I'd Like to Apologize to All Dyslexics

Photo of Nelson Lauver, Author

I’d like to Apologize to All Dyslexics

I received a diagnosis of dyslexia at the ripe old age of 29.

Since that time, and very innocently I might add, I have said some really dumb things about dyslexia. Disclaimer: In my defense, these are things I've said out of pure ignorance and a steady diet of misinformation.

I See Things Backward.

Shorty after being diagnosed I confided in a teacher-friend that I was, in fact, dyslexic.

"Oh, that's no big deal. It just means that you see things backwards," she said.

"I DO?"

"Sure, you just don't realize it because you always have and at this point in your life it seems normal to you," she replied.

I started walking around her kitchen touching things: a fork, cabinet door and items in her refrigerator.

I was trying to catch myself seeing things backwards. But according to my teacher-friend, my nearly 30-year-old brain was so accustomed to seeing things backwards that it "was set in stone and I'd never be able to change it."

No Pictures in My Head.

At about the same time, I saw a psychologist on a weekly basis who was trying to get my head screwed back on straight. I was a very angry young man presenting with a second-grade reading and writing level.

He told me that the cause of my dyslexia was that I can't see pictures in my head like normal people.

"OK, let's do an exercise," he said.

"I want you to close your eyes and picture the house you grew up in. Can you see it, Nelson?"

"Well, I think so. It's stone and has a red roof and white window panes ..."

He interrupted me. "But can you see it like a movie playing in a theater? Can you see it as clearly on the back of your eyelids as if you were looking at the big screen."

"Well, yes, no, sort of, probably not, but I think I can see it! Wait! Yes! No, I guess not?" I told him.

"That is the problem; you have no visual memory. You depend on your inner voice as your memory," he explained.

He went on to tell me, "You can't spell because you can't see the word you want to spell."

I left the shrink's office that day and spent the next several years explaining dyslexia to family and close friends as "viewing everything backwards, even though I can't tell it's backwards. Also, I don't have the ability to see pictures in my head like normal people, and that's why I can’t read well and spell, and stuff like that."

Later I would come to discover that most dyslexics don't view the world backward. I also learned that I not only see pictures in my head but, like many dyslexics, I think in pictures. As far as having a movie projector in my brain shooting cinematic pictures on to the back of eyelids, I've yet to find ANYONE with such a gift.

Of course, I learned this only after I was a party to the further distribution of this misinformation.

But Wait, There's More!

As I look back, it all makes me feel so silly, but in the immortal words of Ron Popeil, American inventor and television personality, "WAIT, THERE'S MORE!"

For so long I wanted to be normal. I lamented the fact that I had the dubious distinction of graduating dead last in East Juniata High School's class of 1981. I was upset that I didn't go to college and law school. I was angry that I wasn't the big, powerful attorney on the back cover of the Yellow Pages book.

I went looking for a "cure." I confided in friends and family that I felt "broken" and I wanted to be "fixed."

I laugh now because I finally realize that I'm not broken, and I don't need to be fixed. Sure, there are lots of tools I use to compensate for dyslexia but all kinds of craftsmen use tools in their jobs, right?

Finding the Gifts.

I have found the gifts that come with being dyslexic and it is such a pleasure to have them. (I elaborated on these gifts in my blog at www.nelsonsbook.com.) Life is OK these days. I had extensive literacy tutoring in my 30s and that helped a lot. I'm in my early 50s now. I'm married, and my wife is great at spelling (not the only reason I married her). Oh, and I'm a professional writer with a book on the New York Times Best Sellers List. OK, OK, I am an author but the part about my book being a best seller isn't true. I just wanted to see what that looks like in print. It looks GREAT!

On the road to understanding, I've had a few fender-benders and for that I am very sorry.

Nelson Lauver is the host of the American Storyteller Radio Journal and author of the award-winning memoir “Most Unlikely To Succeed.” He is also a keynote speaker, humorist, syndicated broadcaster, strategist, entrepreneur, voice-over artist, co-founder of the Jane and Nelson Lauver Foundation and director of ProblemTank, a neurodiverse think tank.

Thank you very much Nelson for guest blogging for us!

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