It Wasn’t Weird Anymore

I didn’t want to be like this. I didn’t want to be “The kid who can’t read.” The kid Derek Zoolander would have tried to help with no success, and I know that because a bunch of people tried to help me without success.

See I wish I’d been like the girls in my class who could just pick up anything they wanted and read what was inside. They could look at a math problem and just see the logical steps of what to do because they understood what the math symbols meant.

So my parents took me the public school to see what kind of facilities and specilized care they had. Turned out, they didn’t really have any for intermediate school kids. They had a class room and a teacher and they all tried their best to learn and catch up on the stuff they didn’t know, but if you didn’t finish the classwork by recess the teacher just said they’d keep you in and make you work on it longer instead of getting your wiggles out and having fun and making friends.

So, my parents weren’t real impressed with that. I wasn’t either. Recess was the only subject at which I was good at because I knew how to kick a soccer ball and I was faster than most the other kids. But to tell you the truth, I would have swapped being good at recess for being good at everything else, because I was tired of having teachers call on me and and asking me to read the next passage just in order for me to tell them I couldn’t.

When this first started happening it felt like, huh, weird, but now it wasn’t weird anymore because I was in third grade and everyone but me could read, so what was going on?

Well, my dad worked in Olympia a couple days a week, other than that he telecomputed which is normal these days, but back then it was really unusual because the internet wasn’t really a thing yet. My dad had, through his research about dyslexia found out about a woman who was an English learner specilist, which meant she taught English to people who couldn’t really get it–to people like me.

On Mondays I’d take the ferry from my privileged white-kid island over to the mainland and my dad would pick me up.

How We Think

Just to put dyslexia in perspective: when I was going up, in the 90’s, first everyone just thought I was slow, and needed a little extra time, then it became clear that there was actually a disability there, and it wasn’t something I could get away with, you know, it wasn’t like we had spell check and grammar check, and smartphones that I could speak into so I could send messages to my friends. I mean, I didn’t even have a cell phone (flip phone) until I went to college.

So compare that experience to what might have been the process for poor Mr. Einstien. They probably didn’t even recognize disabilities of this nature, they just chalked it up to being dumb–and that’s crazy because look what he did–I mean, Einstien was a pretty smart guy.

Just to illustrate my point about dyslexia being aided by technology, when I was in middle school I still couldn’t read. My parents would make me read kids books, like “See Spot Run,” for a half hour everyday, but I was still reading at a first or second grade level even though I was in sixth grade. I remember sitting, trying to write a book report (my mom and dad had read me the book), and I couldn’t figure out how to spell a word. I mentioned that if they’d let me just write the report on the computer and then use spell check this wouldn’t be a problem.

“You won’t be able to take your computer with you to class if you go to college,” my mom said. “You need to know how to spell and do math, because you can’t always have a calculator.”

I don’t know if any statement has ever been less true, now that we look back on it. Technology has helped us in so many ways, and as a dyslexic person I still have moments when I type something and not even spell check can figure out what I was trying to spell, so I have to type it into Google, and most of the time that works, but not always.

So, this is the thing people don’t really understand about having dyslexia: It’s not something that just means your bad at reading–there are lots of people who are shit at reading and it’s not because they have dyslexia, it’s because they don’t like reading, or because they’re reading the wrong book or material. With dyslexia, I’ve actually heard you think¬†differently than people without it. I mean, of course people think differently on an individual basis. You know how two people can be part of a conversation and one person thinks it’s an argument while the other doesn’t feel that way at all and just thinks it’s discussion. Having dyslexia isn’t like that. For me, it’s like, I think in a combination of images and abstract feelings. I hardly ever think in language. I don’t have a running commentary in my head, and when I ask people, most of them say they think in language, like talking to themselves in their minds–and I don’t do that hardly at all.

Diagnosis: Dyslexia

There are some pretty famous people throughout history that had or have dyslexia. Woopy Goldberg has it I think, and apparently Einstein had it also because he couldn’t read when he was a kid, so his teachers thought he was stupid. But to tell you the truth I don’t know if Einstein had it or not because I don’t know if it was something that was diagnosed back then. Sometimes people who have a difficult time learning something, such as reading or writing get diagnosed as dyslexic but it’s just because they’re learning at a slower rate, it’s not because they actually have it.

So, how do you know I have it? Or had? Whatever. Well, I don’t need you to be convinced to know how difficult it was for me to learn to read. It was difficult. But you should know how they diagnosed me with dyslexia, and then you can decide for yourself if you think I have it.

So, to tell this story we have to go back to second grade. The same private school, same lemon yellow walls that started at white near the floor and felt like sunshine near the ceiling. We’re there now–just transported back in time. And obviously my teacher(s) were wondering why I was having so much harder of a time learning how to read and write and spell, because once that girl, Nataya, made fun of me for not knowing how to read my teacher(s) realized I had a problem. Since it was a private school they didn’t really have the expertise to deal with someone like me, so a lady from the public school came to my private school one day and took me out of Spanish, which was fine by me because–I mean–how are you suppose to learn Spanish when you can’t even learn English, which was more important at the time for me, because if you can’t read in our society you’re really not going to be able to do much.

The lady that came from the public school had short dark hair and wore a blue blouse and she had me do a bunch of weird things. First she had me read/try to read some easy books. Stuff like “See Spot Run” but obviously I couldn’t, and that wasn’t weird. Then she took out some papers from her binder, stuff with patterns and pictures. She had me cut along a line that was jagged with scissors. We put a ruler against the wall and I put my hand there, with my thumb out. She let the ruler fall and I snapped my thumb back to catch it. We did this probably a half dozen times. I guess it was for reflexes and stuff. Then she had me look at Rorschach pictures and tell her what I saw. I didn’t see much, just like mountain climbers and dinosaur fossils and cliche things like that.

The reason I don’t know if Einstein had dyslexia or not is because I doubt he went through something like this. Maybe he just had a difficult time read at first and so people think he might have been dyslexic. I think people think it’s cool to have dyslexia now days, but if you actually have it, it’s just a lot of work.