This is a bit of a random one I’m sure! But I thought I’d discuss it anyway. Recently I’ve been having chats with friends who are both dyslexic and those who are “Normal”.
“Awk will you just shush about all that dyslexic stuff …” in response to “I’m not sure I want to read that out unprepared in front of a crowd.”
“Your mistakes on Facebook posts are just laziness. Dyslexia only really matters when you’re reading mass amounts of words, like in a book” – response to my Facebook spelling mistakes.
“Dyslexia doesn’t affect your grammar. It only affects your spelling”- some rules made up after a grammar Nazi thought they’d go in for the kill.
This 100% isn’t a “my struggle” blog! I don’t think I would be me without Dyslexia. I feel it has many advantages. But first…
A little background / example of my dyslexia:
As a child, my parents didn’t really understand the disorder. They used to ask me to sit over and over again and try to learn my spelling. We would honestly sit for hours going over and over and over it and then 5 minutes later, I’d have forgotten them all.
I’d go into school and get up in front of the teacher and fail -EVERY WEEK!. Not just once or twice. It got so embarrassing, that I used to hide my spelling books behind the sofa and say I couldn’t find them or that we didn’t have any spelling test this week. I have the same issue with times tables and mathematics in general. For my exams in school, I was predicted to achieve all E’s. In the end I achieved straight C’s in my GCSE’s. I’m now 29 and I still have this issue.
Spell check makes things much easier, but it can also be quite a frustrating beast. Sometimes you just can’t think how to spell the word at all. When people say phonetically speak it out, it’s not the best method with all these fucking silent letters or a Belfast accent. The English language is so beautiful for so many people, whereas to me, it’s an enemy I’m constantly trying to defeat.
Going through school I became apathetic, simply due to the fact that I was considered stupid. I was the class clown in later years and was happy in that role. I’d developed a really quick wit as a defense mechanism, and it became something I got very good at. I could cut you apart and laugh instantly.
Then a breakthrough happened. I had been playing flute for years in school and was kicked out by a horrible music teacher, who would make comments like “Boys don’t sing”. Anyway… I was kicked out of music “because I wasn’t practicing” – this wasn’t true.
I decided to take up Guitar with a friend. I’d go round to his house and play his brothers guitar and learn early Travis songs such as Slideshow. Then I realized I could remember things when music was introduced. I could remember the chords because my hand had to make a physical shape and because of the pitch. I realized I could remember lyrics because they were associated with a melody. Then it happened… I realised I could take my class notes and make them songs. This worked for GCSE as it was very test based, which is how I went from predicated E’s to C’s. But in terms of AS levels, it wasn’t the same. Coursework made it really difficult to apply this technique.
At this point I kind of came to the conclusion that education wasn’t aimed at someone like me. I found out what an academic was. I realised that wasn’t me. As much as my school had some lovely teachers that really tried and helped many kids, there was still a major ignorance in terms of dyslexia.
The benefit I realized, was that I had my own ways to learn. The internet was blossoming at this point. Videos and tutorials started to show up online, companies were making digital music software and I started to really understand. I realised the issue wasn’t the English language. It was English in its written form! That’s a distinction that really needs to be emphasised. I did understand the language. I started to learn its rules by questioning it and discussing it. Not learning it from a text book or doing exercises. This is something I’m still doing today, and to be honest, it’s why I started my blog in the first place. I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to say “I can do this if I want”. Yes, I do need to get my wife to proof read these, but I’m not just accepting I can’t do things.
What benefits does dyslexia bring?
There are benefits from dyslexia for me both directly and indirectly.
Having been embarrassed as a child for getting things wrong, having a teacher get frustrated with me and having other kids laughing, I am no longer easily embarrassed. I kind of also don’t have a filter anymore. I say everything. This is great for creativity. I let my mind empty its tanks. I don’t have the filtering process of thinking “it’s probably a bad idea to say this”. Or even the thought process where you won’t try something because you’re afraid you’ll look stupid. I’ve spent a lifetime looking stupid, but sure… I’ve learnt a lot from the responses that come back when I am wrong. I’ve learnt that being wrong is part of the journey to finding the truly correct answer. You end up finding out why you were wrong and how that relates to the right answer, right opinion etc… I don’t think this is exclusive to dyslexics, but the process of life with dyslexia enables it.
I have no choice but to find a different route to the answer. This makes me great at problem solving. I can find multiple ways to do things. I’ve also found it makes me a good teacher, as I can offer multiple angles, reasons and ways to teach. I’m not trying to disguise the answer in a written language. I’m explaining the answers through practical, visual or auditory aids.
This also means that when I learn something though my methods, I really know it. Probably just as you do when you read something, but rather than take someone’s word for it, I have to experience it to know it works, so I typically have a real world understanding. Yes it’ll take me longer to get. Yes I’ll read slower, but when I get it… I really get it & I always love to share it with others.
It’s funny that ultimately I wouldn’t want to be without it. It’s enabled me to be fully creative to not have a fear of failing and to empathise with those who struggle in education. As a teacher now, I think that gives me a distinct advantage. I start my year groups and classes now as “how’s it going people, I’m Peter McVeigh, I’m dyslexic. I’m gonna write on the board now, feel free to correct my spelling in your own work” I’m not saying this to highlight “oh guys, pitty me, I’m dyslexic”. I’m saying “how’s it going people, I’m Peter McVeigh, I don’t speak that language, but you’ll get the gist of what I’m saying”.
Written language is important. I’m still trying to get my head around it. Discussing music using the written word is my entry point into this world, as it lets me work with a vocabulary & terminology I speak. I just need to decode it into this written format.
If you’re dyslexic, chill out people!
It doesn’t = stupid.
It probably actually = smart.
Not book smart though.
(Probably edited heavily by Edel)
Should probably also be called Dyslexia & I ( I know it’s killing all you Grammar Nazis)