“What happens in my head when you spell things out to me”

I’m dyslexic: this means that often I can’t spell words in the way that is deemed correct.  Often people will then try and offer the correct spelling for the word that I’ve spelled wrong; they do this even if they know what it is I’m trying to say. Although this seems like a helpful solution to what you may conceive as a problem it can actually be really embarrassing. The spelling mistakes aren’t typos. I haven’t done it on purpose, it’s not because I’m lazy or that I’m stupid and if I knew that I’d put the letters in the wrong order or knew how to spell the word I would have spelt it right. However, being dyslexic this means I can’t do these things. Pointing out the typo doesn’t make me ‘learn’ the correct spelling, it won’t guarantee that I’ll spell the word correctly whenever I use it next, it just makes me feel embarrassed and points out a ‘flaw’ that I have that will never change or be fixed or get better. If you are able to understand what I’m saying then what is the need to correct the spelling? It tends to be for the other persons gratification as my bad spelling offends, annoys or frustrates people but its important to realize the reasons behind why people may not spell things the way you want them to and the impact that constantly correcting some ones spelling or commenting on it all the time can have on the individual. It can make individuals feel stupid and really dent self-confidence.

When I went to school I wasn’t diagnosed with dyslexia, I was just thought of as a bit stupid: I stayed behind in my English classes to fill in spelling books for children aged 4-5 in year 11. I got OK grades but nothing special, and I was always the one in my friendship group who was guaranteed the lowest marks. Then in my first AS level psychology exam I received a grade of U and the school started to take notice: this didn’t look good for them and they knew I understood the topic. It was then that they decided to look into it and decided I was dyslexic and things began to change. I was no longer stupid. I could do it. I just had to do it differently and I had to work my ass off. I learnt ways that enabled me to collate my arguments in a more coherent way, I learnt that spending the same amount of time reading as my peers didn’t mean that I had done the same amount of reading as them and I learnt different revision techniques that allowed me to work in a way that can over come these issues. From this point I was away. I’d cracked it. I wasn’t stupid and although the things that I struggled with would never be ‘fixed’, I was able to work out the best ways to work with these difference and get the best out of myself. I went on to do really well at my A levels, graduated from Manchester with a 2:1 and went on to complete a masters at Manchester as well.

So back to the original point of this story, which was try to explain to others how I, as a dyslexic, have trouble with letters. This example, however, is definitively not the only way that dyslexia impacts on me or on others but I hope can open your eyes a little about how confusing letters and words can sometimes be.

In this case I’m going to take the example of having words verbally spelled to you. Imagine that you have a bowl of spaghetti letters. When someone spells out a word to you you have to find the letter in the pile. However, the person spelling the word out doesn’t wait until you’ve found the first letter: they go as fast as they can say it, but because you’re so busy trying to find the first few letters you miss the last letters that they’re saying. You also end up confused because it’s so hard to distinguish between the letters. How do you know whether you’ve picked up the right one? Maybe you’ve picked up and upside down ‘p’ instead of a ‘b’ or a backwards ‘b’ instead of a ‘d’ or a ‘3’ when you really meant ‘E’. Then maybe you’ve misheard them and picked up a ‘J’ instead of a ‘G’. This makes you flustered – it can be quite frustrating as this situation most often happens when you are taking down an important name or number, and not being able to distinguish between letters or write down the information quick enough can often end in you either missing the information, asking numerous times or looking really stupid. So next time you’re spelling something out, remember to go slow or take the time to spell it out several times without being inpatient and remember that there’s loads of reasons that people might ask you to spell things more than once!


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