‘I always knew I had it’ — this is a phrase I have heard every dyslexic use when commenting on how they were diagnosed. I was no exception. I was diagnosed as an adult just over a year ago and I was happy to finally know that I wasn’t stupid I was dyslexic.
Yes, I spent the bigger part of my life thinking I had bellow average intelligence, wouldn’t you if you read with the speed of five year old, had the short term memory of a goldfish, and an attention span of a few minutes. And don’t get me started on my grammar — till teenagehood I had no idea how to use commas, and I still have no idea what a semicolon is. Considering the amount I read, my background, and my education I have to be a grammar whizz not semi literate.
However, funny thing is I was never called stupid. People thought I was slow and a bit illiterate because I was bilingual from an early age, and of course no one but me knew about my crappy memory, limited attention span, an auditory processing disorder, or the fact that it was my watch that helped me figure out which is my left hand.
After I was diagnosed I looked at my habits and realised that many of them were actually really successful coping mechanisms. Some habits that got me through school, Uni, and postgrad were a direct result of my dyslexia, and here they are:
#1 Front row student
I could not hear (nor see) from far away rows, so I would always sit at the front, my teachers always assumed I was super keen to learn.
#2 Write down everything
Most people rely on their memory, and are idiots to do so. No matter how perfect your memory is you are human, time changes memories, we forget, we remember differently. I know that my short term memory sucks so I write everything down from what email to send to terms and conditions. That means any agreement or deal I make there is a paper trail — and paper is thicker than ‘he said, she said’.
#3 Start in advance
I am slow, I read slow and then I have to reread everything I read, and anything I write needs a lot of editing. Because I know that those things take me longer, I start any reading and writing tasks very early. This saves me stress and often makes me an exemplary student. When my peers where whining about their undergrad dissertation I had mine completed 5 days before the hand in date. My masters dissertation was written up 3 months before the deadline, though it did take those three months to edit it.
#4 I read more than most people
This might seem counter intuitive for a dyslexic but I read a lot. At uni I would usually have a very thorough bibliography for every essay. The reason for this is my short attention span and inability to process information at a first attempt. To remember a concept, to understand it I need to read a text at least two or three times. Lucky for me I get bored easily and I hate reading the same material. So I get different books on the same topic and read all of them.
#5 Writing in notes/lists style
I try to keep information in bullet points and broken down paragraphs, huge blocks of text freak me out. Luckily for me we live in a world where everyone is too busy to read a block of text and with the rise of Buzzfeed and list journalism the way I write is actually the way people want to read.
I must add that I am happy I found out I am dyslexic as a grown up, I think that if it happened in my childhood I would have used it as an excuse not to do things I enjoyed like writing, because I would assume a dyslexic could never be a writer. Finding out I am dyslexic also inspired me to to look at areas that dyslexics are notoriously good at that I thought were not for me like entrepreneurship and business. Dyslexia is often portrayed as the divine right to be a successful entrepreneur, I know its bollocks but it did give me the confidence to explore the world of entrepreneurship, and it turns out I am good at it.
In conclusion, I want to add this — who came up with the word ‘dyslexia’? Considering the trademark of the condition is inability to spell why would you create a convoluted word to describe that condition? Are there any dyslexics out there who are capable of writing ‘dyslexia’ without a spelling mistake?
Jenny Judova is a successful businesswoman as the founder of ArtMapLondon. To learn more about her feel free to drop her line on Twitter at @JennyJudova.