doubt myself worth a lot. I find this in itself frustrating, as I KNOW I am not stupid, I KNOW I have a disability, and I KNOW this does not make me worthless. But there is still that voice in the back of my head (not literally) saying “You know it’s only a matter of time before they find out you’re a fraud before they all point and laugh at your stupidity. I’m amazed anyone takes you seriously, maybe you should just go home and get into bed and stay there.” It is bloody hard to ignore that voice, and I am not shy about admitting that without the help and support of a few solid gold friends and family members I would probably have listened to it by now.
I’m going to use an extreme example now to illustrate my point; I am not comparing disabilities or anything of that sort I am only using this example so that my point will be more efficient.
If I had a physical handicap, for instance, I was unable to walk; people would not punish me for not being able to run up the stairs. It would not be socially acceptable to ridicule me or to treat me as less of a person, no one will (or should) ever go up to a person with no legs and shout at them, telling them they are lying and apparently lazy for wanting to be pushed about all day. Because my disability is invisible, as quite a lot of learning disabilities are, I am accused of lying, laziness and stupidity on a regular basis. (A certain nameless person once commented, “wow they do just give degrees away nowadays.” They most certainly do not. I worked my backside off to get the education I have today and if one more person belittles that I might just snap).
I don’t know what I’m hoping to achieve by telling you all of this.
I might just be ranting because of my frustration.
But I sincerely hope that at least one person reads this and thinks, wow it is hard to have a learning disability, even a mild one. I don’t want people to do anything, I don’t want special treatment, and I don’t want a medal. What I want is to be able to live and work in a world where I am not always ridiculed or punished for having a mild learning disability.
Katie Marie wrote a Book. A big one and a couple of little ones. Check them out!