Most of us misspell words, punctuate incorrectly or get our grammar in a twist from time to time. Usually a quick read through the story or article will throw up the errors made in our haste to get the words down on paper. Then it’s a simple job to correct them and send the manuscript on its merry way to the editor.
But imagine if it wasn’t so easy. What if you couldn’t spot your own errors and continually made the same basic mistakes over and over again – despite having read The Penguin Guide to Punctuation six times? What if you’d been labelled ‘educationally subnormal’ at the age of 15 ? What if there were stories and poems buzzing around inside your head but no one would take your writing seriously because of the spelling and punctuation errors?
That was the experience of a friend of mine until finally, at the age of 60, she was diagnosed with dyslexia.
“I cried tears of such relief when I was told by an educational psychologist at the University of Birmingham that my IQ is above average and it is not my fault that I am a slow learner,” she said. “He discovered that I am seriously dyslexic and have problems writing paragraph sequences. I am very slow at reading print and need to read something up to 6 times before I fully understand it.”
The computer, with its spell-check facility has been my friend’s saving grace. It doesn’t flag all her errors but at least enables her to get her stories on to paper. Since her diagnosis she has successfully completed a BA Hons. in Creative Writing – demonstrating that she has the imagination and creativity to become a writer when armed with the right tools.
My friend isn’t the only writer to have battled dyslexia. Novelist, Natasha Solomons told the Evening Standard, “No one explained to me that the written shapes on the page were related to the words we spoke. I thought there were two separate languages: one sounds and one squiggles.”
So next time you’re struggling to find the right word or trying to decide whether an apostrophe is required, be thankful that you can easily browse the thesaurus or check in your grammar textbook. Some people aren’t so lucky but still battle through to make a success of writing.
By the way, the illustration to this post is called ‘Dyslexic Vision’. If any of you suffer from dyslexia, maybe you could let me know if this is how the printed page appears to you?