Dyslexia Explained

John Berrill

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Dyslexia is a word you hear floating around a lot “oh how dyslexic am I?” “Did you ever hear about the dyslexic pimp?” “Dyslexics of the world UNTIE!” But do you know what dyslexia actually is? Dyslexia’s simplest definition is: a specific learning difficulty that makes it hard for some people to learn to read, write and spell correctly.

There are more complex definitions that use words like “blockage”, “neurological” and “behavioural” but at its core dyslexia is a learning disability that effects how an individual learns.

So what does having dyslexia actually mean? Well the best way I can try and describe it is this:

Imagine that all learning is going for a walk; a non-dyslexic will go for a walk and get to their destination in the most direct way possible. They will put one foot in front of the other and go from A to B with little or no hassle.

Now someone with dyslexia taking this walk will do something differently, they’ll take the “scenic” route instead of the most direct one. Not because they choose to, it’s because the direct route is blocked for them. A dyslexic will eventually get to their destination but they would have arrived at it, a different often and often more time consuming way. It doesn’t mean that a person with dyslexia has less intelligence; they simply have a different viewpoint of the world. And therefore take longer to travel form A to B (also constantly confusing b with d leads to it’s own set of problems)

Schools, colleges and work places these days all seem to have a certain grasp of the definition of dyslexia. But that has not always been the case. The definition of dyslexia it self is only relatively new.

Go back to merely 25 years ago and children with undiagnosed cases of dyslexia where seen as “lazy” and “stupid”.

Sharon Walsh is the mother of 3 children, all of whom have dyslexia.
Sharon is a self-diagnosed dyslexic. I asked here what where her days in school like and how did she cope being undiagnosed.

She said that “school was very tough, I had so much trouble with the simplest of things. Spellings I just couldn’t grasp, Irish was gibberish to me and general study did me little or no benefit.”

Sharon also said that the attitude of her parents and teachers towards her education lead to some “discomfort”.

“I always remember being told that I wasn’t trying hard enough and that I was being lazy, I was always compared to my younger sister who was generally a wiz kid. To be honest I just felt stupid and sorry for myself, even when I tried my best studying and trying to please my parents and teachers I was told what I was doing still wasn’t good enough. That was heart breaking, being constantly told that my best was below par, it lead to me leaving school just before my leaving cert”.

Even today being undiagnosed can seriously hinder a person with dyslexia, I myself am dyslexic and I was diagnosed later than most children, but still early enough that it didn’t effect me negatively. I used to be told that I “could do better” and I just “was not putting in the work”. Some teachers even went on record saying that I wasn’t dyslexic, that I just wasn’t trying and that I just needed to “buck up and catch up”.

(15)As I said when I was diagnosed I was a little older than most but I was still young enough that it didn’t hinder me all that much, but being dyslexic and going to special grinds lead me to meet children who where only recently diagnosed, some of these children where in there late teens.

Being undiagnosed for so long meant that they just couldn’t keep up, they constantly failed exams and began acting out and skipping class.

I remember one student in particular, his name was Damien, he always acted out, he refused to do work, he hardly showed up for class and even when he did attend he just couldn’t keep up.

On one particular day in a religion class he did attend. He showed all the tell tale signs of an undiagnosed dyslexic.

In fairness to him he was trying to act accordingly. He sat down the back and tried not distract anyone around him. That was of course until the teacher had asked Damien to read.

Damien first protested, he really did not want to read, the teacher however insisted. Damien gave in and began to read. He would get stuck on a word, or skip a sentence or misread something and the teacher would correct him. This happened a few times, and in between Damien would stop and ask “can I stop now?”, he was told to keep going until eventually he, for lack of a better word, “blew a casket” and the end result was that Damien was expelled.

Children born today are lucky because they will be diagnosed a lot sooner then children that have come before them .

So if you yourself are dyslexic and are worried about the likes of school or college, don’t fret because you will be helped and allowances will be made.

If you know someone who is dyslexic show them support, offer to proof read their stuff and just give them a hand in generally and as a return you’ll get to use gems like:

“dyslexics are teople poo” (oh how you’ll laugh for hours…).

Wow this was a serious post! Help lighten it up by posting the best dyslexia jokes you can think of below.

 

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John Berrill