Education - Dyslexia

I did not know that I was dyslexic until I was 35 years old. Before that time, I knew that I did not read as fast as the other kids in school. I did not even read as fast as my younger siblings could.

Many times I would read assignments and they did not make sense to me. I did not know that I was reading words like "no" and "saw" as "on" and "was." That changed the context of the sentence and I could not comprehend what the writer was trying to say.

When I was writing, I constantly had to look at a chart to know which way the little "d" and "b" went. The letters "p" and "q" were easier to distinguish because in the 1950's because we put a little upturned tail mark on the small letter "q." It took a long time to get the number "2" and "5" straight.

Math was difficult because I would visually put two digit and higher numbers in the wrong columns when adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing. I understood math principles but many times came up with the wrong answers because of this. In the 1950's and 1960's, we did not use calculators in school. I had to resort to drawing lines for columns with my pencil and then erasing the lines before I turned in my homework.

My art always looked distorted. It looked fine up close but if you looked at it from across the room, it looked off balance. On the plus side of this, I did very well with abstract art. For some reason, I excelled with drafting and drawings that involved rulers and measurements. Drawing free hand was very difficult.

Sports were excruciatingly difficult. I tripped over my feet in gym and could not discern where a ball was if it was thrown to me or how to throw a ball at a target. Left and right were always a challenge especially if we were learning how to dance and we were given verbal instructions to go to our left or right. In high school, I took a class called Individual Sports. The teacher passed me although I was unable to do anything beyond beginning instruction. I used to play the clown in gym class to cover the hurt of all of this.

Musical notation jumped around on the page and I could not keep track of where I was while trying to play an instrument or sing. When playing the piano I learned to memorize the piece instead of being able to follow the notes and play. As soon as I took my eyes off the music, I would lose my place and could not continue the flow of the music.

Through all of this, my parents would not let me excuse myself from accomplishing what was set before me. I learned that if you worked hard at something, you would achieve it. I heard many times what Thomas Edison "defined genius as 1 per cent inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration (1).' " I learned that if I did not give up on a project, I would eventually finish it and finish it better than most people around me that did not struggle.

My mother was instrumental in coaching me in reading and phonics. She always said that I was a smart kid, I just would have to work harder to get it out. Hearing that I was smart spurred me on. Feeling that I was dumb in school was extremely discouraging and reinforced on a daily basis. Somewhere in my heart, I would not accept that I could not do something. I learned to rise above what was expected of me.

When I reached college, I knew that I could not take a full schedule of classes and expect to pass them with good grades. I did all my assignments at least twice to get them into my head. Memorizing anything was almost impossible. Learning to do things like type or take shorthand was painstakingly hard. In spite of this, I was still able to receive my certificate as an executive secretary from the local community college. My college grade point level was something like a 3.8 or 3.9 at graduation. The highest level achievable was a 4.0 grade point level.

By the time I started my first job after college, I knew I would have to work harder than those around me. Fellow workers would see me arrive early, work through lunch, and leave late as I finished a normal day's work. I never asked for compensation for the extra time spent. Eventually I was able to do my job so well that I was able to take on other responsibilities from other departments. Many coworkers thought I was "brown nosing" the boss, trying to look good for a raise or promotion. I was just trying to keep my job.

Taking typing and shorthand tests were torture. My first job waived the tests when they saw my high college grade point. I sometimes found jobs by going through temporary agencies. They allowed me to take entrance tests multiple times until I could pass them. I learned to be well organized so that any time spent could be on the parts of the job I struggled with instead of wasting time looking for things.

At this point if I were a person reading this and did not have dyslexia, I would think that dyslexia has no advantages. So, here is the other side of dyslexia.

I have learned to really apply myself when learning something new. I have learned to never give up or say I cannot do something. I have learned that I can achieve much more than I ever thought possible. Dyslexia has held me back but also has given me an opportunity to achieve greater things than I would have if everything came easy. It has forced me to look at a challenge and not give up until I have a solution.

After 20 years in the work force, I returned to community college to update my secretarial skills and took two medical transcription classes and a science class. My medical transcription teacher announced on the first day of college that she had been teaching for many years and had never given a student a perfect grade. She told us not to expect to receive a perfect grade in her class no matter how hard we worked. My mind said, "I will prove her wrong." At the end of the semester, she handed me the highest grade achievable. To this day, that record has not been broken.

In another college class, Anatomy and Physiology, I lived and breathed the assignments day and night just to get a 2.5 (C grade). My teacher tutored me every week. I made posters of the work at home and hung them on the walls. I listened to tapes of study material, read, and reread assignments. When the final grades were given, my teacher gave me a 3.5 (B+ grade). This was one point higher than I earned because my teacher said she had never seen anyone work so hard in a class. I was not just trying to get a good grade. I wanted to know and understand the material well.

I found out that I was dyslexic when my daughter was being evaluated for learning disabilities. When I saw my daughter's test results, I realized that I would have done the test the same way she did. I spoke to the evaluator about this and the evaluator told me that that was because I was dyslexic also. I was around 35 years old when this happened.

So many emotions washed over me when I first heard that I was dyslexic. I felt that I was being called a stupid person and pigeon holed by society again. There had been so much hurt that I carried for years that I cried for a week from anger and relief. It was worse than losing a loved one. When the grieving period was over, I felt free for the first time in my life.

The year I turned 50, I learned that what had been diagnosed as dyslexia in both my daughter and I could be fixed. We found an eye doctor that was trained in vision therapy. We were tested and it turned out that we had weak eye muscles (simplified explanation). Our eyes would jump while we were trying to read and we did not even know it. An expert can only detect this very quick movement. I learned that this is hereditary and there were others in the family that had the same challenges.

After six weeks of vision therapy, I no longer struggle with left and right, flipping letters and numbers, not being able to read sheet music, or losing my place when typing. I enjoy exercise and no longer dance into the rest of the class but with them. Now I can read accurately, speedily, and with good comprehension. Writing for helium is a joyful experience because I do not have to check every letter of every word I type.

The positive things that I acquired because of the dyslexia are still with me. I can picture how a thing should be done better than most people can. I can see how things fit together, like building a cabinet, very quickly. I know that working hard is very rewarding. I know that there is always a way to deal with what appears to be an impossible situation. I know that most of the reason we do not do things is because we tell ourselves that we cannot.

I know now that I can. I feel like a bird that has taken flight for the first time. I soar above the circumstances I have been bound to for so long and the air under my wings makes my heart sing.
Reference: (1) World Book Encyclopedia 1993, Volume 6, page 77, Article on "Edison, Thomas Alva," paragraph two, sentence one.


  1. My college professor suffers from Dyslexia too. He's really good at teaching, and develops such a terrible handwriting to hide his Dyslexia problem.
    God is fair, those with deficiency in some areas are blessed with talents in another area.

  2. I wonder if you have something called "vision therapy" for dyslexia in your country. It is something that is somewhat new (discovered in 1970's?), but our eye doctor who tested my daughter and I for it also teaches it at Ferris State College here in Michigan. He has improved my eye tracking from 45% to 99% in just six weeks. My daughter is still working on her therapy as she was only able to attain from below 1% eye tracking to 52% eye tracking with the therapy. Her brain moves faster than her eye and the doctor is still trying different eye exercises to get her to 99 or 100%. One thing I am very happy about is that I still can do many things that the dyslexia blessed me with (like building things without instructions, etc.), but now I can also type and read with fluency. God has restored things in my life that I never thought could be restored.