Dyslexia? Disleksia? bysklecsya?

How to account for my difficulty in reading? “Difficult” is a relative, comparative term, and reading, unlike spoken communication, is a lonely, interior road. How can you tell how other people process written symbols?

Growing up, I assumed everybody’s experience was the same as mine[1]. Reading is always a laborious activity. And everybody sings their way through the alphabet to find their place in a list, right? If I realised I was performing less well than other people, I probably assumed it was a moral failing, a lack of application but I’d catch up at some point. I didn’t think about it, much.

More recently, I’ve realised that isn’t quite true. I read very late. I experience trouble understanding that at least some other people don’t experience. I know lots of people who can read with ease but don’t.

The working assumption is now that I have a mild form of dyslexia. Jo swears by it, because it helps her explain some of my exasperating behaviours and reassures me that I’m not “putting it on”[2]. There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence, and there’s clearly something, going on, or I’d read more swiftly and would experience less resistance to understanding.

I’ve been assessed a few times, but the tests have been inconclusive. My word recognition seems fine, and my spelling is above average. There’s a theory that mildly dyslexic adults have internalised their coping strategies so thoroughly and effectively that they fool the tests (and themselves), though. Or maybe skilful readers are just unusual.

I am quite willing to milk the partial diagnosis for attention or excuses, but I also secretly disdain it. Dyslexic, forsooth! I’m an English literature graduate and ex-English teacher! It’s just pretence, attention-seeking! I work with severely dyslexic children. The enormous obstacles, the enormous toil, they face every day put my little doubts to shame. I had one lad a few days ago, who, three times, spelt “Dangerous” DABOURNESS, and couldn’t identify it as an error.  Imagine how much hard work goes into even the simplest reading or writing tasks, for him, for more than a decade of full-time education. It is a testament to dyslexics’ strength and resilience that they don’t all give up completely and just refuse to get out of bed on school days.

Philip, my therapist, asks why I can’t allow myself to be (possibly) mildly dyslexic. Why does it matter that the children have a more acute form of it? He thinks this all goes back to my sense that I am somehow unreal, that my identity is insubstantial or fake.

  • Footnotes

[1] I universalise all my cognitive experiences. I understand the autonomous self-hood of other people’s consciousness, but I have to fight my assumption that everyone apprehends the world just as I do. This isn’t megalomania or psychopathy or narcissism. It’s just that I know I am very unexceptional and so assume my mental constructions are very ordinary and very common.

[2] She likes to reassure me; I like to be reassured.