May 22, 2013

Shedding new light on Dyslexia

Dyslexia is not a learning disability although all fingers point to education. Naming something and then continuing our focus based on what we have named is easy and comfortable. Yet symptoms are sometimes misleading and in this case, they are.

Sure there are difficulties but we need to leave those aside for a while to see the bigger picture or we are stuck in one very limited perception, which ultimately has no answers and no “cures”.

Dyslexics have a completely different perception of reality that non-dyslexics cannot grasp. Why? Again, I’ll use terms for lack of better ones, although they too have been over-used…

Left-brain thinking is linear, straight-forward, calculated analytically and logically. Reality is seen mainly through the senses and the mind’s belief structure. Someone who is left-brained (non-dyslexic) can store information in sequence, rely on verbal memory, organize and work within a linear structure. Left-brain thinkers follow multiple instructions easily and consider them to be a part of who they are. They don’t ask peculiar questions. They work and live productively in society, which doesn’t mean to say that they are happy, but that’s not our issue in this article. They get things done, they are punctual, they can analyze and examine a specified subject or issue. They are the keepers of the structure of society.

Right-brain thinking is totally different and mind-blowing for the non-dyslexic, left-brain thinkers. Each dyslexic is different (and this is the thorn in the whole picture) because it is a very personal, chaotic, peripheral perception, which cannot be identical with any other. Nevertheless, there are many similarities, which all point to right-brain thinking very easily.

It is a myth that dyslexics cannot learn, cannot read or write or cannot understand math. One day, these myths will simply belong to the past. I will write from personal experience, because only through experience can I be understood and possibly shine new light on the subject, although I cannot possibly fit everything into a single article.

Let’s take this article for example. The usual procedure and expectation is that it should have a structure, with a prologue, a main theme and an epilogue, as we learned in school. I find this extremely hard to do, not because I don’t know or I don’t remember how to do it, but because in my head, I have all the information present simultaneously. Think about it for a minute, do not rush to read through the whole article (as left-brainers usually do). ALL the information at once; every point I want to make, all the sentences (because I am a writer and sentences are images for me), all the images, all experiences, all the information I have read and studied so far, all my students’ difficulties and experiences… That’s a LOT of information to keep in mind. The minute I begin to write, because I have to start thinking about structure, spelling, punctuation, the right word etc, half or more of all this information disappears. I forget. What did I want to write about? How do I begin? What should come after this paragraph, so that I will make myself understood? By this time I've completely lost it and I am getting frustrated.

Of course, through the years, I have developed my own way of remembering, writing and being understood, but imagine for a moment how a dyslexic child feels when she is racing against time (everything is expected so fast), when she is expected to write on something that doesn't interest her or has no experience of etc.

When I drive in the city, the many advertisements all over the place, the signs, the traffic, the incidents on the street, the weather, my car’s behavior, the radio playing, my own thoughts about various subjects and matters all can cause chaos in no time. Usually, the most common “chaos” is the way I read signs and names on shops, advertisements, usually in funny squiggly writing or (the most horrific for me) in vertical instead of horizontal lining. I often have to go back to the word two or three times and read again and again because it doesn't make sense or because it cannot possibly read what I think it does. Anyone witnessing my attempt would have the time of their lives listening to me read at the speed of driving along, while paying attention to a million other things too.

Something similar happens when I try to read something that is too analytical, too detailed that I lose the big picture, or which doesn't interest me. The letters seem to “jump out of place”, although they don’t actually “jump” or “disappear from the page” as people often think. They just don’t make any sense, the words and sentences don’t give me purpose, meaning, they are therefore “unseen”. Does it seem “abnormal”? Why? Why should I strive to concentrate on something that doesn't interest me? Note I didn't say “like” or “don’t like”, I said “interest me”. There’s a huge difference. I can read a formal document if it interests me (although I don’t like them) and I won’t read an article on dyslexia if it doesn't interest me (although it’s my main subject of preference).

When I write, I sometimes confuse the letters (it depends which, according to language), I sometimes forget even simple words and their spelling, although I know them, I leave out words or use the wrong ones, although I know what I want to say. Why? Because for me focusing on structure and language on the one hand and focusing on meaning and content on the other, are two separate and totally different functions and “worlds”. They are two separate tasks. Thinking in images emotions and meaning is more vivid, more informative and not linearly structured but “categorized” according to meaning and significance. It is not just “thinking”, it totally consumes me, it “becomes” me. Then, I have to “return” to linear reality and begin categorizing according to surface, linear structure, which sometimes is not even possible.

I could go on and on and on, with countless examples of how dyslexia affects my life on a daily basis, from the moment I wake up in the morning, until I go to bed at night. Reading and writing are just a very small aspect of a totally different way of thinking. There is not an area that dyslexia does not affect. Living in a left-brain world being right-brained is no easy accomplishment. But the time has come, not to “fix” right-brain people, but to learn from them, and help them adjust, while showing them the benefits of left-brain thinking. Two in one, cooperating to achieve balance. One cannot exist without the other; one is not smarter or more significant than the other.

And the best part of accepting who I am is that I can post an article without worrying about structure, a beginning and an ending, of being “perfect”, of “completing the subject, because that’s life! We use what we have, we live according to what we know each day, we continue from where we left off, we change each day. We don’t “go back to correct”, we continue correcting that which we realize, in our next action.

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