About My “Disabilities”

Joel wrote this blogpost right before his IB examinations in 2011. He has gone on to realise his dream of studying overseas through a government scholarship, proving that dyslexia and dyspraxia need not be a hindrance.

 

So Nat only just realized that I’m the guy who types during the exams. Like honestly? Here I was thinking everybody knew that by now. And of course with the realization comes the question of why? And with that answer, the question of what is it? So this blogpost will attempt to sum up what I have and what it means. It also serves for a nice place to redirect people to whenever they ask instead of a long-winded explanation. What follows will be mostly anecdotal accounts about my experience with both dyslexia and dyspraxia, with some backing information from outside sources. Since they are my accounts though, don’t take it as the collective truth of what all dyslexics and dyspraxics experience because really, it’s different for everyone.

 

So let’s start off with Dyslexia.

The word dyslexia comes from the Greek – dys meaning difficulty and lex meaning speak, hence dyslexia can be defined in its simplest form as difficulty with words and languages.

Dyslexia is a neurological based learning disorder which interferes with the acquisition and processing of language. Characteristics of dyslexia range in degree from the very mild to the extremely severe. It is manifested by difficulties in receptive and expressive language, including phonological processing, in reading, writing, spelling, handwriting, and sometimes in arithmetic.

It can be seen as a developmental variation in the way a person learns language skills. Just as some people have difficulty in learning various skills like drawing, music or even playing ball games, in the same way, a dyslexic has difficulty with language skills.

On to the difficulties that I personally face. Dyslexia, well, people normally associate with spelling, reversals of b and d, and such, but it really is a lot more than that. Saying otherwise would be an injustice.

 

While I did have that problem as a kid, and once in a very long while I do lapse back into that, it is by far not the most persistent of symptoms. It does probably provide for much amusement or frustration depending on the  temperament of the teacher marking your work though. Guess how the word ditch turns out sometimes?

 

It is, I would say, more of a difference in thought pathways than anything else. The thinking, processing, just works differently. Stuff that comes instinctively for most people takes conscious thought. Even something as simple as walking properly with my heel down first takes a conscious effort for me to do, although that might arise from my dyspraxia more than my dyslexia. Instinctive sequencing was always difficult for me but having to do it consciously so often also makes you one better at doing it when the situation calls for it, I think.

 

Memory work was never my strong suit either; explaining why I don’t take Bio or History. This also explains why I never could read or write Chinese very well, I worked even more terribly with memorizing pictures than I did text. I worked with concepts far better, possibly why I enjoyed science and math far more than I ever enjoyed the humanities, with the exception of literature of course. It’s also why I don’t enjoy studying chem at SL, because simplifying complex concepts to such extents basically relegated most of the subject to memory work instead of the application of theories and concepts like it should be.

 

Now onto the main reason why I actually use a keyboard in exams, although both disabilities contributed to it, my dyspraxia. Dyspraxia is essentially, the inability to coordinate my motor skills very well. But wait, I hear you say, what about your insane guitar hero skills, your delicious cooking and your mighty cocktails? And I pose another question back: have you seen me play a ball game before? Well, you don’t want to. Or at least I don’t.

 

My fine-motor skills are pretty decent, commendable even, at times. But my gross motor, anything that involves more than minimal precise movements, is terrible. Terrible is an understatement. I am like the gross motor equivalent of Algernon in Flowers for Algernon before his magical IQ boost. I am psychomotor retarded. Literally. I’ve tripped over my own feet, fell of the chair while sitting perfectly still on it, you name it. Any clumsy klutzy accident you can think of and I’ve probably had it happen to me before.

 

So how does it affect my handwriting and why do I get to type? Remember what I said about my problems with sequencing earlier on? Well it applies to when I’m writing too. No, writing is not instinctive to me and I have to consciously form out the words as I’m writing them out. Otherwise they come out an illegible mess that I myself can’t read. And dyslexics are particularly bad at multitasking. Humans aren’t made to multitask but dyslexics especially so. So what happens when I need to focus on my handwriting while hanging on to the argumentative train of thought chugging on in my head? Hint: The train gets derailed. Another side effect is my handwriting going absurdly slowly, something that will definitely end with me failing both English and Econs.

 

Don’t get my intention of writing this post wrong, I don’t expect or want sympathy. Everyone has their own problems, really, and these are just some of mine. We learn to cope and work with them. That’s why I put disabilities in inverted commas. Truth be told, I don’t consider it one, it’s just something I am. It’s not something I’m ashamed of and I’d tell it to anyone who asks. It’s just a lot easier to direct them to a post like this than to tell a long, possibly incoherent tale every time someone asks.

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