Having and being dyslexic can be very stressful at times and it’s hard for me not to get a little annoyed. Although I never mean to be nasty it becomes quite frustrating when trying to spell or read and that in turn leads to anger, not at others (although I will take it out on my wife) but more at myself.
I know I’m intelligent and able to read and write but even reading out loud for my son causes me to become agitated as I struggle with reading for him. It may just be me but I would guess many people with dyslexia will come across this more often than they would like to admit.
I’m starting a science degree (OU) and I’ve already came across problems which is none too surprising. Although I’ve been able to read the work thus far I’ve already managed to misread a question. The question which was a maths based one was I thought, easy to read. I did all the working out which was fine, asked my wife to check it and she came to the same answers to but then when she read the question she pointed out I had completely misread it and although the answer was correct based on my assumptions the answer was wrong for the question.
It’s sometimes the little things that lead me to snap at the people trying to help. I often have to ask the wife for help in spelling something. She will start to spell the word but at a ‘normal’ speed but it’s at a speed that I cannot keep up with. This means I always snap at her for going too fast.
I snap mainly as it’s frustrating to me that I can’t keep up when I believe I should be able to. Luckily she does understand and will spell the word again after which I normally say sorry!
It’s not just the people close to you who you will snap at as I’ve managed to do it to the professional trying to help me as well. I would say that in a way I felt justified to questioning their teaching methods but of course I did go over the top.
For an example I remember when doing my HND in Computing I was offered some extra help which I decided to take (not a easy choice as I don’t like admitting I have a problem). On our first meeting I sat down with a middle aged lady and we started to discuss my needs / problem areas after which she produced 26 blocks with the letters of the alphabet wrote on them.
You have to remember at this point I did not feel comfortable even talking about being dyslexic!
So she continued on talking and picked up a block with the letter A on it and proceeded to say
This is the letter A – it’s the first letter of the alphabet and is pronounced ‘a’
Needless to say this really annoyed me and I let her know my feelings on this. I started to explain that I was not thick and after studying a BTEC first diploma in IT, BTEC National Diploma in IT and that I was on the second year of my HND how on earth did she think I had managed to get this far without knowing what the first letter of the alphabet was and how to pronounce this.
At the time I guess the whole idea of being dyslexic had not really sunk in as it were and she basically made me feel really dumb which is why I started ‘having a go’. It was of course wrong the way I went on and I have no real excuse for it but she should of also approached things in a different way. She could of started by asking if I know the alphabet! This would of still started to get my temperature up but I don’t think I would of went off on one.. as much anyway!
It’s always been hard to accept help or to take criticism (no doubt the same for 90% of people) but I guess growing up with dyslexia, being told you were thick for all of your school life it does put you on edge.
As time has gone on though I started to just accept it, at 33 years old I can now just talk about it openly but it’s taken a long time to get to this point for me. Having a 2 year old son helps as he will of course keep on wanting stories read to him and of course help with school work. This and a understanding wife has helped me on my own personal journey to just ‘get over it’ and accept help if/when I need it.
In any given normal day most people will end up reading / writing something and on the odd occasion they will have to spell. Of course this means for people like me the stress / anger / embarrassment will come out.
One thing I’ve now started doing is being a good boy scout and getting prepared before having to undertake one of the dreaded tasks. For example I do sometimes have to actually ring and speak to people and this can involve giving out my name or address. Now spelling my name is perfectly ok, I’ve been doing it a while, but the address does sometimes catch me out.
Part of the address where I live at the moment is ‘Sherburn’ – it’s not a hard word to spell but when faced with being asked for it, I have to go back to the way I spell (as I explained in a previous post). This means lots of pauses and hesitation which frustrates me and I would not like to guess what the person I’m spelling this to is thinking!
So before I make a phone call which could involve giving my address (or something similar) I will actually write everything down. As I’m writing it down I’m also spelling it as I go, sort of practising to myself before the dreaded moment where the person on the other end of the phone goes…
Could you spell that for me please
It’s something many people wont have to do but seeing that I (and many Dyslexic’s) can’t spell for toffee it’s just another way around not showing yourself up in public (as it were).
Of course doing this at home is easy and just takes a few moments before you make the phone call but when you are out and about it’s a little more complicated.
I’m very lucky that when I am out and about I’m generally going to be with my wife and son. Of course my wife understands the whole dyslexic thing so when I do have to spell something she is ‘normally’ on the ball and will write it down for me. This saves me looking silly when out but, of course, there are times she will not be there with me and of course my 2 year old son can’t help me just yet!
When faced with writing in public and my wife is not about I tend to use excuses in order to give me time to process exactly what I’m doing. This can be anything from saying the pen is not working, a fake cough, getting a text message etc
All I’m doing its allowing myself a few extra moments so my brain can process the information I need so when I talk / spell the word(s) I don’t look like a fool. To most (if not all) people I do this too they are never any the wiser to my slight delay tactics which allows me to carry on like I have no problems at all spelling / writing words down.
Really it would be nice to just say:
This could take a little longer than normal as I’m Dyslexic and struggle with reading and writing
But as most people will know and understand many people are not that understanding so rather than just being honest I have to cause the delay.
So once in a while I will be out shopping for a card whether this is a birthday card, anniversary or Christmas card but this of course depends on the time of the year. Although a very simple process in theory I’ve twice not made two very silly mistakes by buying the wrong card.
I remember a little while back I was invited to a friends wedding so of course I needed to buy a congratulations on getting married card. I went in to the shop, spent some time finding the card (reading the message inside), bought the card and headed back to the car. It’s at this point my wife (girlfriend at the time) pointed out I had bought a card saying ‘congratulations on your engagement’.
Of course after she pointed out the error I was, if being honest too ashamed to return the card and exchange it for a correct one. Luckily my wife did this as she knows how I get if/when I make a mistake.
The second time I’ve done this was yesterday (Valentines days). Yet again I went to a supermarket, browsed the card section (the correct section) found a card which message inside I liked, bought the card and thought nothing of it. Of course the wife didn’t see the card when I was buying it as it is meant to be a surprise.
However, when I got home and finally wrote the card out the front of the card read ‘Happy Annaversity’ .. oops
This is a problem I find when reading books cards or anything really. For some reason when reading I will sort of ‘skim’ the words I’m reading and replace words with what I ‘think’ should be there. In the case of the valentines card I just replaced Anniversary with Valentines.
This does pose a problem in everyday life but it’s something I need and other dyslexic’s should try to avoid by just simply reading slowly and each word. It will make reading much slower but better to read slow than to buy your wife a Annaversity card on Valentines day!
I’ve already covered slightly how I personally get around spelling but what I didn’t breakdown is how I do actually spell. As you may already know, spelling words and dyslexia do not go very well together so for the record I would like to say:
If you know someone is Dyslexic – Do not ask them to spell something
Once of the hardest / most embarrassing things I have to do is spell a word for someone. The word can be as simple as the first line of my address but just the though of having to spell out loud is very daunting.
Spelling was one of my worst areas and although I’m a lot better now I still struggle with spelling out loud even to the point I try not to spell even if my wife asks me.
To give you an example of how I approach spelling I will offer a few examples:
En-vi-ro-ment = Environment
per-plex-ing = perplexing (actually got this correct)
sy-a-biles = syllables
con-vey-an-sing = Conveyancing
pro-nun-si-ation = pronunciation
As you can see, like most people I will try to break down the word by syllables in order to segment the word in to easy sections thus allowing me to spell the word correctly. Although this works for many what I do struggle with is missing out letters from the word. The other problem is getting the correct pronunciation of the word correct in the first instance.
I guess looking at some of the examples and saying them back to myself I notice that although I will say them correctly and coherently I did not work out that the ‘si’ in pronunciation is actually ‘ci’ but in a random event the same happened with Conveyancing.
The problems I have as shown above should of really been dealt with while still at school but thanks to Harton Comprehensive and Mr Hawkhead (Educational Psychologist) I lacked the ability to learn these things thus struggled (and still do) to spell many different words.
Spelling to Others
If I have to spell a word to other people you will find this is a very long process for a couple of different reasons. If someone said spell ‘Environment’ the the process goes a little like this:
Number 3 is quite hard to explain when writing. When a child first learns the alphabet they learn it in a different sounding way to adults (hopefully you get the idea of what I’m trying to explain). When I spell I still use the child sounding alphabet for a few words that have to really concentrate on spelling as I struggle with the sound of the letters and it just seems easier for me to try and process the word.
This does however leave me seeming even slower than normal when spelling as I have quite a few processes to go through and of course being a adult I do not want to start spelling a word sounding like a 5 year old child.
There is quite a lot of research about using different colour clear plastic sheets over the book / text which will help you when reading or wearing some glasses with coloured lenses.
I’ve not tried either of these but I’ve heard good reports that they do help a dyslexic person to read.
What happens when I read?
When I’m reading a book it’s a very slow process. It’s quite difficult to explain but I struggle with seeing the words and not being able to process the word quick enough in order to read a sentance in a fluid way.
I seem to have a knack at missing out word regardless if I know the word or not and something just add a word in myself because it’s what I think should be there.
Needless to say because of this reading becomes difficult and slow. I never read out loud and even get frustrated when reading to my son. It’s not the easiest part of being dyslexic but you can learn to manage it better without the use of glasses / coloured paper.
Because I do not read very offten it does mean if I pick up a book I will struggle but what I find helps is reading something I truely enjoy. If I am enjoying reading the book in question I find myself ensuring I ‘read’ all the words and end up double checking many of the sentances to see if I did add in a random word or not.
It is important that if you are dyslexic and you want to improve your reading ability you read something you enjoy as without the enjoyment you will put the book down and forget about it thus not helping yourself.
The last book I did read and enjoyed was Derren Brown’s “Trick of the Mind”
It’s not exactly a book which will help you with being dyslexic but because I enjoy watching him on TV (I’ve seen him live too) and find what he does fascinating it did mean I had a keen interest in reading his book. Once I picked up the book I actually found it hard to put down.
Reading the book though I did struggle and it’s at this point you (and I) need to ask someone for some help.
Having someone to just point out where you went wrong, what a word says or means allows you to contine ready with a better understand. It also means you have just learned a new word and if possible, commit it to memory for use at a later date.
By finding something you are interested in, reading about that interest whether in a book or online you will slowly improve your reading ability. It is important to keep trying though as if you stop reading for a while it does set you back (tried and tested).
Understand which way is left and which way is right may come as second nature to many people but with my Dyslexia it is somewhat of a challenge to remember the difference.
As with most things, if I want to learn I have to repeat and rinse, a lot. When learning it’s often very hard to read something, remember what you have read and understand it. At the moment one of the few ways in which I do learn is to repeat it many times until it’s committed to memory. So if I wanted to lean how to spell a new word I would just keep on writing it as often as possible.
Although I will end up being able to spell the word I don’t tend to think about how I am spelling the word I’ll simply type and the word will appear on the screen and I don’t give it a second thought.
So how does this help you understand how to lean left from right? From a early age I always got confused with left and right and sometimes still do. The way I began learning is by association, so I kick the ball with my right foot and write with my left hand.
To this day I still have to think ‘I kick with this foot and it’s my right’ but it’s changed slightly. Where as I would have to think of both associations simple logic tells me that if this is my right foot which I kick with, then of course my other side is my left. It may sound odd to many but this is how I have to think when trying to determine which way to turn.
Of course this has been going on for such a long time if someone asked “do you turn right or left at the junction” the answer is processed within a blink of an eye so you would never know I was actually working out the answer by what seems a long winded approach.
When writing online I of course always have to double check my spelling and it’s the weakest part of my writing. It’s not just the spelling which causes the problem but just simply spelling a word close enough to the correct version can also be difficult.
When I’m typing away on the keyboard, if I have a good idea on how to spell the word I will just write it and then rely on the built in spell checkers to correct any and all mistakes. This will generally work and work well however it has some drawbacks. For example the spell checker will not check on whether a word should be 1 or 2 words.
Talking to a friend this morning he suggested I add in a category called ‘workaround’ which of course makes sense as it’s how I basically function however, as soon as he said it I thought to myself “is that actually 1 word or 2″. Apart from spelling normally these are some of the things I always have to consider when writing.
To show an example of how I struggle to spell and how I overcome this I’ve decided to pick a hard work to spell and this is my unedited version of the word:
Now of course I’m trying to spell temperature and for this example the spell checker would pick up this error and correct it. If however I didn’t get close to the spelling the spell checker will not actually give me the correct spelling which then leaves me with the problem of writing down the correct word.
If I get to the point where the spell checker is not giving me a suggestion which ‘looks’ right then I have to come up with another idea to get the correct word/spelling and this is where Google.co.uk comes to my aid.
As you may (or may not) know when you search for something in Google it will automatically correct your spelling, so for example if I wa to search for temperature again this is what I get:
As you can see on the above image it will correct your spelling which at times does come in very useful. You do have to be careful in doing this though as you have to remember the differences with US spelling and UK spelling and the fact we use multiple words which will sound the same, be spelt similar to each other but will have different meanings.
Google can also be useful if you don’t actually have any idea on how to spell the word, you just have to be inventive.
If I was struggling to spell temperature and my attempt was so poor that when running the spell check it didn’t give me a option, it would mean that the spelling was so bad the built in software within Word / WordPress is not going to help but alas Google can still be used.
To get the spelling from Google I would simply think about the word ‘temperature’ and what relates to it, so within Google I would simply start writing:
When you start searching within Google it will offer it’s own suggestions on what you would like to search for, so in my case by typing ‘weather tem’ I get the following suggestions:
As you can see the first option is the correct spelling of the word temperature so from this point I would simply select the search then copy / paste the correct spelling to my document.
Although not perfect this does allow me to write the way I want to regardless of how complicated the spelling might be.
The key to getting this to work though (if the spell checker will not give you the correct spelling / suggestion) is being able to use Google to search for your word without you having to type in the actual word. There is always a search which will bring up a word without you having to type it in, you just have to think slightly outside the box.