Dyslexia is a common learning disability that causes people to have difficulty interpreting words when reading. This issue is written from the point of view of an individual with dyslexia whom we have interviewed. In this article he shares his story about how dyslexia has affected him. Some facts about dyslexia and further problems caused by dyslexia are listed after this first-person narrative. (The names in this issue have been changed to protect the identity of the interviewee.)
作者 | Writers: Aicha Maryam K., Abby Clark
翻译 | Translator: Yifan Kong
插图 | Illustrator: Nipun Kudalkar
My name is Bobby Possumcods. I was born in Mumbai, one of the biggest metropolises in India. I like art and watches and cars. I like food and meat. I like museums and long coats. I have several friends. My family loves me.
I was diagnosed with dyslexia when I was 14. Many people around me didn’t understand what dyslexia was, which I totally understand. They were primarily focused on making ends meet – no one bothered to care about the dyslexia of a privileged kid.
Yes, I was privileged. My father is a famous doctor, and we had our own hospital. I was more privileged than most of my peers in school, so this may be why many of them thought my dyslexia was just an excuse to cover up laziness and stupidity.
I remember one time I was misbehaving in class, and the teacher got angry with me. In front of the whole class, she said to me: “Just because your mom thinks you have certain issues in life, that doesn’t mean that we as an institution have to deal with your issues.” Ever since that moment, my dyslexia became famous among my peers. My situation, however, did not improve.
The Indian education system provides some support to dyslexic students once they are diagnosed. I usually got 20-30 more minutes when taking the 2-hour exams. One time, however, during a math exam, the professor refused to give me the extra time. As I walked out of the classroom, my friend, Stuart, was waiting for me. He saw me trembling, clearly shaken-up. Because of this, he decided to approach the examiner and argue that I should be given the extra time. We walked into the classroom, so it was just me and my paper. Stuart asked his friends to stay in the hallway to make sure no one walked by the door. Then, he asked the professor to stand in the corner. Stuart took a look at my paper, said:“You f**king idiot! You’re going to fail!”. Then he took the textbook out from my backpack and referred to it, and told me what to write on the paper. I suppose many people would think this is just another example of privileged kids bending the rules for their own benefit, but it’s okay. I spent the first 20 years of my life trying to explain myself to people but was never understood. In times like these, when I felt misunderstood, I gradually began repeating a single phrase to myself: “I don’t care.“
No one has any idea how hard I studied in high school. I’d wake up at 4:00 in the morning and go to bed at 11:00 at night. Weekends, during that time, did not exist for me. I also had a lot of private tutors who would come and tutor me from 7:00 AM to 9:00 PM from Monday to Friday. I only went to school in the afternoon to take exams, as this allowed me to study more at home. I hate school anyway. Despite all this strenuous effort to succeed in school, I still only got an average result on the final exam.
Ever since I was young, I’ve never been very good at studying. Single-digit marks were common for me. However, my family has been very supportive. They never asked about my grades and were typically happy with the ones I received. This encouragement and support mattered a lot to me, especially growing up as a dyslexic person. I see the way in which the world functions differently from most people. I, as a dyslexic individual, also function in a different way from others. That is why it was so important for me to have this emotional support system; it showed me that it’s okay that I do things in my own way.
History and culture intrigue me. When I was young, I watched a lot of documentaries with my dad and brother. To this day, it’s still one of my favourite things to do. I also like reading books regarding history and culture, despite the fact that reading is difficult for me.
My interest in history and culture led me to museums where I later on found my calling in life. Through museums, I started working on artwork conservation. As it turns out, I’m really good at it. When working with artwork, I can continuously work for 3 to 4 hours, despite my ADHD. Furthermore, I’ve always been good at handcrafting. When working at the museum, I did not only conserve the artwork but also repaired the furniture and the wall. Maybe it was because no one cared about the details in my life that I became very detail-oriented. I always believed I was gifted when I was young, but I didn’t know what I was gifted with was Dyslexia.
At the age of 17, I went to a college to study medicine as my parents wished. It was the first time that I lived on my own, without my family. At this darkest time in my life, my counselors helped me the most. Stuart even told me it would be okay to give up in the middle of the semester, but I didn’t want to give up. I didn’t want to leave the semester incomplete. I wanted to live up to my parents’ expectations, as they have invested so much in me. For these reasons, I carried on with my first year. I can now say that I’m glad I didn’t die. I survived the first year and afterwards switched to taking the subjects I like instead of medicine.
At one point in my life, I met a Chinese girl. We used to daydream about the future together. One time, she talked about building schools in my hometown, like those Hope Primary Schools (please see endnote) in China. I said I didn’t want to do that, as I didn’t know if schools like that would help dyslexic children like me. I believe dyslexia is more of an inner battle – you need to deal with it yourself. Of course, I would like to guide dyslexic children, teach them ways to do things, and advise them to find counselors. At the end of the day for dyslexic people, though, it’s more important to come to peace with yourself rather than to explain your problem to others.
I told that Chinese girl about my learning disabilities the week after we met, but I don’t think she quite understood my situation. Once I got deeply upset about this and questioned her about it. I said to her, “I told you about my learning disabilities. I told you about my dyslexia and ADHD. Why can’t you do some research and learn about it? It’s okay other people don’t understand me. But as someone who’s this close to me, you should understand!”
Later on, she told me that she did some research after all in Chinese. Most of the information she found only explained the biological background such as the causes and symptoms of dyslexia. Few of the Chinese sources mentioned the chain reactions that come out of dyslexia and the various struggles dyslexic people tend to face in life beyond the difficulty of reading. Only after she conducted some English research in academic databases did she start to get an idea of what I had initially expected her to understand. By that time, however, we had already grown far apart.
Have I won this inner battle with dyslexia yet? No. Everyone with dyslexia has to fight this battle on a daily basis. There are reminders everyday telling me that this is how it is. This is how my life is.
Despite my struggles with dyslexia, which have helped shape me as a person, dyslexia does not define who I am. I’m Bobby Possumcods. I have been always fascinated with history and maps. My favourite artists are Akbar Padamsee, Bhupen Kakker, and G. H. Ara. I have been an Art Conservator in India, and I am passionate about my work. My present country of residence is Canada, and I hope to gather here the similar career trajectory and acumen as I had in Mumbai. I like to run – that is my escape. I hate pigeons. I don’t like people who doubt me. I don’t like this name Bobby Possumcods, because it’s fake. But except for the name, everything else in this story is true.
我与我的阅读障碍不断抗争，可以说阅读障碍在一定程度上成就了今天的我，可它并不定义我。我是鲍比，一个一直都对历史和地图充满热爱的人。我最喜欢的艺术家是Akbar Padamsee, Bhupen Kakker和G. H. Ara。我在印度曾是一名文物修复师，并且非常热爱我的工作。我现在居住在加拿大，希望也能获得类似的职业发展及经历。我喜欢跑步，那是我避世的一种方式。我讨厌鸽子，不喜欢质疑我的人。我也不怎么喜欢鲍比这个名字，因为它是假的。可是除了名字，这个故事里的一切，都是真的。
*Endnote: Hope Primary Schools are built under the Chinese public service project – Project Hope which aims to bring schools into poverty-stricken rural areas of China, to help children whose families are too poor to afford complete elementary school education.
Basic Facts about Dyslexia
- Dyslexia affects 15-20% of people (1).
- People of all intelligence levels have been found to have dyslexia, showing that it does not reflect on one’s intelligence. It also does not cause laziness or lack of a work ethic, contrary to what many assume (2).
- Dyslexia causes people to misinterpret words, as their eyes will see words clearly, but then their brain misinterprets the words, relaying a flawed message. One of the most common ways in which this occurs is that dyslexics often struggle to recognize small units of sound in words, causing them to fail to connect sounds in words and misinterpret letters for ones that look similar, such as seeing b’s instead of p’s (2).
- 阅读障碍会影响15%-20%的人 (1)。
- 研究证明阅读障碍与智力水平无关。与许多假设相反，阅读障碍也不会导致懒惰和不敬业 (2)。
- 阅读障碍会导致人们曲解单词 (2)。阅读障碍导致人曲解字词含义，他们的眼睛可以清楚地看到字词但是大脑却会曲解字词，传达不完整的信息。最常见的一种阅读障碍通常表现在无法辨认字词中小的发音区别，导致无法将发音和字词联系起来，混淆看起来相似的字母，比如把“b”看成“p” (2)。
Further Problems Caused by Dyslexia
- Dyslexic children often feel inferior or inadequate due to not being able to read as easily as their peers (2). This is likely why adolescents with dyslexia have been found to often have low self-esteem (3).
- Blaming oneself for difficulties with reading is very common with dyslexic individuals. They often do not have a complete understanding of their dyslexia, causing this self-doubt. This can lead to poor handling of challenges and increased stress and anxiety (4).
- Dyslexic adults report that their most common symptom is anxiety. This is likely due to constant frustration in school as a result of dyslexia. When handling new situations, dyslexics often become quite anxious, anticipating failure due to past frustrations (5).
- Studies have shown that typical students attribute their successes to their own efforts, whereas dyslexics often attribute successes to luck. Dyslexics often perceive themselves as stupid when they fail, expecting failure in the first place due to the struggles they face daily when reading (5).
- When a child has dyslexia, they are at higher risk for developing depression. “Perhaps because of their low self–esteem, dyslexics are afraid to turn their anger toward their environment and instead turn it toward themselves.” (5).
- 有阅读障碍的儿童通常会因为无法和同龄人一样地轻松阅读而觉得自己低人一等 (2)这很可能是有阅读障碍的青少年被发现大多存在低自尊的原因(3)
- 有阅读障碍症的成人最常见的症状是焦虑，这很可能是由在校期间因阅读障碍导致的持续沮丧而造成的。当面对新的局面时，阅读障碍人群通常变得十分焦虑，因为过去的沮丧而预设失败的结局 (5)
- 研究表明，一般学生会将成功归因于自身的努力，而有阅读障碍的学生会将成功归因于运气。阅读障碍人群通常在失败时认为自己很愚蠢，并且因为每天在阅读时遇到的困难，会第一时间倾向于认为自己会失败 (5)
- 有阅读障碍的儿童具有更高的抑郁风险。“也许是因为他们的低自尊，阅读障碍人群不敢将他们的愤怒的矛头指向周围的环境，于是便指向了他们自己” (5)
参考资料 | Reference
- Nielsen, Kathleen H. “Dyslexia.” The SAGE Encyclopedia of Educational Research, Measurement, and Evaluation, edited by Bruce B. Frey, Sage Publications, 1st edition, 2018.
- “Dyslexia.” Human Diseases and Conditions, edited by Gale, 3rd edition, 2017.
- Study by Mai Eissa (“Behavioral and Emotional Problems Associated with Dyslexia in Adolescence”): http://psychiatry-research-eg.com/texts/ins/HQ2010-10400.pdf
- https://dyslexiaida.org/the-dyslexia-stress-anxiety-connection/ (International Dyslexia Association)
编辑 | Editors: Joyce, Yifan
排版 | Typesetting: Yifan