“Three?” the waitress queries, looking over the woman’s shoulder to her family beyond.
“Yes, three,” the woman states firmly, then turns around at a muffled exclamation from her husband. “Ah, table for four,” she corrects herself, colouring.
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But there’s more to being dyslexic than these amusing little faux pas or difficulties with reading and spelling, as many adult writers know only too well.
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- Rapid word finding (verbally and on paper) leads to semantic errors, long-winded (going about the houses) answers, lack of precision, and is time-consuming and tiring for the individual. Difficulties can also lead to fumbling words, leaving someone feeling incompetent and foolish. Related to working memory, below.
- Grammatical errors (there house; accept/except; affect/effect; who’s/whose) lead to a lack of clarity and work looks poorly edited and unprofessional.
- Short term and working memory: (“Hello, Mrs Mason!” a parent calls. “It’s Ms Martin, and I expected to see you an hour ago,” the less-than-impressed teacher replies.) Forgetting names and appointments and commonly accepted cultural norms (days of the week, months of the year) looks sloppy, ignorant and unprofessional.
- Maintaining concentration means being easily distracted by external stimuli: ‘Ooo, was that a butterfly?’ or ‘Agh! Someone’s breathing/sniffing,’ or, by internal thoughts: ‘Did I lock the door?’
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- Accept there is only so much you can do to help yourself and ask for help. I didn’t realise that blonde and blond applied to the different genders (actually, I didn’t notice the difference in spelling at all) until it was pointed out to me as an adult. A non-dyslexic can normally learn a spelling by seeing it (normal visual memory). A common feature of dyslexia is that words might not be easily assimilated and continue to be misspelled.
- The ability to spell, understand grammatical rules and organise your work is not a measure of your intelligence or your ability to write. You might feel a) lazy b) slapdash c) unintelligent, but you’re not - you are dyslexic.
- Spellcheckers are useful to a point, but they do not pick up homonyms - words that sound the same but have different meanings - witch/which; pair/pare/pear; two/too/to. And if your spelling is bizarre (bears little relation to the word you are trying to write) or you misplace several letters (substitution or auditory sequencing or visual discrimination), spellcheck simply might not recognise them. This is where an eagle-eyed friend comes in handy. I’ve found printing my MS and reading it out aloud helps enormously.
- Remember, there are degrees of difficulty. Just because your dyslexia isn’t as bad as someone else’s doesn’t mean yours isn’t a pain in the wotzit to you.
- Recognise your strengths and accept your weaknesses. Ask someone you trust to help you by reading through your work. Note the word trust. There are some individuals who boost their own self-esteem by undermining yours and pointing out all your errors. This is their problem - don’t let it become yours - and find someone else to help you. There’s bound to be something you can do to help in return.
- If you muddle your words when speaking (a difficulty in auditory processing or sequencing and often worse under pressure) and it bothers you, avoid situations where this is a problem and concentrate on something you feel good at - Twitter, blogging, small-group teaching - where you can take time to express yourself.
- Don’t be tempted to rely on people’s general acceptance that dyslexia exists as a reason not to check, check and check again anything you post. Most people’s understanding of dyslexia is wafer thin and you’ll be surprised (and hurt) by the negative comments you get if you make errors you could have avoided. You’ll still find mistakes slipping through, but you will know that it wasn’t for your lack of trying.
- Make a list of things you are good at. It’s too easy to focus on the things with which you struggle - and that’s a common tendency for most people, dyslexic or not.
Writing as CF Dunn, Claire creates romantic thrillers with a historical twist, drawing on a degree in history and a career in literacy development, to write stories that touch on people’s frailty and their unexpected strengths. She believes that everyone has a story to tell, and explores how the legacy of the past has an impact on the present and inevitably shapes the future.
With a historian husband, two creative daughters and a quirky Corgi, she divides her time between running a specialist dyslexia and autism school they founded in Kent, and writing in Cornwall.
Romantic thrillers ~ with a twist