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Dyslexia

I am not a psychologist but I have been told by one who is, and who exposed me to a battery of different tests, that I can be labelled as a dyslexic. Of dyslexia, I know relatively little apart from what has been explained to me and what I have picked up over the years as a lecturer of dyslexic students. So far, I have found no books about dyslexia that are easy for a dyslexic to read! At least, none that somebody not interested in psychological theory or in the education of dyslexic children is able to read easy. I have found only one book on dyslexia in children that has a typeface that can be said to be dyslexic/user-friendly, whereas the website of one major dyslexia organization I found virtually impossible to cope with. This may, in part, be due to my also having Irlen Syndrome. The arrangement of material on the page or on a screen is very important. Thus, I now have something of an explanation as to why I seem to be different in these respects. This is both a relief and a challenge.

What I am sure of (as sure, that is, in a Cartesian – cogito - sense) are my experiences of being as I am. I have always known that I did certain things differently to other people – especially reading and writing. Furthermore, I tend to approach a range of things differently to other people. This includes how I organize myself. It is very hard for me to cope with things that have a prescribed way of being done. For example, forms I find particularly problematic. I find my own methods and shortcuts more efficient. Dyslexia may be just a label that attempts to classify different peoples' abilities and experiences, but it is a label for a very real state of being. It is a label that reflects something much deeper and more fundamental than many of the other labels that people use and are passionate about. Furthermore, my way of doing things differently extends not least to my subject of academic interest: Human Beings and Human being in general.

For example, dyslexia is more real than any religious label. An individual may say they follow a certain religion – or religiously avow atheism – but ultimately one chooses one's religion or lack thereof, whether through upbringing, conversion or loss of faith. Dyslexics, on the other hand, are born; we are not converted and cannot lose what we are. Even without our label we would still be the same; we would still be who and what we are.

Of course, generically, this can be said of everyone. We are all who and what we are because of how we are made and how we are brought up. However, a big problem comes when one realizes, through bitter experience, that one is a member of a minority in a world run by and formulated for a majority to which one does not and can never fully belong. The world is constituted for the way the majority operate, not the way minorities, like dyslexics, operate.

This problem is, in some respects, compounded by the fact that on the outside somebody with dyslexia looks no different to anyone else. All manner of external physical features have led to different forms of discrimination. Indeed, it appears that humans may well be geared to be uneasy about the external appearance of others unlike themselves – differences in these characteristics may signal a potential threat and caution, if not down right hostility, can offer a survival advantage. That is not to excuse discriminatory behaviour. Informed of where our 'gut reactions' come from, our higher intellectual faculties should be able to moderate our baser responses.

When it comes to invisible differences between people, including what are sometimes called concealed impairments, the picture is not so different. Here one is not dealing with how different people in a given environment look but how they operate and get on alongside each other. In a world that is organized by and for the majority, a sense of incredulity and intolerance towards those who cannot do as the majority does is more frequent than the perpetrators realize or perhaps intend. In my experience, even those who espouse 'equal opportunities' and who have a keen eye when it comes to spotting unequal opportunities when people look different, do not always spot the inequalities that people who don't look different experience.