HomechildrenChild to Adult: My Dyslexic Writing Story

This morning, I’m a bit torn between the belated Topic Tuesday prompt from Spectrum Bloggers Network, “Children”, and the prompt from BlogHer’s NaBloPoMo for today, “Do you feel nourished or drained by the act of writing?”

The more I thought about both of these topics, the more I realized how intertwined they are in my personal life. Being dyslexic, writing has always been a bit of a mixed bag for me.

As a young child, I was always noticing new things. Before I started speaking, I viewed the world with wide, bright eyes. Every time I saw something new, I’d point at it and utter, “Datdatdat!” Apparently, the first time I noticed the way a cash register’s drawer popped open, I leaned way over to get a better look and cooed, “Ooooohhh” loudly enough for the other people in the area to chuckle.

That must have startled me or something, because I started crying.

Like all kids, I guess I was a cute one. Then I grew up and there went the cuteness factor.

I was preverbal when those stories took place, so I don’t remember them firsthand. I have few fuzzy memories before kindergarten, like watching sunlight creep across my bedroom floor when I was sick, but I do remember how difficult it was learning how to write in early elementary school. I vaguely remember thinking it was fun at first, drawing the strange shapes that made letters and numbers.

It was a rude surprise when I discovered how hard it was to keep them going in the right direction, and horrible figuring out which sequence they should go in. Spelling was awful. It still is, some days.

I needed help learning how to properly hold a pencil, too, so I got to use one of those nifty plastic pencil grips early on. I thought the ones that curved to easily fit my little fingers were pretty neat, though I hated the triangular ones.

I would have loved these pencil grips when I was a kid. The ones I had weren’t as colorful.
by Aprilyn Podd, [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Flickr

In those early days, writing was a nightmare. It drained me terribly, and the tests discouraged me to no end. I used to dread getting those red covered papers back.

First grade was horrible for me. Part of it was because I spent the first half in a terrible school, taught by a teacher who genuinely disliked me.

We moved halfway through the year, and I got put into a class taught by a tough lady. Her name was Mrs. Wood, and she was big in personality and body. It didn’t take much to intimidate me back then, and she did the job well. Later, I realized she was actually rather fond of me, and most of my fear was based in misunderstanding.

She recognized that I was fighting not to drown under the pressures of being the new kid, difficulties at home and an obvious learning problem, but I don’t think she knew how to best address it. What seemed like punishments at the time, like moving my desk up next to hers in the front of the class, were actually her attempts to help me.

Needless to say, I wasn’t happy when I had her again for fourth grade math. I wish I could have understood her motives better at the time. She passed away a few years ago, so I’ll never be able to pass on my belated gratitude.

Anyway, writing used to drain me. Throughout elementary school and partially through middle school, I didn’t care for it. Attempting to write tired me out, but I always enjoyed reading. So long as I wasn’t tested on the material, I’d devour as many books as I could.

It didn’t matter what they were about, either. I’d lose myself in Nancy Drew mysteries while reading a science text on the side, with a book about mythology on deck. Oddly, one of my favorite summer books in middle school was a college text about neurology and brain structure. It took me a while to puzzle out the long words, but I got a good understanding of what it said different parts of the brain did and how they worked.

So long as I could read at my own pace, books were my best friends.

The writing bug took root in high school. By then, I’d learned enough about how to cope with my dyslexia to enjoy letting my ideas flow onto paper. The advent of spell check wasn’t a bad thing, either.

Comics helped a lot with that, too. Their fusion of visual art and textual story lines helped hone my visual thinking skills, and it wasn’t a stretch to see the way characters move in my mind.

As for today? Writing is usually nourishing, but I’ve discovered a tendency to get burned out on it. I don’t know if this happens to people without dyslexia, but if I write too much for too many days in a row, I have to take a break.

Spelling gets worse than it already is, words don’t come, I seem to forget everything I’ve learned about grammar and, if I push too hard, I start having trouble with speaking. If I’m not careful, migraines pop up. Sleep, housework and creative pursuits unrelated to words usually remedy that. It’s weird, but I guess that’s just a part of my dyslexic experience.

It’s like eating turkey. Consuming enough satisfies me and gives me energy, but too much will knock me out.

Looking back on my writing journey, I can see why children, especially those with dyslexia, should be taught in accordance to their passions and interests. When it came to simple mechanics of the act, I struggled terribly. Once I got to the point of complexity, though, I understood it all.

Perhaps I’m not quite on point here, but it seems that part of why so many kids struggle in school is because they aren’t invested enough in the material. Perhaps if they were taught some more of the why behind the rules of grammar and spelling, they’d have an easier time learning how to follow them?

I don’t know. I’m not a teacher or anything. I’m just someone thinking about an issue and tossing ideas out there.

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