Reading Outloud – Such a Painful Task for a Dyslexic:

Reading out loud sounds like it should be easy but if you have dyslexia/irlens it isn’t always the case. I have struggled with this throughout my life while in school as well as work. At first I used to think it was because I was shy due to what teachers used to say. But now I realise it is caused by my dyslexia as I used to get worried about looking slow or foolish if I had read something incorrect or in broken English in front of others. I never used to tell anyone that I used to get nervous but now wished I did as I think I would have had more support.

When I used to sit in my english class my teachers use to give everyone a book and then you used to go round and read a page at a time. This used to physically affect me. I used to get so nervous that I would sweat a lot to the point I had to go to the doctors who said I had a ‘nervous’ sweating condition. I used to feel my heart race and when I say race I mean hit my chest so that it hurts. Sometimes I would feel very sick and faint. And when it was my time to eventually read I used to go red, my hands used to shake and I would read so fast I would run out of breath and just want to sit down.

This is a completely normal feeling for a dyslexic. As explained in previous post we don’t see the page of writing like non-dyslexics. We can’t just pick up a book and give outstanding performance as often we miss words, drop down lines, mistake words for other words and just speak so slow its pretty much broken English. For example, I remember we were reading a army book and it was in Virginia and I once said vagina. Which you can imagine I got laughed at and it was very embarrassing. It’s  that fear that causes the issues.

This has a huge impact on your education as quite often you are not focusing at all in that lesson as you are only concentrating on when you have to read out loud. Therefore, this method of teaching just doesn’t work for dyslexics. For example, When I had to read outloud in school I used to work out what page I would have to read as I could count which page I would be on and I would read over and over again to try get it right and make sure there wasn’t any hard words. If there was I would deliberately leave to go to the loo so I could skip the page.

This is not something you should do. This took me a long time realise though. I still struggle with it now but I have learnt some ways to cope but you will still feel the tummy flip I’m afraid.

Below are some ways you can help yourself to reduce the fear:

  1. Be calm and confident – at the end of the day if someone does laugh due to what you say – your human and just laugh at yourself. Its hard to do but it really does help to shrug off any embarrassment
  2. If they ask who wants to read – get it over done with. Put your hand up to go first and then you can focus for the rest of lesson or training. No one remembers who goes first anyway.
  3. If you have to stand and your hands shake like mine do – Just lay book on table and look down. You don’t need hold anything. I find I feel more embarrassed when I can see my page shake also doesn’t help you at all when your words are moving anyway.
  4. Wear something on your wrist – I used to have hairband I play with and it is easier to read with something to play with and keeps you focused
  5. Try to speak slowly. I used to always speak so fast that I would get told to do it again. You don’t want this do it right the first time and quicker it is to get through.

It is really hard to do this. However, you are not alone we all go through this. As I say don’t let it beat you – take control of it and work out what works for you.

Irlen Syndrome – The one nobody talks about

Irlen Syndrome:

What is Irlen Syndrome:

Irlen syndrome is one of the hardest topics to explain. It is a condition that is linked with dyslexia and can affect 8 out 10 dyslexics and they may not even know it. I find this condition the hardest to cope with as it make you feel physical sick. It can also explain a lot of the behaviours a dyslexic will display that people will shrug off and say they just being a teenager or trying to avoid something.

This condition affects the way we process visual information. The easiest way for me to explain is that anything to do with light, brightness and glare will kick of our Irlen symptoms. Therefore, if we have a white background, which is all these things, we have a hard time to cope. This is not just reading white paper; this can be anything that is white or that sun glares off. For example, any classrooms, meeting rooms, my workplace, hospitals, dentists, doctors, supermarkets, airports – anything that is white I will struggle with. When I walk into one of these places my brain can not cope and your first thought is: Holy crumble its bright in here!

Background on my Irlens and what I see:

I had to have a further dyslexia test for uni and the lady that tested me realised I had the irlens condition but she assumed I was already aware as I had a tint on my glasses already. However, after a comment was made to my mum, she realised we were unaware of this condition completely. As she was qualified in this field, she tested me the next day. I am so happy that this comment was made as I probably would have not got through uni without having this condition diagnosed.

My mum sat in with me on this test (the first one I reluctantly let her sit in on). After the test one of the first things she said was “how on earth have you managed to get your grades in school?”

One thing no one ever asks outright is: What do you see when you look at this? This is the main question they ask through this test while holding up cards. My mum was so surprised when I said:

  • Lights that look like stars behind the words
  • The words go in spiral effect on the page
  • The words that I can see through on the back of the card are pulling forward over the words on the page I am meant to be reading from
  • I’m seeing squares when there are no shapes on that page
  • When I focus on one line the rest of the words move off the page entirely and its as if my eyes have to catch them
  • The background is flashing from white to black to white again – constantly. But if you shake the page that will stop.

Although my mum found the answers hard to hear she mentioned she found it worse looking at me trying to concentrate and seeing the discomfort I was in trying to focus and answer the questions. This test was only 20 mins but for me it felt like an hour and I was tired and irritated by the end of it. This is the part where Irlen’s really kicks in and affects you due to the above.

How does Irlen’s affect you?

Sickness:

When you are having a ‘Irlen’s day’ and you are seeing all the above when you read it can almost make you feel like you have sea sickness or dizziness. A common problem I had from a young age was I would find everything around me would go superfast such as people walking, trees moving, cars and people talking. I then would feel like I was in slow mo. This then made me feel dizzy and I would panic and I would crawl up on the floor or put my head on the desk as darkness felt better. I used to get this more when I was outside in a crowded place when it was sunny.

Lack of concentration, distracted, fidget bum:

As we see the above, we often find it hard to concentrate and get distracted easily. I used to find it extremely hard to concentrate if I was placed near a window in school as I would daydream out of it. Not because I was lazy but because it was lot more relaxing than trying to read my textbook. I also used to find it incredibly hard to stay still as I would be trying to follow the words and sway, or I would just be very uncomfortable and couldn’t wait to get out of the classroom.

Irritated/temper tantrums:

All my friends and teachers would describe me as a happy, bubbly but quiet girl. I think I am quiet because I was actually quite an angry child due to the stress of all of these symptoms. I used to do well to hide it in school but when I got home I used to unleash my temper on my family, rip my room apart or just cry because I felt so poorly and didn’t understand why. This is a common issue as we feel safe in doing this. However, can be very confusing for a parent if you do not know why they act that way and think its them just being a teenager. One way to describe Irlen’s is that it is like the snickers advert. Elton John is being diva and all irritated because of his Irlen’s but when he gets his nutty chocolate bar he feels better and calm. This is what darkness and rain is for me – it is a snickers bar and I feel much happier when I have it rather than white rooms and sunlight.

Anxious:

As we link school and places above to illness and discomfort, we can make ourselves very anxious to go there. My friends used to say there was school kate where I was quiet and serious and then outside kate where I was all fun and jokes. This wasn’t because I was a geek and enjoyed school like they thought – it was actually because I was really struggling.

We need to raise awareness!

Since writing this blog and just mentioning Irlen’s I have had 6 people state they have never heard of this and think either they or their child may have this. Therefore, it is so important we share this knowledge as there is not enough information out there about it. A doctor will not pick up on this only someone who specialises in dyslexia will.

I will be discussing ways to combat this in further articles. However, sources that have helped me to understand this area better is Irlen.com and a documentary that Kara Tointon did on her dyslexia and irlens which you can find on youtube. This shows how it affected her and you see how much better she is with the aids they provide. This also helped my mum to understand bit more of what I was going through in school which really helped.

So spread the word now!

I apologise dyslexics for the length of my articles. I am currently looking into possibilities of podcasts as well so it is easier for you to get this information too.

Did you call me lazy? I love to see you have my brain – A insight into a dyslexic’s brain and the barriers we face every day:

Most people think dyslexia just affects reading and writing and sometimes they underestimate how challenging it can be for us.

We often get branded lazy and slackers which then lowers our confidence. If you ever hear this from someone just point them to this article and see if they could cope with all this going on while living with the normal dramas of day to day life. I bet they would be tired too.

I have listed a few things I struggle with to highlight this. This is not all my barriers, but they are the most popular. I tend to have flare ups as well so I could have a really great day with one of two of these or I get all these barriers in the one day and I just want to curl up under my duvet and sleep.

I will be elaborating on these points in future posts but here is a taster of a dyslexic’s mind and the barriers we face.

  • The head fog – The struggle to get an idea on paper:

Quite often I get a head fog (I get it while writing this blog now). You have so many ideas in your head, but you struggle to get them out onto paper or even say them correctly when talking. This makes your head feel cluttered and often causes stress and frustration as people do not understand what you are trying to say. You also get very tired because of this as you use the extra energy to concentrate more.

  • Telling the time:

I was unable to tell the time until I was 14. I was much better at telling digital time as it is one straight line of 4 numbers. But I cannot tell the time of normal clock face with arrows as the numbers move around so I cannot see what the arrow points too. This affects me a lot in exams as quite often I cannot see how much time I have left. And have you ever noticed what clock is normally in an exam room? It is not a digital one I can tell you and you’re not normally allowed to bring one in.

  • Organisation and time management or the lack of it:

A lot of my friends would argue that I have no issues with this however, I really do. I am fine now as I have coping mechanisms in place to help me but before I was diagnosed, I would stress out about this. This links to head fog as we have so many ideas and cannot express them it makes us quite chaotic people who get distracted easily. Due to this my time management was not good as I would desperately try to focus on one task that it would cause me to run out of time to do others. Which people would then label me lazy.

  • I struggled with ‘simple’ tasks rather than difficult:

If you are dyslexic you may find that you struggle with the ‘simple work’ but when you get given harder work you get better grades (that is if you can get them to give you the harder work in the first place). This is because your brain is wired differently. For example, in maths I would struggle to complete a 1 mark question for reflecting a triangle on to a graph which the teacher would say was easy marks and to never miss out as they only take a minute to complete. Well that would take me 20mins because the squares and lines on my graph paper move around. But Algebra, where you find the value of something that isn’t there and 10 marks – oh I was great at those! I could complete one of those in 2 mins.

  • Spelling:

I don’t really need to say much on this. My spelling is shocking. I spell so bad that not even google can recognise it sometimes. I often spell by how I sound a word. I struggle a bit too when it comes up wrong on spellcheck but I do not know which word is correct because I don’t know how it is spelt in the first place. I will be giving a list of words I can’t spell soon to show you how a dyslexic spells and why.

  • Saying the wrong words:

I do this so much and I’ve just learnt to laugh at myself now. Before I used to get upset and think people were laughing at me. As your brain is so busy you often will say the wrong word when you talk or type. For example, I once noted some foods on my mums shopping list and confused her when I was meant to ask for pears, but I wrote polar bears. This can be quite embarrassing and most of the time you wont even notice you have done it – not even when you read it back to yourself.

  • Lack of punctuation and words missing when you write:

This is major barrier of mine and I get told I’m lazy so much because I haven’t proof read. I have checked this article 12 times and bet some of my book reader friends will wince while reading this. Because it is an effort to write correctly and spell correctly, I often forget to put in punctuation. Because our brains are used to trying to unjumble letters, we automatically place punctuation and words in when we read. The amount of times I was told to proof read was frustrating. This often happens when I text now for example, I miss out the word ‘and’, full stops and commas all the time. My friends will be like “what? your text doesn’t make sense Kate”. But when I read it, it does. (I hope I used those speech marks correctly).

  • Poor short term memory:

You know that phrase if you can’t remember what you were going to say, it can’t be that important. Yeah, that is not correct for a dyslexic at all. We struggle to keep information in our head. The amount of times I used to scare my mum by going “mum! I have that school trip tomorrow; I needed the money 2 weeks ago”. This then links with other issues like not understanding instructions and not completing work on time.

  • Directions:

I am very bad with directions. I can get lost so easily its unreal. I used to get so nervous for my uni exams as I was more concerned on finding the place than the actual exam. I have got lost at work before looking for a coffee machine as our one on our floor broke (Bear in mind I had worked there for 3 years at this point and there was only 3 floors). I got the coffees fine but I couldn’t remember the way back to my department. So much so I had to text my colleague and ask her to come find me which as you can imagine went down as right laugh in the office.

  • Lack of confidence:

All through my life I have been told I’m not confident and have been described by a teacher as ‘a bunny caught in the headlights’. This is totally true I am, and this will reflect in my blog writing. I am a person that apologises all the time however, I have come a long way as I was so much worse when I was younger. The key is too pretend you are confident (as it is just one thing you won’t fully be as a dyslexic). Once you realise actually I have things the non-dyslexics cant do which gives you so much more power it’s a lot easier to show.

These are just a taster of what this blog will discuss. Please also note these are only the effects of my dyslexia. I haven’t even shown you the effects of my irlens on top this and I feel irlens is harder than dyslexia is sometimes. And remember 8 out of 10 dyslexics will have that condition too.

Something to think about.