Custom Search

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Why don’t dyslexic writers untie?

Quite by accident I recently come across a news story about a dyslexic boy winning a national writing contest, but the fact that this was seen, and reported, as almost miraculous news made me think about people’s perceptions about dyslexics and writing in general... Not that I’m belittling or taking away from this boy’s achievement in any shape or form, he’s obviously much better than I was at that age (and probably still am) and has a great deal of potential to become a good writer. But it’s not ‘in spite of his dyslexia’ it’s because he inherently shows promise as a writer.

I really got strong undertones of the normal ‘Aww, didn’t he do well’ arrogance, accompanied by a metaphorical, if not possibly even physical, head-pat. Well, yes, he did do well. He did well because he’s probably already a better writer than most of the cooing condescending onlookers can or will ever be. So why don’t they have that attitude with non-dyslexics? I even read one report that talked about him ‘overcoming his learning-disability’ with the inference being that he was able to compete with ‘normal’ students... Aww, didn’t he do well.  
A little further digging showed that this instance was far from an isolated case. Someone with dyslexia winning writing or literary awards isn’t that an unusual occurrence. It seems to be far more common than you may expect, but still, on each occasion the story is based on the fact that they are dyslexic, not on their achievement. It saddens me to think that we may not have moved the public perception on much since my terrible time at school. It’s attitudes like this that put me in remedial classes from primary school. I was eventually able to educate myself to post-grad level after leaving school, by being able to do things my own way. I don’t personally see this as exceptional, although I also got the 'didn’t he do well' attitude. I think it’s simply something they should have helped me with at school, although there obviously are truly exceptional dyslexics out there, Richard Branson to name but one.

Could you tell I was dyslexic from my blog? Dose it matter? Do you now think of the blog, or me, any differently now? If so, you should ask yourself why. I’m not blaming or berating anyone for their attitude. But I would like you to think about the culture that would make someone think ‘Aww, didn’t he do well.’ Why shouldn’t I/we do well?

I was discussing dyslexia on a message-board fairly recently, and a few things became obvious...
The first is that, like me, many dyslexics are, or were, very self-conscious about what they write. This is quite understandable as the 2D world of squiggly little shapes isn’t our natural environment, and most had been told they can’t write or spell at some stage.
The second thing I learned is that, unless the dyslexia or dyspraxia is very acute, it doesn’t mean we can’t learn to read and write to an above average level on our own terms. And it doesn’t mean we can’t be as good as, or better than, those ‘normal’ authors. It doesn’t mean we will be, but just like anyone else it means we ‘could be,’ if we have the aptitude, patience and determination... Just like everybody else.
The third thing I learned is that there are numerous ways in which different people approach their writing. I was recently talking with someone who uses audio-reading software during editing to spot their homophones, and missed punctuation. Something I would never have thought of, but it makes perfect sense to how someone with medium to severe dyslexia would look at things. Writing homophones is one of my biggest bug-bears, and a standard spelling editor won’t pick this up. It is also a problem with editing as my eye tends to see the word I expect to be there, and not ‘read’ the spelling as most people would do. Suffice to say a wrongly spelled word would not put me off reading, and I personally have no idea how anyone could be put off by this. Not that I’m saying spelling things wrongly is ok. If you are writing something for commercial or public purposes (whether it costs money or not) you should always endeavour to make that as correct as you possibly can, and that includes proper spelling, punctuation, and grammar.

Some may think it somewhat odd, but a lot of dyslexics are drawn to creative fields and to the arts in general where work and leisure are concerned. The top professional jobs for dyslexics include Artists, Writers, Engineers, and funnily enough Computer Programmers... Guess what I do for a living.
Yes, ‘Writer’ is right up there. Most people would be surprised at just how many writers have some degree of dyslexia – the learning difficulty that means you can’t read and write, right... Well, no, wrong actually. By ‘writers’ I don’t just mean fiction Authors. Writing covers wide range of professions, from news reporters, and technical writers to mainstream authors.

The only strange thing I’ve noticed in all this is a distinct lack of writers’ groups, resources, or competitions specifically tailored for, or set up to help, dyslexic writers. We are very much out there, and although I don’t rate myself as anything more than an interested amateur, there are other very-good professional writers currently working in all aspects of the craft.

Oh, and the title... Yes, I know exactly what I wrote... Do you?

No comments:

Post a Comment