Something to mull over
It wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I became aware that the way we think is unique to each and every one of us.
I was in conversation with a lady who told me she was going to France , she told me she always found it difficult to “think” in French. I found that humorous and actually laughed at her remark. I told her that nobody “thinks” in a language. She was able to correct me and explain that we all think in different ways, she asked me how I believed I “thought”, I was unable to give an explanation but was able to explain that I never use language as a thinking tool.
I have come to the conclusion that my inability to learn a foreign language or remember numbers is due to the way I think. Language or the spoken word is a step too far, the fact that I still struggle getting my words in the right order would support that.
I now know my thoughts originate from abstract images, rhythm and colour. I also believe that emotion is connected to my thoughts along with a combination of many other inputs that I’m unaware of.
Perhaps that is why as a youngster I stumbled over my spoken word, language was not my natural thinking method; I was forever translating my thoughts back into words. Getting my vocabulary mixed up and forever making people laugh with my involuntary spoonerisms became a barrier and often I would not join in on a conversation as embarrassment was never too far away.
The most debilitating effect has been my inability to think of the correct word I want to use when in conversation. Simple words like “table” may elude me and I resort to a similar word like “bench”. Occasionally I may use a word that has no obvious connection at all to the word I’m unable to think of, for example I may use the word “egg” when talking about a “football” simply because it’s the same shape. Because I think in shapes that often happens. The effect means I often lose the impact of what I’m trying to explain or say, the time I take to think of a complementary word means my listeners can often lose interest and the conversation moves on, very frustrating.
The way we think and express ourselves makes us what we are and how the outside world perceives us.
People with dyslexia learn at an early age how to overcome life skill problems and quickly adopt coping strategies and avoidance techniques. This is often seen by peers and carers as either not wanting to conform or not wanting to become a constructive member of a group.
Working with dyslexic students I have learnt that it takes a long time with years of experience before a basic understanding of the problem is formed.
What would be beneficial is to tell dyslexic students that they are normal; dyslexia is simply a different way of thinking and has no bearing at all on their intellect. Tell them they are not alone with their problems and that people experience the same or similar difficulties. Explain that there is a lot of information available in book form or the internet. Forums can be an excellent way of writing about a particular difficulty with the added benefit of reading other dyslexic/non dyslexic peoples responses. If a particular problem arises advise the student to write it down, that way any embarrassment when trying to explain it is eliminated.
Another problem I experience is not being able to explain how something as simple as remembering a number can be so difficult. I know from people’s body language that my inability to remember numbers makes them feel “uncomfortable”. They simply don’t understand and why should they, I don’t.
Not understanding why certain things make no sense at all has led me to believe that part of my dyslexic brain is simply not keying in. It makes no sense to me at all that I can’t remember a single digit number yet can sit here and write down what you’re reading now.
I have learnt tolerance, tolerance toward people who for whatever reason fail to understand the way a dyslexic person thinks. I’m able to laugh along with colleagues who tell dyslexic jokes; I see the funny side and understand why they indulge. Ignorance is bliss and that is what it is, ignorance. When I laugh I laugh at them as well as the joke, they simply do not understand my world, no more than I understand theirs.
I have been on many training courses over many years which offer teachers/teaching staff information on all aspects of dyslexia and associated learning difficulties. At no time have I felt the problem has been addressed with a meaningful understanding from the presenter. I was once asked to hold a piece of paper to my forehead and write on it my name backwards. “This will show you what it’s like to be dyslexic”. This has nothing to do with dyslexia and is both unhelpful and meaningless.
A major misconception regarding one aspect of dyslexia is the “left” and “right” issue. I read and I’m told “Dyslexic people often get left and right mixed up”. That would appear obvious and it’s quite understandable why people have assumed that to be the case. But I feel it holds no truth.
I don’t believe the dyslexic brain has a concept of left or right. I never knowingly get left and right mixed up, how could I? Left and right do not exist within my thinking patterns. It is something I’ve had to try and overcome but my style of thinking means I often get letters back to front, I’m not aware I have reversed my letters until I re read my work.
Most studies I have read involving dyslexia have been based on observations of the dyslexic person, information from their early years and any problems they may have encountered are taken into account. All reports I have read regarding the problems with dyslexia has been based on logic. Unfortunately I believe logic plays little part in the way a dyslexic person thinks.
Logic is, I believe, a secondary thought pattern which links to the outside world, our fundamental thought patterns occasionally creep through giving information to an observer which is often misinterpreted.
When I was assessed for my own dyslexia I made a point of explaining to my examiner one important piece of information. Scattered around the examination room were books written about psychology, I explained I could open any book at any page read it aloud with few or no mistakes and then repeat what I had read with a good understanding. He preceded his examination using flash cards with single words printed on them. The request I made to read from the psychology books never happened. Reading single words off a card is almost impossible for me. That’s not logical but nevertheless a fact. I was given a reading age of an 11 year old.
His account of my reading abilities was false; he had based it on the well established “logic” tests which he refused to budge away from. My assessor later acknowledged that my reading ability was higher than the test suggested but would not alter the flash card test result.
Clearly this is wrong. By lumping everybody with a specific difficulty/difference into a category in the way that I was can be, and was damaging.
In a modern society where every person counts blanket responses like the one I experienced should never happen.
All the people who have offered me various strategies to overcome my inability to remember dates, times, numbers and names have done so with good intentions and understanding. I know straight away that they have no real appreciation of the problem; if it was as easy as remembering a strategy I would have overcome my difficulties long ago.
I have no idea why I can’t remember a number; on the face of it, it would seem the simplest of tasks. How then did I manage to successfully run a hotel bar for a number of years serving the public, using money and numbers on a daily basis?
I often work with students who are able to give me a correct answer to a maths problem but unable to explain how they worked it out. I have also found that I get a better result from the student if the question is read to them rather allow them to read the question. Seeing the numbers on paper often tends to confuse whereas a verbal question appears to get better results.
It’s well documented that a lot of dyslexic people have a creative talent. I believe the way I think allows me to be creative; it may be that I’m not restricted by “logical” thinking. Numbers have always seemed dull to me, there is nothing I can do with numbers that hasn’t been done before or will be done again. Creativity means thinking new thoughts with no restrictions. I call it Free Fall Thought. I find no room for numbers or any solid thought patterns. When I’m required to use numbers in the way we were instructed at school I find it both confusing and cumbersome. The way I think through a problem seems to be more fluid, bits of a pattern fall into place and shapes develop. I also regularly experience synaesthesia where outside unrelated information has a bearing. I believe that shapes hold the answer. I then need to “translate” my thought back into numbers. If in an exam I was required to show my working out I would score nil, a page of abstract bubbles and shapes would probably not be appreciated.
The way we all think differently is amazing; to be creative and produce something new which inspires is something we can all do. A lot of dyslexic people have the gift of Free Fall Thinking. With a better understanding we could all benefit and learn from each other.
One aspect of understanding the whole issue as a learning difficulty would be understanding problems like numbers (maths) falling into the same area of thinking as understanding letters (English).
The number problem (dyscalculia) has for some reason become attached from letter problems (dyslexia) understandably they have been categorised.
Categorising various learning difficulties needs to be made in order to distinguish one from the other. But dyslexia and dyscalculia are fundamentally the same problem but manifests as either word or number difficulties.
Exploring the talents and abilities that accompany dyslexia
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