What it means to be dyslexic? That is a very good question. Overcoming a disability of any kind takes strength and courage. When the disability is obvious, it’s immediately apparent and assumed what the challenge is, and what’s required for that individual to overcome that adversity. When it isn’t, such as dyslexia, it presents a very different kind of challenge.
What It Means To Be Dyslexic
I am Dyslexic. With me, what people see on the outside is a confident, quiet and unassuming individual. What they don’t see is the war that is going on inside as to what I will say and how it will sound when I open my mouth to speak or metaphorically put pen to paper. That same thing holds true for my writing. What takes a person who is not dyslexic an hour to write is about triple the time for me, and there will still be mistakes I will not see! It isn’t because I don’t know what it is I want write or say. It’s all about the struggle to get the written and verbal words in a form that someone will understand and appreciate.
As a young child, I was active and imaginative with large coke bottle bottom glasses who struggled with learning to read. The reason was that of a Dyslexic disorder that had gone undiagnosed. My teachers were very impatient with what they saw as lazy or of low intelligence and would treat me accordingly. This lack of understanding caused me innumerable problems socially and emotionally as I was growing up trying to find my place in the world. As you may imagine, I fought against low self-esteem and a poor self-perception. Later on in my life, as an adult, I learned that I had a disorder called Developmental Reading Disorder (DRD) or what we know as Dyslexia.
When I was diagnosed as a Dyslexic, it explained why I had struggled with reading, writing, and communication. The disability would (and will) show up at very odd, and often, inconvenient times. I have learned that when I’m distressed, overly tired, angry and nervous or upset the condition will manifest itself in my speech, writing and math skills. What’s frustrating to me, and the person I’m trying to communicate with is, I know just what it is I want to say or write, but it comes out not at all wrong. It is very different than what I had envisioned it would look or sound. This result confuses the listener or reader and can cause misunderstandings. It is as if my mouth and my brain are not connected.
You would think that, with this knowledge, I would have let people know about the disorder, and it would have helped. It didn’t. I quickly learned there was a prejudice against a person who suffers from this disability, any disability. It’s often viewed as a hindrance to achieving success and providing a benefit to an organization. Because of the communication difficulties that Dyslexia presented it gave the impression I was not very bright, and therefore not promotable. Sharing that I was Dyslexic would have impacted my ability to progress in my career, especially in sales and marketing.
So how did I manage? It wasn’t easy. It was very important that I reviewed everything I wrote or computed very carefully, multiple times. Then I would leave it for a bit and come back and review it again to ensure I was communicating what I intended. I would take my time when speaking, thinking through what I would say and how I would say it. If at all possible, I would practice my speech or presentation multiple times to ensure I felt confident I would be able to deliver the correct message. All this gave the correct impression that I was a thoughtful and careful executive. All that was true but for many different reasons. When I didn’t do these things, the communication could often be confused and caused much difficulty for both myself and the listener or reader.
As I progressed in my career, I gained the ability to have an assistant. These assistants were a gift, and a God send to me. It took me awhile to feel comfortable telling them about my problem. Once the trust was established, we became a team. Things got much easier for both of us. I then had a second set of eyes and ears to help me correct any issues that would arise.
Given this disability, the fact that I have had a very successful career in marketing, communications and sales is utterly amazing to me.
So what is this thing called Dyslexia (DRD)? Please bear with me as I explain.
Dyslexia: “It is a general term for disorders that involve difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols but does not affect general intelligence. It shows up in reading, writing, and speech. It is a reading disability that occurs when the brain does not properly recognize and process certain symbols. Dyslexia or DRD occurs when there is a problem in areas of the brain that help interpret the language. It is not caused by vision problems. The disorder is a specific information processing problem that does not interfere with one’s ability to think or to understand complex ideas. Most people with DRD have normal intelligence, and many have above-average intelligence and it runs in families.
DRD may appear in combination with developmental writing disorder and developmental arithmetic disorder. All of these involve using symbols to convey information. These conditions may appear alone or in any combination.
A person with DRD may have troubles rhyming and separating sounds that make up spoken words. These abilities appear to be critical in the process of learning to read. A child’s initial reading skills are based on word recognition, which involves being able to separate out the sounds in words and match them with letters and groups of letters. Because people with DRD have difficulty connecting the sounds of language to the letters of words, they may have difficulty understanding sentences. It is important to know that true Dyslexia is much broader than simply confusing or transposing letters, for example mistaking ”b” and “d.”. DRD may, in fact, occur in combination with writing or math learning problems.”
Why am I telling you this? When you struggle with an unknown problem as a young child with a strong will to prove that you are “good enough” you develop coping mechanisms. I was very shy around my peers and teachers, not willing to speak, often because my speech would get all twisted up and make me appear “stupid”. To coop, I became an acute observer of all that was around me and my environment. I learned through observation how to quickly ascertain what each person or situation I came into contact with was all about. With that knowledge, I was better able to determine how to communicate successfully with different individuals. That coping mechanism helped in my work life and attributed greatly to my successful career.
I now openly tell people what it is I am challenged with. I always get the same look, first of surprise and then worry.
What I have learned about human nature, through my observations, is we all have our problems. We all deal with them in different ways. The most important thing I have learned is we all want to be appreciated and accepted for who we are; a difficult thing for all in this fast paced ever changing world.
Here is the question I am most commonly asked. “If you are Dyslexic why write a blog?” I believe I have a voice that has something to share. I have always been a story teller. First in pictures through my art, second in the telling than lastly in the written word.
For me the disability, although a continuing challenge, has proven to be a blessing. Early on I learned I loved to teach. I believe this was because I was never given a chance to express myself in a way that would allow me the opportunity to share who I really was. By teaching, I could show others (who were and are willing) how to do the same.
Against all odds and with the help of a great many tools that are now available, I have learned to love reading and writing as this blog demonstrates. The lesson I’ve learned from all of this is; no matter what the circumstance there is always a way to overcome obstacles to achieve what it is you desire and deserve in your life. So I will always need to challenge myself, to look for ways to overcome whatever is holding me back. To not be afraid to take a risk and see where it will lead me.
So here is my question for you. What have you been challenged to overcome and what is holding you back?
Life’s journey continues…