When I was eight my parents realized something was wrong with me. I had two speeds, overdrive and asleep. I simply could not sit still. Another indicator things were awry was I wrote most of the alphabet backwards. My second-grade teacher told my parents not to worry, it was a stage I was going through. My progressive parents ignored her.
Thus began a series of tests revealing I was dyslexic and hyperactive. My parents decided I should repeat second grade. Conveniently, I was moving to a newly-constructed elementary school closer to our home, making my repeat performance less offputting than it may have been.
My parents found a school in Bethesda, Maryland, to address my handwriting challenges. Every day, second semester, second grade, after lunch, mom picked me up, and we drove 12 miles to the school. I worked one-on-one with a teacher on large motor skills. I remember doing exercises on a floor-level balance beam and eye-hand coordination exercises. It worked! Sort of. At least I stopped writing letters backwards.
My dyslexia didn’t go away. Even now, sometimes I discreetly make an “L” with my left index finger and thumb to remind myself which direction is left. Learning a foreign language is way too foreign for me. I met my high school language requirement by taking Latin, a blessing as it turns out, bolstering my love of language.
I’m bad with numbers. On business trips, before the Internet, before cellphones, my dyslexia repeatedly revealed itself. When traveling, after checking in to my room, I’d call my wife. We talked about our day, eager for the minutest of details. We were so connected back then it makes me a little sad. Anyway, the cost of long-distance calls was prohibitive so I’d call my wife, tell her the phone number of the hotel, and hang up quickly. Ten times out of nine I screwed up the number and would sit there, waiting for the phone to ring.
The physical act of handwriting is extremely difficult for me, requiring so much focus I lose track of other stimuli. By my second year in college I stopped taking notes in lectures and just listened. When I entered lecture halls with no book, paper, or pen, classmates would raise eyebrows judgmentally. It didn’t bother me. It made me feel like a rebel and that suited me just fine. Since the digital revolution, I have oft said, “if they had laptops when I went to college, I would have gotten a friggin’ PHD.”
I’m not sure I’d actually get a PHD truth be told, leads to the second half of the original diagnosis, “hyperactivity.” That’s a different story I’m going to post separately. As far as dyslexia is concerned, I don’t like being told I can’t do something. Maybe my response to my “disability” was becoming an English major. And why my first real job was as a proofreader in the advertising department of Washington, DC’s largest department store chain. And then as a copywriter. And so forth and so on, to now.
Perhaps being told my dyslexia would hold me back was the best thing that ever happened to me.
Thanks for listening. Stay in touch. Connect.
P.S. Off-subject but this made me laugh out-loud.