The other day my mind refused to see a piece of very simple mathematical logic and try as I might I was unable to grasp the concept; though strangely I can easily do the calculations mentally if I don’t think about it!
I should explain. I’m dyslexic and so are my sons to varying degrees. This is not the convenient ‘middle-class syndrome’ that abounds in schools – ‘oh little Johnny’s brilliant – truly brilliant. It’s just that he’s dyslexic and his teachers don’t understand.’
Ours, so it’s believed, is genetic and has been passed down my mother’s side of the family. We have early documentation of it in a great (or is it two greats?) uncle of mine who was a well known and outstanding Victorian/Edwardian engineer.
Of course in my mother’s time no one gave it much truck and she believes the ‘cruel and unsympathetic’ way she was treated at school gave her a complex for the rest of her life. I know it was her own bad experiences that made her aware and sensitive to the possibility of me being dyslexic.
I was never allowed to think of it as a shortcoming – though I suspect that many of my teachers would disagree! It can be annoying and challenging even now – especially when I’m under pressure – and this hasn’t changed with age.
We, the boys and I, had trouble with simple sequences; the alphabet, days of the week, months of the year, hours, minutes, seconds and certain mathematical equations and tables as well as the transposing and reversal of letters and numbers . I also have very bad eye to hand co-ordination in specific things like throwing and catching balls (well anything actually) and playing tennis whereas in others it’s better than average – such as drawing, balance and archery! A strange thing indeed.
To help my sons when they were young I used to tell them that they were lucky to be dyslexic. It was an advantage. They had two ways in which to see the world, their own and the conventional one which we all have to learn. They thought this was great. I also found it useful to give them different answers to things that people expected them to know. For instance to the ever popular question ‘And when’s your birthday?’ Instead of the date, which they had no idea of, they could reply with ‘At the end of the summer holidays’ or ‘after Christmas’ and so on.
I was asked by their school if I could help other children in the same situation since I drew from first hand knowledge and could understand more easily the way they ‘saw’ or comprehended. I found this very rewarding, although doubtless my methods would be frowned on in some circles today.
I guess it’s all in the NDA.