When most people think of dyslexia they think it is reading numbers and letters backwards or scrambled. And that is part of it. But it is much more than that too.
When I went looking on the internet for a definition of dyslexia that I thought summed it up I really couldn't find one. They were all very vague. The closest I got to a good definition was this:
A learning disorder marked by impairment of the ability to recognize and comprehend written words. -American Heritage Dictionary
But I really felt drawn to this description:
Dyslexic people are visual, multi-dimensional thinkers. We are intuitive and highly creative, and excel at hands-on learning. Because we think in pictures, it is sometimes hard for us to understand letters, numbers, symbols, and written words. - Ron Davis of The Davis Dyslexia Association International
No, it is not all the positives I'm drawn to in that definition but the last sentence that says it is hard for us to understand letters, numbers, symbols and words. So many definitions make it sound like it is just about reading and it is not. Not for me, anyway. I'll switch whole words around making the sentence mean something completely different than what was actually written. I'll cut other words in half making the sentence confusing. Other times I just won't understand the meaning of the sentence until I slow down and read it two or three times.
Growing up I never believed I had dyslexia. My mom (who also has dyslexia) had told me a few times (very nonchalant-like) that I had it and she worked with me on slowing down my reading and writing so that I didn't have as many problems as another dyslexic might. I got all B's and C's (a few A's in art/English/gym) in school and my dyslexia pretty much went unnoticed. The only classes I really struggled in were Chemistry and Geometry (well, and probably History as well). I knew what I was doing, but with all of the written steps somewhere along the way I would switch some numbers around and always get the answers wrong. I think I just barely passed both of those classes.
Against my pleading my mom had told my Geometry teacher that I had dyslexia and he was wonderful and supportive. He told me I could take all the tests after school so that they wouldn't be timed, and that I could have all the extra tutelage I needed. I refused. My silly pride not only didn't believe I actually had dyslexia but also did not wanted special treatment.
The first time I knew I had dyslexia came when I was 19 years old. I was looking for a full time job to keep me busy until the waiting list was over for the nursing program I wanted to get into. I applied at a bank and they informed me that I was hired. All I had to do was take a dyslexia test and then I could start on the following Monday.
I went in to the bank to take the test the next morning. I sat down at the desk and was told the test was being timed. I was handed a sheet of paper with two very long columns on. It looked like this,
9i3lse 9i3esl same or different
jd5w6 jd5w6 same or different
nvdx4 nxvd4 same or different
but all the way down the page. I was to take a glance at the numbers and then circle the corresponding same or different appropriately.
I looked at it and thought, "Easy!" I matched my fingers up and read each column carefully as I went down the paper. I didn't quite make it all the way through the columns when my time was up. I handed the paper over and went home satisfied. That was so easy!
The next day I got a call from the human resources director. He nervously told me that they had scored my test and I failed. Miserably. I could tell he was having a very hard time telling me just how poorly I had done. He probably thought that he was giving me brand new life changing information. I remember feeling badly for him having to "break" the news to me. He kept saying he was sorry, but the results weren't even close to what they should be. They couldn't hire me.
I hung up the phone and let out a stunned chuckle. I guess I had always thought my mom was being dramatic. How is it possible that someone with dyslexia could make it through school as well as I did? Why didn't any of my teachers ever notice? What other jobs would I be turned away from because of this? Should I even consider going in to nursing now? I just didn't know what to do next. I knew nothing had really changed but I still felt a little differently. Clearly there are levels of dyslexia and I was not on the completely debilitating end nor was I on the barely recognizable end. I was somewhere in the middle.
The following week I had another interview. This one was at a credit union. I went, and this time I was nervous. I was really scared that they would give me a dyslexia test and that I would be turned away from this job as well.
As it turned out they did not give me the test and I was hired as a teller. I worked there for one year as a teller and my cash drawer was never off despite working more drives than everyone else. I worked my way over to the loan department as a processor and then a loan officer. I then moved on to a larger banking company as a mortgage loan processor/underwriter. After Todd and I got married I wanted a job in the city where we lived so I found a job as a personal banker. When my current job heard that I was leaving they begged me to stay and bent over backwards to find me a position at one of the branches where I lived. They made me a supervisor and assistant branch manager. To this day they still ask me if I would consider coming back as branch manager.
Needless to say, I thrived. And after working flawlessly with numbers for 8 years I got my confidence back. I knew that I could do anything I wanted to, just in a different way than everyone else. The feeling of being "less than" had finally faded.
Having dyslexia really doesn't affect me in a big way. There are things here and there that need some attention, but nothing drastic. Some examples of my amusing little quips with dyslexia:
- When I was in 1st grade the teacher was helping us learn our left hand from our right hand. She told us to make a fist with our hands and then stick out our thumbs and index fingers. The hand that makes an L is your left hand. I remember thinking she was nuts. They were both L's! To this day they still both look like L's. To know my left from my right I always told myself that I write with my right. That helped.
- For some goofy reason my mom and dad always had cutesy word play games with each other. A whole bunch of words or phrases that they said mixed up or backwards. I don't know if they did this to "make fun" of my mom's dyslexia but they always enjoyed themselves with it. For instance, they used to call a cup of coffee a coff a cuppee. To this day I still have to think really hard about which way is the correct way. Even writing that down just now was difficult.
- There are times when I get really mad at a commercial that has a logo or catchphrase that doesn't make any sense. I'll go on and on about how stupid the commercial is until Todd stops me and says, "Um. That's not what it said." And then I'll realize I read it completely wrong. Dur.
- Sometimes when someone tells me to go left I'll go right and vice versa. It can be really annoying when I'm driving.
- There are times when I forget how to spell the easiest words like, "can" or "use". It is crazy. In my mind I KNOW that it is an easy word and that I know it, but I just can't think of how to spell it.
- Same thing with actually writing a word out. Sometimes I will write or type a word out and it will just look so wrong to me. Is "kind" really spelled "k-i-n-d"? It just doesn't look right. And yet when I spell check or ask someone else, sure enough, it is right.
- If I come across a word that I am unfamiliar with it takes me a fair amount of time to figure out what the word is and what it means. I really have to stop, sound it out slowly in my head, and then put it all together. I think this is why I've always had a difficult time reading proper English like Shakespeare and Jane Austin. It is exhausting.
- When reading I'll chop words in half and make it a totally different word in my mind. For instance, just recently the word was romantic and I read Roman. Yep. Capitalized and everything. Very strange. Sometimes I'll even chop a sentence in half and combine it with another sentence further down the page. It almost feels like the words are jumping or moving around the page. I do this all the time when I am trying to read too fast or if I've been reading for a long time. It almost seems as though my eyes aren't working together and are not coordinating. I really need to concentrate when I'm reading.
- That said, I'm not that slow of a reader. Probably just a bit slower than average. However, I am married to a super speed reader. When we went in for our premarriage counseling we were given a 200 question compatibility test to take to see if there were any areas we needed to work on. Todd was done in about 25 minutes. It took me well over an hour.
- Many people who have dyslexia have a difficult time memorizing facts or information that has not been experienced. Dates can be a problem. Memorizing a large volume of text can be near impossible for some with dyslexia. I don't seem to have this problem as I never had any trouble memorizing my lines for plays or musicals, and memorizing music has always come naturally to me. However, do not ask me to sight read. My lack of ability to sight read is one of the reasons I knew I would never pursue a career in singing. It is near impossible for me to watch the notes and the words and put them together to make sense. However, if you play the song for me once or twice I am able to pick it up very quickly.
- I recently found out that some of my verbal "stutters" are from dyslexia as well. I just thought I was talking too fast. But there are so many times when I am talking and I get stuck on a word and have to stop, clear my mouth out (bluh, bluh, bluh), and then keep going. It isn't stuttering, per say, but more like jumbling my words. I noticed that Jay Leno did it quite often in his monologues (he has dyslexia too) and I looked into it. Apparently, it is very common for people with dyslexia. I had always laughed it off before as me being a bit too excited, but it all makes sense now.
- Dyslexia, to me, almost feels like my brain is trying to work too fast and then skips a beat or two and scrambles up. Almost like when you would play a cassette tape and the tape player would eat the tape making that werrble-werrble-whoop sound. If dyslexia had a sound that would just about sum it up to me. Werrble-werrble-whoop!
So. Why am I telling you all of this? Well, in the past few weeks I have made some errors while reading blogs and I made some comments that didn't really make sense. I think it gave off the impression that I wasn't really reading the blogs or paying attention. I tried to clear it up and say, oops, and move on but it has been bothering me. I don't want anyone thinking I am being flippant about any of their posts and I don't want anyone to think I'm a complete idiot either. I'm kind of embarrassed about it. This isn't an excuse. Just an explanation, I guess. Probably more for me than anything else.
It is really strange that I am pouring all of this out in a post, actually. I have mentioned it in prior memes before and was unnerved even doing that. I have gone back and forth about whether to even post this. You see, most of my family and friends have no idea I am dyslexic. I just don't talk about it. When I have told people about it I have never gone in to detail. It is usually just a "I have dyslexia" and that is the end of the story. Even Todd has not gotten much detail.
So anyway. More than you really ever cared to know about me or dyslexia, but I just wanted to clear that up. Blogging has been so much fun for me, but it is also very challenging. I want to get to everyone's posts and in order to do so I try to read a bit faster than I normally would. Unfortunately, when I do that I make more errors. But I am reading, and I am concentrating! I promise!