Warning: deliberate emotional rant ahead. Its about the ‘dyslexic’s don’t exist’ article. Admittedly there is probably some spin going on to sell papers, so I am not going to make a comment about the particular article. You can read it yourself if you wish at the address below. My rant really is to put a view of someone on the other end…one who ‘suffers’ (I use the term loosely) with dyslexia, so as to help people who don’t have it understand a little bit more.
There’s no real way of being able to respond on large scales to articles like the one below because the newspapers don’t listen to small people. However, if you find what i write here useful, then feel free to share it and add your comments to the discussion at the end of this post.
Read the article that this rant refers to here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2570977/PETER-HITCHENS-Dyslexia-not-disease-It-excuse-bad-teachers.html
Right, so there is a lot of debate. Lets start from a place of experience, mine.
1) I struggle with dyslexia. But not words: numbers (dyscalculia) is what I struggle with. Words are generally fine unless there are some very complex things going on. I struggle with words when i have to read them out loud, though, too much processing going on. You’ll notice it most when i am reading the bible in church out loud, or reading liturgy. You’ll spot stumbles all over the place. If you ask me what I just read if I read it out loud I couldn’t tell you…I have to reread it!
2) I have come across both children and adults who have a hard time with dyslexia. they are labelled stupid, slow, foolish…distracted, lazy. These are very very painful comments to make, because it implies with a little bit of effort we ‘can get over it’.
But what if it is to do with how brain processes information because of how it has developed?
I have had nervous exhaustion and been sick off work years ago for making many errors while working in an accounts department for British Gas. The other side of the story while there though is that I solved a problem that the software department of the british gas head office couldn’t solve, even though I had had no training in it. I just worked it out.
Why do I make such a grandiose boast? Well its because I am proud of how God made me! (therefore my pride is in God, not in myself…I can boast about that!)
This is why: what isn’t often told is our (dyslexics) ability to connect ideas that other people don’t. Our creativity. In one sense, i agree that dyslexia doesn’t exist! Dyslexia means we just don’t process information the same way that other people generally do. We are the artisans. Go back to ancient Greece and we would be level with the scholars. We bring the beauty where they bring the logic. Logic and art create philosophy. Logic and art help us to understand God. Logic and art help us to make sense of the world around us as the artist risks examining questions of beauty and meaning…it helps us to understand ourselves and each other.
The Greeks wouldn’t have seen us as sick, or diseased. They recognized the need for both.
But in theses ‘enlightened’ days, artists are poor until they are dead. The world belongs to those who are the scientists and the number crunchers.
Having spoken to experts and from my own experience, whatever those two terms might mean, I am convinced that dyslexia and many other related issues that this article talks about, are due at least in part to lack of development in the brain of the ability to filter out information to enable focus.
From what I can understand, as our awareness of the world begins to increase at around the ages of 3-4 years old, normally we start to be able to filter out that which we want to pay attention to. There is a vague idea in my head it could have something to do with hunter/gatherer development. A hunter is able to cut out all distractions to focus on killing the prey (which is why men are so good at zoning out women…sorry!). A gatherer is able to wander through a forest, having an awareness of their surroundings so as to be able to spot a likely snack. Its an intuitive thing. But what if that brain development becomes confused?
The task of looking for data and information is more related to hunter mentality that gatherer. Perhaps this is this is why dyslexia is also higher in men? And why it is hereditary? Our brains are confused, are we hunters, or gatherers? I’ve not really sat down and thought through or researched that one though, so please be gentle with this hypothesis!
Back to the point though. It seems something to do with a lack of development in the area of being able to focus on one thing and filter out information that is irrelevant.
Put simply, its the difference between a straw and a water fall. You would suck water through a straw. I would stand under a waterfall holding a glass and hope some went it. The problem is, the force of the water just sploshes it out the glass again!
So memory difficulties are a result of not being able to focus on one thing at a time so as to promote non-disruptive memory formation. We over come that by creating creative memory techniques BTW.
Reading problems…we are distracted by the patterns that occur in the whites between the words, making it harder to decode those black squiggles. Even though it is at a subconscious level, it is enough that our memory patterns are disrupted. Short term memory is a key part of the process of understanding sentences, and then to be able to understand the wider concepts the text is trying to explain.
Verbal processing is a problem because we have a million thoughts connected to your words where as most people have just one.
And they all arrive at once. That means we are thinking lots of things all the time, and trying to work out which ones we should use. That’s not stupidity, or laziness, that’s some complex brain power going on there that is!
“stop being distracted and concentrate” people scream at us. That’s like telling someone with one leg shorter than the other that they must walk proplerly. We’re not distracted, we just are taking in EVERYTHING and that takes a lot of thinking about. We are gathering…and its the gathering and being able to absorb massive amounts of information and play with it that makes us the artists and the creatives and the problem solvers. We just need to learn how to use our preferences for how we see the world and understand it, and our internal language, to put that information to good use.
In some recent research I have been doing into personality for college papers, I am starting to wonder about the impact of preferences, connected with our personalities. I am a strong intuitive/feeling person. I don’t deal with sensing the world or the world of logic so well, i am someone who sees potential, harmony, rhythm. But has that heightened sense been as a result of being dyslexic, or is dyslexic the result of that natural personality? If it is connected to who we are, then there can only be one conclusion:
We aren’t sick. Dyslexia isn’t a disease, or an illness. It is a gift, it’s the way we are made. The world just needs to accept that we don’t all see it in the same way…its not just numbers and words. There is much much more to it than that.
We are the problem solvers, the creatives, the communicators. Give us space to breath, to live, to develop our gifts that don’t look like yours. Just because we can’t add up straight, or work out what that complex sentence means, or lose track in a film, or forget what you have told us as soon as you have said something, doesn’t make us wrong. It makes us different.
When it doesn’t look like dyslexia is a problem its because we have found other ways to solve it (its part of our creative problem solving gift!). I doodle when i am listening, because it seems to help my conscious brain do something so that the subconscious can get on with the remembering. Just because my doodles actually look like something doesn’t mean its any more than a doodle (see http://www.facebook.com/doodleopus for such things!). Some people stroke their hands…some fiddle with things. Some are really noisy, or talk to themselves. These are all just ways of lowering the volume/intensity of the information coming in so that we can make sense of what is important.
But please, instead of making fun of us, let us bless you.
And a huge thanks to all those who do believe us, are patient with us, and allow us to thrive even when all we want to do is hide because its so hard. Which is why I want to thank my Missus, Anne-marie, without whom this dyslexic would have given up long ago, and who has to share a house with three dyslexics.
At least life is never boring.
Contributor: Rev Andrew Gray, Fresh Expressions Minister, England.