Homeadults with learning disabilities“You write so well! I had no idea you were dyslexic.”

I’ve gotten the comment in the subject line a number of times before. Others include, “But if you’re dyslexic, how can you read?”, “I thought dyslexics always had problems reading or writing.” or “You’re can’t be dyslexic! Where are the mispellings?”

These comments are usually from well intentioned people who are simply unaware of what dyslexia
entails.

Even though I’m pretty open about being dyslexic and share my writing when I’m ready to, I still find
myself a bit taken aback by those comments sometimes. After some thought, I’ve figured out a few things to tell these folks.

Neurological Makeups Are Unpredictable

Not all of my first drafts involve this many yellow highlights
or red lines when I hit the spell check button.

When it comes to any neurodiverse category, it seems that it has its unpredictable moments. With dyslexia and sensory issues, there are good days and bad days.

On good days, I can read and write easily. Those days, I’m usually well rested, healthy and under minimal stress. The coping mechanisms that had been ingrained in my from early on work properly, and although I’m still slower than someone without dyslexia, I can do what I need to without many errors.

There are always bad days, though. Those days, I can’t seem to string three or more words together in any way that makes sense, and forget about spelling or reading. Those days are a little more unpredictable, because they tend to reflect what’s going on with my life at the time. Maybe there’s too much noise around, there’s something wrong with the font I’m trying to read or I’m burnt out. Maybe there’s just too much stress for me to function well.

It’s not something that can be predicted one hundred percent of the time.

Spectrum
Although the idea of a spectrum is better known by far in the world of autism, it also holds true for other types of wiring.

Unfortunately, dyslexia and other LDs are portrayed as being the same across the board, which is completely untrue.

Life is complicated, as are the people who live it. That’s why there’s a range of how much dyslexia effects a person’s ability to process certain information.

While I may still have trouble with left/right, others don’t. Some people with similar backgrounds in my age group have extreme trouble reading, because their dyslexia effects them more profoundly in that area.

It’s important to remember that although there may be similarities in how a neurology may effect a group, no two people are ever exactly alike.

With dyslexia, it’s also a question of time. I know many adults who weren’t afforded the early accommodation many dyslexics were, because their teachers and other authority figures in their lives didn’t know what was going on with them. For that reason, they may not be as good with the written word as a dyslexic individual who had the necessary help early on.

Our skill levels may be different, but we’re all equal in our humanity. All people who are struggling deserve patience, accommodation and kindness.

Behind the Scenes

My cursive isn’t much different now, but
this assignment is a reminder of how much work
went into the act of writing.

Part of what gets me about the comments I’ve gotten in regards to writing is how much they imply writing is simple. This may have to do with the fact that most people tend to take the finished product at face value instead of thinking about everything behind it’s formation.

I rarely, if ever, share what I write before going over it at least twice. Even neurotypical writers face the same basic workload. Things like grammar and spelling do matter, but so do structure, flow and a number of other things. While I might have more basic errors, they usually get taken care of when I proofread and edit before posting or submitting.

It doesn’t matter what the individual is creating, the materials are always raw at the start. Only through skill, practice, effort and determination do they transform into what the creator wants them to become.

We’re people first and our labels later.

A Note on Choice
Another comment I see floating around now and then is, “It’s so ironic that you’re a writer AND dyslexic!”

No. Irony has nothing to do with it.

My two great intellectual loves in life are stories and learning. I get just as lost in a good story as I do in an interesting subject, regardless of format. Because my dyslexia helps me look at the world a little differently than the majority, I also enjoy connecting the two when I can.

When you keep those ideas in mind, it’s not surprising that I worked hard to get a mastery of reading and writing. For me, the evolution from writing consumer to writing producer was natural. If visual art, acting or film had been my passions, I would have honed skills in those fields instead.

That comment reduces me to nothing but my dyslexia, and implies that I have no choice of what to do with my life.  It’s like telling an accomplished musician who may be missing a finger, “You’re so lucky to know how to play so well!”

While they may have been lucky enough to get certain opportunities, odds are, they made the conscious choice to dedicate countless hours to practice with their instrument, drills and learning how to read music. While they may have had talent in music, they may also have talent in something like carpentry or data entry. The difference is, they chose to concentrate on music, rather than another skill.

The fact they’re missing a finger may pose a challenge, but it has little to do with their passion.

So, I don’t see any irony between dyslexia and being a writer. It took hard work to get to where I am now, and the hard work continues. It also took a lot of toil, planning and budgeting to get to a place where I can dedicate enough time to hone my skills while keeping up with personal obligations.

Again: person first, label later.

When I get hit with these comments, I don’t tend to get angry, unless they’re delivered with the intention to wound. It’s no secret that there’s still an embarrassing amount of misinformation and stigma floating around out there. It impacts education, work and almost all areas of life.

As frustrating as it may be, the majority is more than likely acting out of ignorance than any malintent. That’s also vital to keep in mind. Not everyone may want to listen to what you have to say, but those who do may turn into good friends and supporters.


Comments

“You write so well! I had no idea you were dyslexic.” — 4 Comments

  1. Thank you for writing this!! Thank you Thank you Thank you. I am also dyslexic and you have encapsulated my thoughts when hearing similar comments. Good days/ bad days, willingness to dedicate the time it takes for us to produce what we see fit to share, and dedication to hone a skill that may not come naturally. I believe my communication skills to be well rounded but I had to and continue to hone the written communication piece due to being dyslexic. I will say now that for every one dyslexic that flies in the face of it's challenges, there are most likely 9 more who have been beaten down by the ignorance of those who do not understand and believe themselves to dumb. We will continue to raise dyslexia awareness to change this! Thank you!!! Kristin

  2. You're very welcome, and thank you for the great comment!

    I agree completely that the majority of dyslexics still end up getting beaten down by ignorance and resultant poor treatment. One of these days, I'll do an entry about some of the very real consequences that can, and all too often do, result.

    Dyslexia awareness is definitely a first step! 🙂

  3. I was not diagnosed with dyslexia because the school district that I was in did not acknowledge most LDs. My mom diagnosed me and taught me how to read because no one else can. Even though I have improved since grade school I still have a hard time spelling, prof reading my work, and know what is the right word. I am hope to go back to school in a year but I want this to all improve so I can feel I can succeed on my own. Do you have any suggestions on how I could improve?

    • If you’re going back to school, I highly suggest getting an official evaluation, so their disability department can help you out. I’m actually in the midst of doing that myself, since I’ll be going back in August. All of my old school records were destroyed, due to the fact I graduated high school over 10 years ago, so I need a new evaluation. It’s important to look at accommodation just as a way to even the proverbial playing field, since our brains work differently than most students’.

      In the meantime, I would practice writing as much as I could, if I were you. I break writing down into distinct steps to make it a little less overwhelming: 1. Just getting words on the page, regardless of spelling or if they’re correct, 2. Walk away for a while, 3. Run spellcheck, 4. Read through carefully and look for things that don’t look right, 5. Run spellcheck again in case my edits aren’t spelled right, 6. Repeat step 4. It sounds like a lot of work, and I guess it is, but it gets easier the more you do it. There’s no shame in getting someone else to read over your work and give you feedback before submitting it. In fact, when I was still in school, teachers told everyone in the class to do that.

      I’d also suggest picking a copy of A Writer’s Reference up. The linked edition is newer than mine, but it should be just as helpful, if not moreso than mine is. That book has grammar rules, advice on when to use which word properly and a whole bunch of other things writers struggle with.

      If you haven’t already, check out understood.org for resources, too. That’s a fantastic site for LD related information.

      Best of luck!!

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