Sunday, 10 February 2013

Dyslexia Blog - What happens when dyslexics grow up?

For those of you who haven't read my dyslexia blogs before, here is a little preamble and introduction, so you know who I am and what I do and why I write this stuff. For those of you who know the story, skip to the end of the paragraph for todays installment. Let me give you a bit of Background so you know who I am and what I do. I was born in 1962. I didn't start talking until I was 4 years old (at all, not a single word). My parents thought I was deaf. My reading age at eleven was 5. When I was fifteen I started a rock and roll band called the False Dots, the band is still going strong. When I was 16 I started a business called Mill Hill Music Complex (although then it was simply called the studio), a rehearsal studio, as we had nowhere to rehearse. The business has grown into a very successful enterprise, one of Londons biggest and most well respected independent studios. We now have 16 studios and a music shop and also have a photography/video studio and a dance studio. I also have done IT work, mostly on a freelance basis since 1983. In 2012 I also moved into film production, producing two highly acclaimed documentary films, both of which had screenings at the House of Commons. When I was 31, a friend suggested I had a dyslexia test. To my surprise I was told I was moderately dyslexic. This made me interested in the subject. To my amazement, what I have learned over the years is that my lack of educational aptitude, my feelings of anger and injustice and the core of my personality have been formed by the fact I cannot read words in a linear fashion. In 2013, I have set one of my objectives to use this blog to let dyslexics know they are not alone, to suggest that people who think they may be dyslexic to get an assessment and toget people who have dyslexic children or siblings to understand the issues that they face.

So far, all of my dyslexia blogs have largely dealt with the issues I had when I was younger. I was recently asked how does dyslexia affect me today?  The honest answer is that I don't really know. I don't feel discriminated against particularly. I run my own business, so the boss doesn't pick on me when I get things wrong. I write a blog that as of now has had 827,326 hits, so I must be able to string two sentences together, if not three or four, and yet.......

I sometimes feel like I'm at war with the English language. I still struggle to find words. This isn't only in written words, but spoken words as well. For instance I cannot for the life of me remember the names of people until I know them. In general I have to meet people three times before there name sinks in. This used to prove extremely challenging in the days when I was trying to find myself a girlfriend. To assist myself with this problem, I invented little tricks, so if someone reminds me of something I mentally link their name to the name of something familiar, then I work backwards. A simple example of this was today. There is an entertainment company based in Mill Hill called Uptown Events. I decided that, from a business perspective, I should  see what they did. The only trouble is that having noticed their shopfront, how would I remember it when I got home? That was a simple one. I simply sang the Billy Joel song "Uptown Girl". The downside was when I came to google it, I typed in "Uptown Entertainments" instead of Events. Fortunately, Google came to my aid.

Such things can happen dozens of times a day. Writing a blog, where I go to events and meet dozens of people, I get totally lost. I guess some people must think I'm terribly rude. Abstract words are the worst. Words which describe the function of other words are the worst. I have absolutely no idea what a split infinitive or even an Adverb is. If I explain this to a non dyslexic, they say "Oh, it's simple blah blah blah". It doesn't occur to them that it's not through want of trying, or because I haven't been told.

On occasion, I've even had abusive emails from readers of the blog, insulting me for mangling the English language so badly. As far as I'm concerned this is really ignorant, as I probably try ten or a hundred times harder to write things than a non dyslexic.

I also find dyslexic jokes really irritating. The reason being that they miss the essence of dyslexia. They can be vaguely amusing, but they don't get it. My favourite one is about the Dyslexic Agnostic who wasn't sure if there was a Dog. It is funny but it doesn't really get dyslexia. A more accurate reflection of how a dyslexic mangles things might be illustrated in the way I misread a message on Twitter recently. It said

Singles Dating - Speed dating event at the City Gilt Bar

Nothing funny about that? Do you know what I read it as?

Singles Dating - Speed dating at the Glit Clit Bar

which certainly caught my eye and when I re-read it properly made me snigger. When you are simply reading a tweet for entertainment, it can be quite funny. If you are reading instructions to install a Gas Boiler or anything else similar, it can actually be quite dangerous.

My wife finds the whole thing tiresome and irritating. She is convinced that half of the things I do or say are simply driven by laziness, stupidity or a desire to annoy her. When I can't think of a word, I'll simply subsitute a non word. For example if I need the de-icer for the car, I'll say "Where is the splongy to clear the car windscreen". She'll reply "do you mean the de-icer?". I'll reply "yes" and she'll fix me with a stare as if I've assasinated the pope.

Another thing which is quite disheartening is the way that when people try and be clever with items such as menu layouts, they become unreadable. It is like the way dictionaries have phonetic spellings. Whilst I'm sure most people find them useful, to me they are hiroglyphics.

The other big pain in the bum is foreign languages. At school I found these incomprehensible and impossible. After I left school, I found I had a degree of aptitude for picking them up when I lived somewhere for a while. The only trouble is that when I return home I tend to forget it all straight away.

The one thing dyslexia has taught me is that if you are a member of a minority (in my case dyslexics), the mainstream really haven't got the slightest interest in your problems until they collide with it and affects them. After years of trying to work out how to work out the rights and wrongs of life, what is acceptable and what is unacceptable, I've come to the conclusion that what is acceptable is just about anything which impacts no other person in a negative way. If something does, or has the potential to, then it's probably unacceptable.  Of course life is more complicated. Sometimes we have choices which leave us no choice but to impact someone in a negative way. If I see someone armed with a knife threatening people and I am a policeman with a Tazer, removing that person as a threat is clearly the lesser of two evils. We all have choices to make and sometimes they are difficult, but we have to learn to tolerate other peoples idiosyncricies.

I've always identified myself with the lesser achievers academically, even though I did OK. I've always felt the need to say something for people being victimised or bullied, even though that stopped for me long ago at school. That is why I find the Frankie Boyle brand of humour about disability repulsive. 99% of the crowd may find it hilarious, but what about the vulnerable 1% who are made to feel like shit? In the title of this blog I asked what happens when dyslexics grow up. I hope that they learn to cope and learn from their experiences. I hope they stand with the 1%, even if they can hide in the 99% crowd.

It isn't the 99% who need our protection......

1 comment:

concernedcarer said...

I know from personal experience that you practise what you write about. You do indeed say something when people are being victimised or bullied. It takes courage, a deep sense of injustice and sufficient belief in yourself to stand with the lone 1per cent. Now we have to encourage the 99per cent to make us ALL included, valued and protected. Linda Edwards