“How can you be dyslexic, you have a master’s degree”? “Why should you get extra time as you don’t get extra time is life”. These are just some of the comments I have received from real people when I have told them that I am dyslexic. As you can see it has not always gone down very well.
It is a natural human heuristic and bias to focus on the negatives of an event. Psychologically, it has been universally concluded that identifying the cons and negative elements is easier because they are more prominent and salient compared to the pros or positives of a situation. This negativity bias or shortcut rears its ugly head every time I think about my own dyslexia diagnosis. This particular post will focus on some the negatives I see surrounding dyslexia and how it has affected me as a person.
Firstly one of the crucial factors that spins a web of negativity around dyslexia is that it is so often misunderstood and over-generalised. As outlined and discussed in an earlier post, so many people assume that all dyslexics are the same, that they struggle with spelling alongside reading and writing. Yes this may well be true for some, but not for all. All dyslexics possess a unique ‘cognitive profile’ where they struggle and excel at different tasks. For example some dyslexics are surprisingly good spellers, readers or writers but may struggle with memory, organisation or processing information. Thus, as you can see the dyslexic brain is a complex specimen. On a personal note, it is so frustrating when people make assumptions and presumptions about mine or others abilities just because we dyslexic. To avoid this negativity, get to know us first and find out how unique we all are.
Unlike other disabilities dyslexia is not always obvious to the observer. It is a hidden learning difficulty that many (including myself) desperately try to hide and conceal. However, just because being dyslexic is not obvious to the naked eye and flashes like a bright red beacon this does not stop people from being formally diagnosed as a dyslexic. Using myself as a prime exemplar, I was not diagnosed until I was twenty one and halfway to completing a master’s degree. Unlike others who may be diagnosed younger, my dyslexia was not standout or discovered until adulthood. Nonetheless this does not take away the fact that I still have dyslexia. One of the quotes I have listed above, “how can you be dyslexic, you have a master’s degree”, still sticks with me to this day. It felt like a backhanded compliment and a kick in the metaphorical bollocks. It made me feel like I didn’t have the right to be dyslexic because I was too educated or ‘clever’ and didn’t fit within the dyslexic stereotype. This simple but intended as a harmless comment was actually very upsetting. It took away and tarnished a diagnosis that had helped me understand myself better and why I struggle with certain day-to-day tasks and activities. Consequently, linking with the above paragraph discussing the often misunderstood nature of dyslexia, the hiddenness, stereotypes and confusion that surrounds dyslexia can have a massive negative impact on dyslexics.
Finally, this third negative aspect around dyslexia has had the biggest impact on me as a person. Almost on a daily basis my dyslexia makes me look like an idiot or moron. I forget how to spell really simple words, I confuse and forget instructions (especially if I’m given more than two in one go!) and when typing on a computer the page is covered in red lines which further highlight grammatical mistakes. These damaging and negative thoughts are further amplified when I’m surrounded by other people who see the mistakes and, on some occasions, point them out in a really rude or sarcastic way. Routine tasks become embarrassing and I become uber paranoid about making mistakes and errors. Not only does this make me want to eat copious amounts of pizza and chocolate, it can also make me withdrawn, more likely to complete written/typed work in private and less likely to contribute to group discussions and propose my own thoughts in fear of being laughed at and ridiculed. Yes I am clumsy, a bit ditsy and, to be frank, some days I genuinely wouldn’t notice if my own head fell off! But, the truth is that I try my best and that’s all that matters. I have spoken to many other dyslexics who have reported feelings of embarrassment and reluctance to share ideas due to similar worries and concerns. Thus this may well be a common theme amongst dyslexics, which can contribute to feelings of anxiety, embarrassment, low self-esteem and being highly self-conscious about our abilities.
Consequently, to end this post I urge you to be kind to us. Be encouraging and understanding but offer us help when we need it too. This particular post may sound really morbid and depressing but, I wanted to be truthful and honest about how being dyslexic can make me feel and affect me in my daily life. Next time however, I will focus on the more positive aspects of dyslexia and uncover our talents and awesomeness.