Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Dyslexia Answers

It is the start the new term, which means I take the time to explain to many of my composition students that I am dyslexic. I used to avoid having this conversation, simply because it felt too difficult. However, I have found that if I deal with this reality head-on, life becomes a little easier for me. The stigma really has been simple, I was not diagnosed as a young person, most people my age were not, and it took a long time to realize that my eccentric use of words, and my creative writing issues, were a result of dyslexia.  

Generally, I simply felt stupid.  I could not understand why no matter how many times I was told that this word was incorrect, and now word was being used incorrectly, or that I shouldn't randomly capitalize a word in the middle of my sentence, that I just could not remember these things.  And I tried. The problem was not that I could not remember, the problem was that I didn't see the mistakes on the page. And I'm an editor! I come from a long line of editors, and I always read and reread my writing - but to no avail.  For a long time I was able to joke away the problem, until I became a composition instructor, and I embraced social networking. Social networking is a quick form a composition, where you don't spend a great deal of time editing. It is a space of reaction. A space of conversation. As such, my writing problems related to dyslexia started to show itself terribly.

Also, students will not forgive you, especially if you're part of the English department, if you show any mistakes. It is natural for students to find each and every mistake, and to point the mistake out in triumphant form. This used to frustrate me a great deal, because no matter how much I would try to avoid making mistakes, I could not. I did not see many of my mistakes (from vs form for example). Now, rather than get upset, I encourage my students to find my mistakes, to constructively point them out to me, so that I can make the correction. This  allows my students an opportunity to see the reality of dyslexia, and possibly identify similar problems in their own writing habits.  Further, I can offer a strong example of how to graciously accept  well formed criticism, and how to approach making any adjustments that may be needed. 

This term, as I was explaining to my online class about my dyslexia, and resulting diction and malapropisms that they will undoubtedly encounter while in my class, I took some time and reacquaint myself with a wonderful pamphlet that helped me identify my problems. I thought I would take some time to present the information from this pamphlet, which is downloadable, for my readers. Who knows, it may help someone out there.

Dyslexia Tooolkit: A resource for students and their tutors is by Vicki Goodwin and Bonita Thomson.  This pdf publication was created for the Open University Centre for Educational Guidance and Student Support.
As all good composition, academic or otherwise, publications should do, Goodwin and Thomson starts off by defining dyslexia. And the news is not all bad!:

Recent investigations into how the brain works show that the dyslexic brain processes some information in a different way than other brains. The difference gives clear advantages in some cognitive and creative areas, though it also creates difficulties. The dyslexic brain can tackle some tasks better because the right hemisphere, the side of the brain that is responsible for creativity, appears to be more developed in many dyslexics than the left side, which is mainly responsible for acquiring language. p. 6
When most people think about dyslexia, they think about writing letters and numbers upside down or in reverse. This image to the right kind of betrays that actuality of representation.  However, only a very small section or group of people with dyslexia actually experience this drastic form of dyslexia. Most people will experience a variety of different symptoms, but not all the symptoms, listed below. The following is quoted from the dyslexia Toolkit. For the fun of it, I have highlighted those areas which affect me personally:

  • Reading, which is likely to be slow
  • Concentration, which tends to fluctuate
  • Spelling and grammar, which can be unorthodox
  • Physical coordination and handwriting
  • Remembering information
  • Organizing and planning- space and time confuses the hell out of me, but I have become a good organizer now.
  • Working within time limits
  • Thinking and working in sequences
  • Visual difficulties such as blurring and distortion of print - for me this is true when I get tired.
Characteristics of handwriting that may suggest dyslexia:
  • Use of UPPER-CASE exclusively or randomly.
  • Letters back to front.
  • Irregular size or awkward shape of writing, poor spacing.
    Now that so many people use word-processors, examples of handwriting may be hard to come by. But written work can still show dyslexic characteristics even when word-processed or typed:
  • Random or non-existent punctuation.
  • Missing letters or words.
  • Spelling errors: the same word spelt in different ways, letters in the wrong order, phonic approximations, omission of syllables, errors in suffixes.
  • Use of similar but wrong words – malapropisms.- I do this in both writing and speaking - which, by the way, has cause some interesting moments in my life!  LOL
  • Non-standard sentence structure, an impression of
    inexperience in writing.
  • Misinterpretation of questions.
Other indications of dyslexia can include:
  • Difficulties in remembering and following instructions (directions, for example).
  • Variable sense of timing and time management.
  • Problems with organizing materials.
  • Other short-term memory problems such as
    dealing with sequences.
  • Good days and bad days.- well hell, don't we all???  LOL don't we all??


1 comment:

  1. I find an issue with tense contuity; woman, women and their modifiers are often not 'in synch'. The occasional use of a word that sounds or looks similar to the word actually meant, archive/achieve (which today could be blamed on autofill...)
    "my writing problems related to dyslexia started to show itself terribly." --- 'problems' with 'itself' the tense modification example within this text.


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