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Men's bathrooms, spellcheckers, and acrobatic letters: seeing things the dyslexic way.
cap, captain miss america
teaberryblue
I didn't know I was dyslexic when I was a kid. And I don't know if that was good or bad for me. As a child, I also had a speech impediment, and that was picked up on when I was very little-- because people can't tell what you see in your head, and you don't know that it's different enough to tell them it's wrong, but if you talk like Daffy Duck, people will notice. I went to free in-school speech therapy and when two years of that did absolutely nothing, I went to a private therapist, which did work, but that's a different story. There are ways in which I think my life has been improved by my dyslexia, and ways in which I think my life could be better without it.

I preface this by saying that if you are interested in knowing more about dyslexia or think you might have it, there are a number of different ways it manifests, and my experience with it isn't going to be everyone's experience. But I find that every now and then, people ask me what it is like, and I thought it would be helpful to talk about what I see.

My dyslexia takes the form of a disorder where the orientation of shapes and images is not static.

The best way to explain this is like this:

Suppose there is a lowercase "p." Suppose I look at it four different times.
Instead of seeing:


p
p
p
p



I might see:


p
b
d
q



Here's another example, something that happens to me in real life all the time. Let's say you're in a restaurant and the doors to the restrooms say "M" and "W."

I might look at them and see "M" and "M" or "W" and "W." Or even "W" and "M."

For most of my life, people just thought I had a really bad sense of direction. I was a verbally-gifted enough kid that my dyslexia never slowed me down with reading-- now that I'm an adult, you would notice a significant difference in my reading speed versus my friends' reading speed, but as a kid, my vocabulary and word recognition compensated for my cognitive issue. No one realized that something was slowing me down because I was so good at the other things you need to be good at to read. But once the other kids caught up with me in those things, it became more apparent that I was a slower reader. Still, people just chalked this up to me being a more *careful* reader.

It did affect my writing-- a lot of my early writing was mirrored. I honestly have no idea why that didn't tip anyone off. And this is a little secret they don't tell you about dyslexics-- I can read backward as adeptly as I can read forward, because it all looks the same to me. So yes, I read more slowly than you do when we're reading something written forward, but if you give me mirror writing, I will read it at pretty much the same speed.

One thing that is a really big misconception about dyslexia that I often hear is the whole, "well, why don't you just proofread/spellcheck?" Because, my dear little pumpkins, proofreading doesn't work if you're dyslexic. Sometimes words that are spelled right will look mispelled to you. And spellcheck will totally underline words that are spelled wrong...but you might see the underline as if it is under a totally different word

But, Tea, you might ask, why is your spelling so impeccable?

1) I work at it.

2) As a dyslexic, it is even harder for me to read things other people write if they are misspelled, for what I hope are obvious reasons. So I am aware of the difficulty it presents to read mispelled words. This means I work really hard to spell correctly.

3) I have a really good aural memory and sense of etymology. Etymology is really useful for a dyslexic because thinking of words as chunks or etymons rather than distinct letters means there is less to flip. I also say a lot of what I am spelling out loud when I am having trouble.

4) My dyslexia is not as bad as other people's! I know other dyslexics who simply can't keep the letters pointing in the same direction long enough to put words together. It's like their letters are getting blown around by a wind machine!

Dyslexia also-- and this is the thing that a lot of people don't realize about dyslexia-- affects the way I see things that don't appear on paper. If I'm looking in front of me, I might think the things that are on my left are on my right, and vice-versa. As a kid, I could never tell my left from my right. It's not that I didn't know which was left and which was right, it's that I couldn't see which was left and which was right. People tried to teach me the easy "Hold out your thumb and your forefinger" trick. If you don't know this trick, it's one where if you hold out your thumb and your forefinger on each hand, the one on your left hand is an L and the one on your right hand is a backward L. But guess what? That doesn't work for someone who sees an L and a flipped-L as the same letter!

So this means that sometimes I will turn in the wrong direction on a street. It also means that it takes me too long to figure out which way to go when I am driving a car, which is the biggest part of why I don't drive. There have been too many times when I have overshot turns because it takes me that much longer to process which way to go== one time I knocked down the Jesus in front of a church! I felt terrible!

The thing about dyslexia is that it doesn't translate to the sense of touch. So if a letter is raised, I can touch it and tell what letter it is. It also means that once I had a keyboard memorized, I could type very well. Looking at the keyboard, the keys all jump around on me, but if I am not looking at the keyboard I am a fast and accurate typist because my hands know where they letters I want to touch are located. I actually have a harder time typing if I look at the keys than I do if I look away. If I can't tell what direction something is in, I can reach out and touch something and figure it out. My mom used to think my spatial sensibilities were whacked out, or that maybe I was just daydreaming too much and not paying attention to my surroundings.

I think that is the extent of things I can think of telling you all about what it is like to be dyslexic. I don't think it is all impairments-- I think it has some benefits, too, at least for me. But people often ask and I thought it would be nice to share. If anyone has any other questions about dyslexia-- at least my dyslexia and the way it affects me, please feel free to ask and I would be happy to answer.