Monday, 29 August 2011

Dyslexia - An Analogy

You know the theory that an infinite number of monkeys with an infinite period of time will eventually produce The Complete Works of Shakespeare? Well dyslexia is not quite that arduous  – but I am finding academic study very difficult. It’s a bit like this.

Imagine you have a nail – a long, sharp strong nail. Then imagine that you have an equally strong perfectly sound hammer.  Your task is to hammer the nail into a perfectly ordinary piece of pine. You understand the task. Are motivated and determined to do it.

But you hammer at the nail for five minutes and it has barely penetrated the wood. You are trying your hardest but it just won’t go in. Then someone else comes along with an identical nail, an identical hammer and proceeds to hammer the nail into the same piece of pine in moments with ease.

Several hours later your nail is looking worn, the wood bears the scars from the constant onslaught. There is some progress but you are confused as to why it is so difficult. You feel frustrated and exhausted. Your confidence is battered because you did the same task with identical results yesterday, and the day before and the day before that…

That is what dyslexia feels like.

This may seem like a trite analogy but if we get non-dyslexics to understand what it is like and we can share strategies to help then it is worth analogy.

On the plus side we may be especially creative!
I only discovered I was dyslexic a couple of months before my 50th birthday. So I went through school, college and a degree wondering why it was all so difficult. I am interested in hearing about other people's experiences of dyslexia particularly the more postive aspects of dyslexia associated with imagination and creativity. I welcome your comments.
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  1. iopjd pidvji0-psw!

    Just kidding. Deborah - I didn't know you were dyslexic. Since you didn't know either, I guess you'll forgive me...

    It must at least be a relief to know why you have found certain things difficult all your life.

    Mark X

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  4. Have you seen 'Don't Call Me Stupid'? It's a documentary about an actor with dyslexia... Part of the programme discusses how dyslexic people tend to lose things a lot, which was eerily familiar!

  5. That sounds familiar to me too, although last night I found £40 that I had lost at some point in the that was a nice surprise!

    I undertook an Arts Foundation course a few years ago at Leeds College of Art. When writing my final essay, for which I got a 2.1, I was told by my tutor at the time (Rebecca Kill) that if I got my sentence structure sorted out I would be getting 1st's on my degree course, neither of us knew at that point that I may be Dyslexic.

    I went on to University in Scotland and in my final year I decided to go to student support and ask to be tested for Dyslexia. I went along and, amongst other things, was given sequences of numbers to add up, I was sent away as I was told that they had never seen anyone add them up so quickly. I left University with what I considered to be a disappointing 2.1.

    Five years later I went to The Dyslexia Institute in Leeds and the tests showed that I had very poor working memory, illegible handwriting and struggled to spell certain words. My poor working memory makes it difficult not to lose things and organise myself as easily as I would like, I also have difficulty cross referencing especially on a computer as I need to be able to see everything laid out. It's a bit like having a set of drawers with different items in each drawer, I can't remember where the articles in each drawer are, I need all the drawers open at the same time.

    Often I will be very organised so that I don't forget or lose track and then usually I don't remember I have been that organised and go through the proccess all over again further down the can be exhausting. Oh, and when I trype ob comtputer without going back obeer erry wrod it ccan look like this and that is relly timem comsuming, this is becuase I can type faster than i can process information.

    There are positives to not being 'Lexic' though, my Dys-lexia test showed strengths in certain areas. It showed that I have a perfect visual memory and very good de-coding ability, this means that I know when words and phrases are incorrect (I can also recognise actors in heavy character makeup on the television when others can't...i'm not sure how useful this is but it can be fun!) My reading ability is higher than average for anyone regardless of whether they be 'lexic' or Dyslexic. I have good 'muscle memory' and this is useful when doing physical activity such as driving, sport, dancing etc. And I am a creative thinker, perhaps no more so than a 'Lexic' but no less either.

    We respond to different learning styles depending on what suits us as individuals and until the education system puts something in place to accommodate this, a large percentage of children and adults who don't fit the mold will miss out on a fully rounded education and possibly be labelled 'other'.

    This 'otherness' will exist as long as the education system insists on working from an outmoded model which we still try and adapt to in an age when a completely new system would make more sense. Why try and fit a square peg into a round hole when we could start with a round hole. The world is changing rapidly and we need to change with it. No longer are we required to have one skill for life, society is demanding that we have a broad adaptable skills base and that we think much more creatively than we were expected to when the education system was put in place in this country.

    if you are interested in reading more on the subject of Education and Creativity, take a look at the book listed below.

    The Element-Ken Robinson-Element Books.

    Thanks for reading my comments.
    Elaine Barrow.

  6. Hi Deborah,

    I went all though school, collage and the first two years of university before my beautiful friend Jane (a fellow dancer and dyslexic) told me I should be tested for dyslexia.
    the dyslexia testing lady told me I was really cleaver which came as a surprise as academicly id always been average at best. down to my spelling which was below average and the fact that I can only ever really absorb little chuncks of information into my short term working memory making it hard to learn in the class room environment.
    My twin sister always found learning easier but cant do any of the stuff I can do with a sewing machine, needle , crochet hook... I wouldn't give up my dyslexia and get the 2:1 / 1st I probably would have got had I not been dyslexic if it meant loosing my creativity even though the real world is very frustrating as a dyslexic.
    one thing that I find really interesting is the amount of friends I have that are also dyslexic even before I was diagnosed I always gravitated to the creative type most of whom happen to be dyslexic...

    Cassandra x