Hello, world. My name is Alle. I’m a writer and an editor, and I’m dyslexic.
When people find out that I have dyslexia, the first question they ask is always, “What is that LIKE?” And up until now, I’ve never had an answer for that. I’ve always been dyslexic; how do you explain what the world looks like when you have nothing to compare it to? I usually fall back on explaining what it IS.
My usual spiel: dyslexia is a learning disability that generally involves problems reading, writing, spelling, and pronouncing words, as well as understanding the things you read. It’s a cognitive difference, not a deficiency in intelligence. I was diagnosed when I was five; my dyslexia was (and remains) in the moderate-to-severe range.
As for what it’s like, dyslexia is kind of like “The Matrix” — you can’t be told what it is…
As many Internet commenters have pointed out, dyslexia exists on a continuum and doesn’t affect all people the same way. This is very true: for me, letters don’t jump around nearly as much as in Widell’s simulation — they tend to start out jumbled and remain that way (or get worse).
But the amount of concentration it takes to make sense out of each word is exactly spot on. Having dyslexia means that you need to devote 100% of your processing power to figuring out not just what each word says, but then holding it in your mind while you figure out the next one. You have to look for context clues, sort through mix-ups, and keep everything in your short-term memory, WHILE ALSO absorbing the meaning of the sentence.
Yet some people continue to think about dyslexics as “stupid” or “lazy.”
Ok. Spend 10 minutes trying to read that paragraph and THEN come talk to me about laziness, fools.
We can’t see the world through other people’s eyes — not really. I’ll never be able to tell anyone exactly what it’s like to have my special blend of dyslexic brain. But this simulation is a great reminder that people experience things in vastly different ways. Being sensitive to, and looking for ways to make things easier for, people with cognitive differences like dyslexia is really important.
And yes, I did just spell that “dyselxia.” Thanks, brain.