What It feels Like to Be Dyslexic (page 2)
Self-Realization of the Problem
Jill is a 45-year-old successful businesswoman who was a founding manager of a family business. Her expertise and business acumen have assisted her husband in increasing their small company's earnings forty-fold. As part of her responsibilities, Jill proofs many of the jobs in press. A few years ago, she had to approve the final copy of a booklet on dyslexia for a local college. In reading this booklet, Jill confirmed that she, too, was dyslexic. She describes experiencing "fear" and "excitement" as well as a "sense of relief" for she had in writing, "a description of me-that's the easiest way to put it."
Frequent Misinterpretations of Symptoms
Jill now could come to terms with her problem as she went through life unsure of why she encountered so many problems in learning how to read. She was frequently told as a child that she was "lazy," "stupid," "unmotivated," and that she "just didn't work hard enough."
Effects of Positive Reinforcement in Building Resiliency Jill vividly remembers being "super-good" in the classroom so that she could obtain an A in something- classroom behavior. She remembers little positive reinforcement and when praised "would hold on to the praise for dear life and not let go of it." Jill vividly recalls an incident in science class in the third grade that involved a teacher stating in front of the entire class, "Jill, you asked an excellent and intelligent question." Jill recalls that, "I was so thrilled to be called intelligent that I didn't shut up for the rest of the class- I remember that incident like it was yesterday."
The Heart of the Problem
According to Jill, reading problems were at the heart of her struggling school career.
I always remember having trouble with reading. I would have difficulty sounding out words- I couldn't sound out words- the words never fit together right. If I heard the word said first, then I could learn the words. I did best in classes like science when the material was presented verbally. I had a hard time comprehending because I had a hard time sounding out words. I remember making reversals like "96" for "69" and "dod for bob." Spelling was my best subject if I could memorize the words just before the test. Afterwards I would forget the spellings and start all over again. For years, I spelled, "those" as "thoughs" and anything with a "f" sound incorrectly, like "phone" as "fone." I remember never learning how to spell "spaghetti." I would have to use a dictionary to assist me in spelling "spaghetti" even today. I don't write anything without a dictionary next to me.
Peer Relations: A Few Close Friends
Lack of Confidence When under pressure, my spelling and reading abilities get much worse. I remember becoming frustrated when discussing test scores with my peers all through my school years. This is because I remember working harder than the other kids. So I withdrew from people because I was ashamed- I would try to hide my test scores. However, I was never teased by kids and I always had a few close friends. In my family, some family members didn't think I was intellectual enough. It was never anything verbal, but it was in the way they related to me.
Lowered Self-Esteem I remember being made fun of in a cute way in school at times. For example, I had trouble with the words "subscription" and "prescription." I made the comment one time that I had to go to the pharmacy and have a "subscription filled." They told me that you get a subscription for a magazine and a prescription for medicine. Boy, that dredged up memories.
Depressed School Performance I can remember in high school I paid a lot of attention in class. As long as it was presented verbally and placed on the chalkboard, I could get Cs. When I had to read and study without that verbal help, I was lost. It just didn't make any sense to me. I think that's why I had so much trouble in math, chemistry, English, term papers, and just about everything else. But I loved French and had a tutor in French. I couldn't get any higher than a C because I had so much trouble conjugating verbs and things like that. I did best in class when the teachers talked a lot and put work on the board and summarized our books. I had a lot of trouble with classes when we had to do the readings all on our own. I would panic and freeze up. My biggest frustration came with my greatest love- my figure skating.
Dyslexia Affects All Facets of Life
Outside Interests Figure skating was my love. I spent four to five hours every day skating- before school, after school, weekends- you name it, I was skating. But figure skating was an overwhelming frustration. I mean being left-handed and having problems with directions did it. (An aside: My Dad was left-handed but he didn't have any learning problems. He went to an Ivy League college.) When you learn how to skate you learn to jump and spin in the same direction because you should be spinning in the same direction whether you are on the ground or in the air.
Orientation and Directional Problems I never learned how to spin and jump in the same direction, which is alien to the nature of figure skating. I learned how to jump in what was alien to me- in the wrong direction. Although I learned how to spin turning to the right, which was normal for me, I was taught jumping rotating to the left. This caused problems as the jumps got more difficult because the rotation became confusing to me- rotating in the direction that was confusing to me, I became disorientated when landing. It wasn't until I was older that I could understand why I never became a good jumper. Looking back on that, anything more than 1.5 rotations in the air I couldn't do.
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