My Dyslexia Is Not Just a Reading Disability

I have never been one to hide my disabilities. Within 10 minutes of meeting me, you will probably learn I am dyslexic. Dyslexia has given me many, many gifts; however, it’s also something I have struggled with. One of the reasons dyslexia is so hard to deal with is because it has a stereotype that only my reading is affected. This isn’t true at all, though. My language, motor skills, comprehension, and memory are affected just as much as my reading.

Dyslexia is a language disability. I have a hard time deciphering phonemes (hence why I thought three, tree, and free were all pronounced the same until my second grade special education teacher corrected me). My dyslexia is pretty severe, and here’s what it’s really like.

It took me until fourth grade to realize that the “pa-” in Pacific Ocean wasn’t pronounced as “spa-” as in “specific ocean.” I still have a lot of difficulty in differentiating between b and v, and th and f. I may struggle to pronounce your name, especially if it stems from a language other than English and has difficult phonemes. I swear I’m not trying to be culturally insensitive; I honestly just have no idea what phonemes I’m hearing, because they all sound so similar to each other. Like the name “Fatima,” I will probably think you are saying “Vateema” or maybe even something completely different.

Sounding out words is probably one of the hardest things to do, because I can’t connect the phonemes to letters. I usually read words as if they were pictures, which really helps with reading to myself. The second I have to read out loud though, it becomes challenging, because those words have to be translated into sound instead of just associating the word as a picture. I try to avoid public speaking at all costs because of this, and it’s a huge insecurity of mine. Honestly, it’s hard to keep up in conversations with people because words in general are just unnatural.

I describe how dyslexia affects my language abilities like this: You are in a foreign country with a language completely different from your native language. Everyone in that country, however, expects you to be fluent in this foreign language despite the fact you are only conversational in said language. In your native language, your comprehension is above average and you are incredibly intelligent, but since you have a hard time expressing yourself in this foreign language, everyone assumes you are unintelligent and don’t understand how you have such little comprehension in this foreign tongue. This leads you to develop things like social anxiety and depressionbecause you feel as if you’ll never be able to correctly express yourself to these people around you. That’s what written and spoken language is like to me, a foreign language. I think in pictures, even the most abstract ideas. Whenever I have to have a conservation with someone, I think of what I want to say in picture form, and then I translate it to words.

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