Saturday, 22 June 2013

The Dyslexic Household

Have you heard the one about the dyslexic devil worshiper?
He sold his soul to Santa.
What about the dyslexic lawyer?
He studied all year for the bra exam.
And you have to have heard the one about the dyslexic, agnostic insomniac?
He lay awake all night, wondering if there was a dog!

To those of you who didn't find any of those jokes remotely funny I apologise. Not very PC of me, I know, but some days I have to find something about dyslexia to laugh about or give in to despair.  My excuse for such poor humour is that my life very much revolves around dyslexia as not only do I work in learning support, helping dyslexic pupils, but when I return home, my job continues as wife to a dyslexic husband and mum to two dyslexic daughters. We are very much a dyslexic household and I am constantly reminded of the many ways that dyslexia impacts on so many aspects of everyday life; it is not restricted to the classroom.

If you've had any experience of dyslexia then you will know that it is not a difficulty that simply involves swapping letters around, the punchline in all these jokes, but instead a complex condition affecting more than just reading and spelling - there are the concentration issues, short term memory problems, disorganisation, word finding name just a few.

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When I first met The Wonderful Man and we were dating, his dyslexia was responsible for quite a few comic misunderstandings and confusions.  I offered to stop and get some shopping for him and he gave me a list.  I spent a considerable amount of time trying to decipher his spelling of some items.  I worked most out, for example, I could see that 'seriel' was 'cereal' but there was one word that seemed entirely random. I gave up and went home to be told that it was 'quiche'. I can't remember the exact misspelling but I remember it started 'kea' !! Another time  I went to meet up with him after work in a pub called 'The Windsor Castle' and searched for some time before discovering that he was already on his second pint in 'The Walmer Castle'.

The problem with dyslexia and spelling is that very often someone with dyslexia has weak phonological skills - their brain just can't hear the subtle differences in sounds.  The sound made by a 't' and a 'd' for example can sound pretty much the same, making the process of 'sounding out' a word pretty hopeless. Add to that the problem of the same letter pattern having completely different sounds such as 'cough' and 'though' and you can imagine the problems faced by the dyslexic.

Sometimes just to make things more difficult it can be difficult to remember the visual shape of letters as well; you might know you want to write a 'd' but end up putting 'b' instead even though you know perfectly well the difference in sounds. English has lots of similar looking letters 'p', 'q' 'i' and 'j' just to name a few. The strategy of 'does it look right' isn't helpful either because a dyslexic might write many different spellings of the same word and they all look right!

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When H started nursery it was already apparent that she was probably dyslexic too. Dyslexia is on both sides of the family and so, although I'm not sure of the statistics, I knew that our genes combined would seem to double the chances. H was such a funny little thing - incredibly creative in her way of getting around her difficulties. She often confused words and names for things once offering to post a letter in the 'post lamp'!  Her poems were full of half rhymes and when she was seven, having got frustrated at trying to write a very imaginative story, she drew instead a fantastic and lengthy storyboard with captions and little speech bubbles. Her teacher was amazed at the detail and left it up on her wall for many years after H had left her classroom. S began to use the computer very early on becoming very computer literate.  Her report from school states that in Primary 4, aged 8, she could have 'very easily taught the ICT lessons herself'.

Certainly life in the dyslexic household has its frustrations and sometimes I grow weary of being home teacher and walking dictionary but I have also come to appreciate how pretty amazing the human brain is and that difficulties don't have to be difficulties at all - just differences. My family is a collective of very quirky individuals with their own strengths and gifts and sometimes my non-dyslexic self feels very ordinary in comparison.

I'm linking up with the lovely Sarah at Hello Wall with this post at The Monday Club:



  1. What a positive approach you have. I have one friend who has dyslexia and he is absolutely brilliant at finding solutions to problems in ways that I would never have thought of.

  2. A really interesting post. As a teacher I see the school side but rarely the home side to dyslexia too. My son has recently been found to have aspergers tendencies, so we are about to embark on a re-haul of home routines etc to make life a bit easier for him. It will be fine, but as you say, an ongoing thing.

    btw, loved the first joke but wasn't sure if I was allowed to laugh!

  3. I agree with Sarah's comment about seeing the home side of this. Thank you for sharing. My friend's son was just found to be dyslexic. I am sending her the link to this- I'm sure she will find it helpful.