As a kid, the phrase “you can’t spell” was always a synonym for “you’re an idiot” and/or the equally wonderful “you can’t write”. For me, hearing that phrase repeated was one of the worst things about school. Most of all, because it was then suggested that anything with the written language was somehow out of reach.
All because I had dyslexia. Which is the topic of today’s opinion post – dyslexia doesn’t stop you from writing.
What is Dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that affects many people (estimated 1 in 10 according to the NHS Website – https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dyslexia/), which is encapsulated as a processing disorder. Essentially, the brain doesn’t like to process particular bits of information super-quickly and/or very well, which results in numerous symptoms ranging from words swimming as you try to read them, to not being able to work out phonetics of words.
Depending on the flavour and the severity, the symptoms and the impact can be very different. My own special dyslexia flavour is auditory processing – which boils down to the fact that, for me, phonetics are about as real as aliens.
(okay, maybe a little bit dramatic).
In essence, auditory processing is everything from the written word to listening to people talk. For me, it is so much harder to listen to someone without any visual cues (long conference calls are the bane of my life). It’s like my brain is trying to play catch up with what the person is saying, which means I miss other bits.
But it’s not just oral words that I find hard – making out phonetics of the written words (especially unknown words or long ones) is impossible. There are so many times that I’ve missed spellings because it visually looks the same as the word I intended to write. That no matter how many times I check something, there is always a know for a now or a right for a write.
Spelling isn’t everything
Like anything, if you don’t have a learning difficulty, it’s hard to understand how your life gets impacted. People, even with the best intentions, do not realise or understand the implications or the exhaustion.
They conflate the inability to spell with an inability to communicate. They fail to realise the creativity that dyslexia can bring, and so they teach the message that if you’re dyslexic you should avoid words.
I sometimes wonder what the impact would have been, if my love for reading had not been as voracious as it was as a child. If I had chosen to refuge in other creative pursuits that were not centred around words. If I didn’t have the word processors to automatically check my spelling (and they’re even more powerful than they used to be back when I first started using them!). If I didn’t have people in my life who heard my dreams to be a writer and said that yes I could do this one day.
Yes, I can’t spell. But I can create, and I consider my dyslexia to be the tool that allows me to create. I might not be able to spell very well, but I can google new words, I can pour my thoughts and imagination onto the page. Those things aren’t affected by my ability to spell or notice phonetics.
Yes you can still write
I decided to write this opinion piece because I wanted to give someone else, someone like me, who might have dyslexia (or traits of it), some proof that the stereotypes are not everything. They do not define the limits of your creativity.
And most of all, you can still write beautiful, moving stories, no matter the spelling in the first draft. (After all, that’s what second, third and fourth drafts are for).
If you’re interested about learning more about dyslexia, here are some handy starter-for-10 links to dive into:
Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash
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