Story of a Dyslexic Person

During my term teaching at my local college, I came across a few adult dyslexics. The basic skills initiative dictated that all lesson plans should include literacy whether or not the student had a reading difficulty. This meant I had to ensure that all students in my class completed a literacy project, including a dyslexic person. To ensure my lesson plans catered for those with reading difficulties, I had to do some research into dyslexia. And I found some fascinating facts about this condition, some of which I used in my own writing.
 
Basic Facts about Dyslexia

According to DORE, (online resource for learning difficulties), dyslexics exhibit a range of language-related problem from mild to severe, and which can vary from day to day. Around 15-20% of adults in Britain have dyslexia in some form. Some or all of the following will be apparent:

  • The dyslexic student is often labeled as dumb or lazy because the individual cannot perform to the grade expected, yet the dyslexic is often intelligent, eloquent and has a good IQ.
  • The dyslexic learns best through tactile experience, such as using the hands or visual aids rather than via theory or abstract concepts.
  • The dyslexic often confuses left from right and has trouble telling the time on analogue clocks.
  • Dyslexics often have trouble concentrating and appear to zone out, daydream or to exhibit disruptive behavior.
  • Dizziness or disorientation might accompany reading text or writing tasks.
  • The dyslexic will often seem poorly-coordinated and this may impact upon sports or tasks that require dexterity.
  • The dyslexic often has ambidextrous tendencies and may adopt odd ways of holding the pen.

What Dyslexic Writing Looks Like

Having seen the written work of dyslexics, I have noticed some of the following:

  • Groups of letters in words might be omitted or transposed or repeated in the written work.
  • Letters and/or numbers might be reversed.
  • The spelling might also be phonetic rather than dictionary-accurate.
  • Poor comprehension is often evident when asked to explain the meaning of a piece of text.
  • Gets confused about sequential things, such as the ‘before’ and ‘after’ aspect in written work.

In fact, Leonard and Eckert’s brain scans of dyslexic subjects have shown that the brain function of dyslexic subjects differ to that of non-dyslexics.

In the case of the dyslexic, portions of both hemispheres of the brain light up when given a reading task; the non-dyslexic subject exhibits a predominant lighting up of the left brain, where language is located (Davis Dyslexia Foundation, 2003). The dyslexic reader relies more upon the right brain to compensate for this deficit. As spatial awareness is located more in this right brain, it stands to reason that using tactile sensations in learning would suit the dyslexic.
 
Reading Difficulty or Talent?
According to dyslexic sufferer and cofounder of the Reading Research Council, Ron Davies dyslexia is a gift. Dyslexics learn through pictures and tactile experience rather than through theory alone. They also are bias towards creative pursuits, such as drama, art or 3D design. Dyslexics see the whole picture, gestalt rather than in parts. The worst thing an English teacher could do for a dyslexic learner is to use childish books or those with large print. Similarly the teacher should never use visual or hearing aids, as the difficulty is not physical, but a learning difficulty; the dyslexic is certain to switch off.
 

Dyslexia Stories

 
When faced with the task of writing a story about a dyslexic sufferer, I had to take care to make the affliction convincing to the reader dyslexic or not.

I am not a dyslexic, but am able to identify with the shame and frustration that accompanies learning something that appears obscure. In A Had Lesson, mature pupil, Josh suffers dyslexia severely. He is entrapped in a dead-end job and a life of crime. In an attempt to identify with him, I sourced my own negative learning experiences in a crowded comprehensive school, which did little to inspire me to take pride in my homework. It seemed I was often at the bottom of the class, although I loved making up stories at home.

On embarking further education, my literacy skills suddenly seemed inadequate alongside others who had emerged from privileged backgrounds. My dissertation was harshly critiqued and I felt the shame of lacking good writing skills. Only then did I do something about my written English.

Adults with Learning Difficulties

In A Hard Lesson, I implanted the feelings of frustration and shame into Josh. His teacher, Sarah is guilty of using the same old traditional methods, such as learning lists of words by rote. In response, Josh scorns her with odious games of Teacher and Pupil, such as Make a Teacher Beg and Make a Teacher say Thank You. Who can blame him?

Learning Difficulties in Fiction

But what ultimately makes Sarah different to Josh’s previous teachers is that she had a younger brother, Davey, who suffered partial brain damage at birth, leaving a hearing impairment. Davey would scorn his patronizing sign-language teacher by adopting his own version of sign-language. Sarah would sometimes help Davey with kinesthetic learning activities, spelling words in the air.

Learning Spelling Kinesthetic Lessons

One day, Josh attempts to tear up one of his assignments in frustration; without thinking, Sarah uses the same teaching method with Josh, spelling words in the air. From this point on, Josh makes great improvements in his writing. Another paradoxical thing about dyslexia is that with praise and the right teaching methods, the dyslexic can make great leaps. The only trouble is that in the case of Josh and Sarah, this activity is rather intimate, after all, the teaching method involves holding hands. What next?

A Hard Lesson by Charles J Harwood
Copyright is asserted © 2012
 
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References:
Davis Dyslexia Foundation: Brain Scans Show Dyslexics Read Better with Alternative Strategies. Abigail Marshall (2003) Retrieved February 17, 2013
Dyslexia, the Gift, Ron Davis
Leonard and Eckhert DTI Brain Scan (2008)
DORE Program for Learning Difficulties (2013)
The Dyslexia Association (2013)
Image credit: A Country School (1890), Edward Lamson Henry (1841-1913) Yale University Art Gallery, USA

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