Category Archives: Dyslexic Writer

1986 Brutal Truth: Sad

Not every day at school was dark, but the saddest were those when I was evaluated.

In 1986, I was tested again and never told of my learning disability; dyslexia.

Every time they pulled me out of class I wanted to cry.

As if trapped in a spotlight without warning, the heat instantly burned my cheeks. Sweat broke within my hairline and my skin grew hot before my teacher could speak my name. The urge to grit my teeth and glare defiantly at my at the chalkboard was strong. Refusal to leave was evident in my unwillingness to move or even look toward the stranger at the door. But, that would have only created an even greater spectacle.

So instead, I render myself invisible by disappearing as quickly and quietly as I could.

My sadness was like a stack of books weighing me down.

Not one destroyed day, in particular, stands out. No actual dates mark my dark calendar of baggage. I only remember being yanked from so many classes at least twice a year.  The slow walk down the empty halls to a yet another tiny office unknown to students was unforgettable. As was, of course, the relentless testing. These memories are impossible to tear from the childhood scrapbook in my mind.

Merely recounting these sessions makes me sad.

Dyslexic Writer; Brutal Truth 1986
Sad

No one ever asked me if I wanted to go. And no one ever told me why I was being tested. In fact, my parent’s weren’t even aware of these back alley assessments. Make no mention of my results.
I knew why I was being tested. I was stupid and THEY (the faceless they that no one ever calls by name or identifies) wanted to know how stupid I really was. They wanted to determine if I was worthy of my current grade or attending an institution.

Staring unfocused at something just over their left ear while allowing spittle to collect at the corner of my lip was tempting. If only to give them something more to report than…

…my inability to read.

But I was terrified of where that may land me.

A kid in my class once said that I was being interviewed for special ed or the community living classes as we called it back then.
The truth was I wasn’t sure what the outcome of my results would produce and fought the strains of tears that threatened.

It was not until university that I discovered that I had a learning disability called dyslexia.

Did they really think that they could pluck me from class for an hour and have me return without notice?

As if, elementary kids are known for their empathy and sensitivity. That the discretion of my classmates not to make mention or ask questions was understood.  Some would say that I was lucky to have a change of atmosphere and would assume that what I went go to do was fun. Until another would not so subtly announce that…

dumb kids don’t get perks.  

It was so unfair and disruptive.  It took hours before something else would steal away their attention.

And, all for what?

It wasn’t as if anything changed. Once my brief absents was forgotten by my fellow students, life returned to normal. I would continue struggling along through school doing my best to blend in and avoid outing my stupidity, until the next surprise evaluation.

This was my reality throughout elementary school. It didn’t occur to me to miss my secret testing sessions until a teacher in grade 12 nearly ruined my high school career. But that’s another story.

I am dyslexic and this is my brutal truth.

 

1984 – Fever

1989 – Panic

1990 – Fear

1992 – Anger

1995 – Fraud

1995 Brutal Truth: Fraud

Fraud

Up until 1995, I was unknowingly suffering from dyslexia. This is my brutal truth.

Being accused of fraud was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

Fraud.  This is exactly how I felt attending University; a fraud.  Somehow, I managed to graduate high school with a GPA that snagged an acceptance to my preferred post-secondary education establishment.  This was a feat within itself because…

I pulled through high school without reading a single book cover to cover.

My trick? Well, I took impeccable notes, that only I could translate and I made a point of writing essays that regurgitated the opinions of my teachers as discussed in class. I wore a path in the library carpet directly to the Cole’s Note section and specifically chose books that had been made to film, no matter how obscure. Imagine what I could have done if Google had existed back then. Anyway, all of my diversions to reading worked like a charm. Or so I had thought.

Until the day I was asked to stay after one of my first-year university tutorials.

Upon hearing my name, I froze; in spite of the heat that instantly brightened my face and the pulse that throbbed hotly scorching my veins, I could not move. This should not have come as a complete surprise. After all,  everyone but me had had their midterm papers returned to them at the end of class.

My T.A was about five years my senior; a fact that made the ‘no-notice’ discussion bearable. Well, far less intimidating than if it had been my professor that is.  As I approached the vacant seat reserved for me, she slid papers from a folder. Immediately, I recognized them as two of my own assignments.  One had been a five page, take home article; typed double spaced as required.  The other was a handwritten, in-class essay.

Hey, it was the nineties.

She tapped her capped pen on the typed title page. “Who wrote this?”

The question shocked me into silence. It was a long moment before I closed my mouth and blinked the dryness from my eyes.

“I did.” My response was not more than a squeaky whisper.

This, I had not expected. I had assumed and prepared for a bad mark and…

yet another conversation that gently suggested that I drop out of the class.  

See, dreadfully low grades mess with the bell curve and no professor wants that.  Thankfully, final grades depend on more than just the written component or I would never have made it out of fourth grade. It was always the shining marks I earned through oral presentations, class discussions and in group work that pushed me through.

See, dreadfully low grades mess with the bell curve and no professor wants that.  Thankfully, final grades depend on more than just the written component or I would never have made it out of fourth grade. It was always the shining marks I earned through oral presentations, class discussions and in group work that pushed me through.

“You didn’t get someone else to write this?” She peered at me without expression.
Dyslexic Writer; Brutal Truth 1995. Fraud
fraud

 

As the implication of what she was suggesting sank in, the stinging strain of tears flooded my vision.  My balled fists began to tremble beneath the table top with the hopelessness of my predicament. All I could do was shake my head. My future hung in the balance and under her severe scrutiny I was crumbling.  Finally, she sighed and pushed back into her chair.
 
“Then explain the drastic difference between these two papers.”
 

“Prep time and spell check.” I deadpanned without missing a beat.

 
Straightening again, she bounced her pen relentlessly upon my in-class essay.  It was a blur of blue arching from her fingers. Was she weighing her words or measuring my response? Suddenly the tapping stopped and the uncomfortable silence brought my eyes to her’s.
 

“This one is unreadable.”

 
I knew that she was not talking about my hand writing. It was my countless spelling errors and nonsensical rambling.  When writing, my thoughts stream so rapidly that the ink is unable to keep up. What is worse, is that I am blind to my own errors.  When I was able to type assignments,  leaving them to the last minute was never an option. My first draft was often in point form to get all of my ideas down. The second draft, I would string those points altogether into a coherent format. Then, I forget about it for as many days as possible.  The time I allotted was literally so that I could forget. My words needed to fall from my memory and sentence structure grow unfamiliar so that I could edit it better.
 
I was holding my breath waiting. Waiting to be expelled for fraud or being kicked from the program for being too stupid the belong.
Her next words changed everything. 

“You, my dear, are dyslexic.”

 
With that, she stacked my papers and aligned them perfectly by tersely dropping the edges on the table top with a clap. The expression she wore was unreadable as she trusted the sheets towards me. 
“I strongly recommend that you make an appointment to be evaluated at the learning disability center. “
 
I took little notice of my T.As leaving but she must have. Once I had composed myself, I realized that I was sitting a lone in the cavernous classroom. Relief washed over me. I wasn’t going to be expelled.  And did I dare be hopeful with the idea of being evaluated at the learning disability center?
 

I am dyslexic and this my brutal truth.

1984 Brutal Truth: Fever

Fever

Every day in school a feverish nightmare was likely to occur.  Back then I was unaware of my learning disability and knew nothing of dyslexia.

This is my story.  A brutal truth, unknowingly living with dyslexia in 1984.

1984 Brutal Truth
Fever

 

“…fever…”

 

Fever should rhyme with never. Right? This was my only thought as I stared at the foreign word. Standing at the front of the room, I could barely see over the podium. I clutched the open book in my hands. The black letters swelled and the rest of my grade four class blurred and shimmered in my peripheral.

“What?” Mr. Moir asked not bothering to leave his desk.

Instead, he pinched the bridge of his nose from beneath his glasses. He was a stout man who liked to wear the color of oatmeal. Across the top of his shiny head strands of hair laid like lines in the sky after an air show. There was no sympathy in his expression once he dragged his palm down his rough chin. He looked tired and even a little annoyed. Meanwhile,

I was the one facing my worst fear;

 

standing in front of my entire class reading a passage I had never laid eyes on before.  It took everything I had not to cry or pee my pants and my teacher looked bored.

He scratched the air with his finger as a gesture for me to bring the book to him. When I did so, I pointed at the word with my chewed down finger nail.

“Fever.” He said these two ugly syllables in a way that showed his crowded bottom teeth.

I had never been eye level with Mr. Mori before and did not care for it at all.

“Fever.” I echoed in a whisper. “But it looks like never,” I dared to explain.

His face crumpled as if he were refraining from saying,

‘stupid girl.’

 

Then, from behind me, the tempered giggles and snorts that I ignored, became alive. The entire room erupted into laughter and I saw the jagged line of Mr. Moir’s teeth again. He too was laughing.

My face grew hot and my eyes burned. I felt so small and naked.  Ice cold realization hit me;

this was where my nightmares lived. 

 

Closed in by the chalkboard wall, the giant teacher’s desk, and the podium, I was trapped by fear and humiliation. This moment stretched on and slithered around me, swaying the room. Once the clatter of laughter subsided there was no apology or even pointless face covering. I was not asked to return to my seat. Instead, mercilessly, Mr. Moir pointed to the podium.

“Proceed.” He said as if nothing had happened.

I was not yet freed from this nightmare.

I am dyslexic and this is my brutal truth.

1986 – Sad

1989 – Panic

1990 – Fear

1992 – Anger

1995 – Fraud

 

1992 Brutal Truth: Anger

Anger

This is my story.  A brutal truth, unknowingly living with dyslexia in 1992.

Dyslexic Writer - anger a brutal truth 1992
Anger

High school is a lonely and unkind place for a student struggling with a learning disability that no one talks about.  Anger is an emotional easily sparked.

“What is wrong with you?” Her question alone was heart-wrenching but the tone nearly earned her a slap.

The lines being read aloud were slow and careful.  The unbearable silence that followed her intrusive question made me tremble.

A group of us had gathered in the only classroom with a carpeted area and fabric covered furniture.  I had just landed a speaking role in the high school play and we were meeting to do a run through. Clueless to what that meant, I hadn’t known to be nervous. I was still humming from the excitement of being a cast member. This was a really big deal for me. There were many exceptionally talented kids at my school. The auditions had been a testament to that. Beautiful voices, amazing dancing, and unbelievable acting commanded the stage and I had not felt worthy to claim a spot.

There I was, with the script in my hand, sitting among the best and brightest.  I was in awe. Then the reading began.

Cue the panic.

 

The lead male role was awarded to a very popular, charming and ridiculously hot senior who was a triple threat. In fact, he still is.

When he read, my heart swelled as I listened in amazement. No one seemed uncomfortable or worried about reading their lines. I, on the other hand, was fearful of peeing my pants. Luckily, I only had two lines, one in each act.   There was plenty of time for me to find them and burn them to memory before my character was introduced.

The star of the show was speaking very slowly and carefully. This affected me deeply. I was thrilled that he read like me, except without any of my visible anxiety. So, when the girl beside me interrupted him with her outrageously rude question, I am sure I bared my teeth.

“What is wrong with you?” Her wrinkled nose and furrowed brow froze on the last word.

A long, dreadfully awkward moment passed and something in side me fractured for him. He looked to her and then passed his gaze over all of us.

“I’m dyslexic.”

 

He said this evenly; simply.  There was no apology. It was a fact that he shared in a way that made it her problem, not his.

The breath I released once he returned to his lines was one that I had been holding my entire life. I was amazed by him and this revelation of not being alone was truly freeing. A bubble of glee made me grin when the ignorant girl beside me raised her script to conceal her blazing cheeks. It was a beautiful thing.

Even to this day, he has no idea how the delivery of those two words changed my life.  Before then I had never heard of dyslexia nor had I known anyone to openly admit to something so hushed with such confidence and conviction.   He is unaware of the impact that he had on me that day. And I wish I could say that I was no longer afraid, but that would be a lie.  Just learning that others struggle and prevail with dyslexia was immensely inspiring.

For that, I will continue to write.

I am a dyslexic writer and this is my brutal truth.

1984 – Fever

1986 – Sad

1989 – Panic

1990 – Fear

1995 – Fraud

 

 

1990 Brutal Truth: Fear

Fear

This is my story.  A brutal truth, unknowingly living with dyslexia in 1990.

Eventually, the constant chatter over my seizure, AKA choking episode, quieted. The most recent and dramatic stunt yet, to get out of reading aloud. The attention of my class mate’s was quickly claimed by other gossip and more pressing events like grade eight graduation. Until of course, I was called to the principles office one beautiful spring day.
This happened a lot, but the sinking feeling in my stomach told me this time would be different. The principle and I were on better speaking terms than almost all the students, even some faculty. This was because I spent a lot of time in the office. Three days a week I volunteered to answer the phone and file documents over the lunch hour and after school.
This was one of the many perks of having a teacher’s daughter for a friend. In grade eight, my friends had a huge impact on who I was. Not only was I lucky enough to have beautiful popular friends, they were all brilliant. I mean honor role, enriched classes to boot smart. I guess that guilt by association isn’t always a bad thing. Many people assumed that I was a brainiac too because of the company I kept.  Who was I to argue? But, boy, were they wrong.
Volunteering in the library probably reinforced this false image of my high intelligence.  Yep, illiterate me, worked in the library and was good at it too. I took the dewy decimals system very seriously and was nice to the Librarians. Meaning, I acknowledged them and recognized them as being human and not just moving features within the aisle of books like most kids at my school. I am sure that had something to do with them requesting me specifically to help rid the carts of returned books.
This walk to the office, however, had nothing to do with my volunteer work. I could feel it, something was up.
The secretary ushered me into the principle’s office as soon as I arrived. His door was already open and he sat at the conference table, not his desk. The sunshine streaming through his wall of windows muted the features of his face. So it was not until after our pleasantries that I noticed his weighed down expression.  He was unreadable but my instinct told me to worry. The clunk of the door closing as I sat door vaulted this bad feeling into mild anxiety that was quickly hurling towards panic.
Before him was a very official looking document. At first, I thought I had interrupted his work.  Still, I had no clue what I was doing here, in the principle’s office during class, just the two of us.
Even at fourteen, I understood that his polite questions were an attempt to disarm me as a preamble to the bad news.Yet, I still had not expected him to refer to the sheet of paper on the table.  After slipping on his glasses the principle explained how he did not have time to read all of the papers that crossed his desk. Instead, he skimmed them by reading the first and last sentence of every paragraph.  My throat started to close with the onset of panic but I managed to smile and nod; my go to response in the face of anxiety.

Oh, no! He was going to be asked to read, legal adult jargon.

Before my attack had a chance to alter my breathing, he told me that I should use this method to help me read more quickly.

Over his glasses, he pinned me with his brown eyes. I almost peed my pants. Then, his weathered face quirked into a smile and I was dismissed.

I didn’t get a chance to thank him for the tip even though I knew it would not work for someone like me. By the time I sifted through a paragraph to find the beginning of the last sentence, I may as well read the whole dang thing. That was the thought that carried me back to class until another one stopped me in my tracks. My principle had been troubled as if he had a big decision to make. He alone held my future in his hands.  

He would determine if I graduated with my class or was held back to repeat grade eight.

 

Dyslexic Writer; 1990 Brutal Truth. Fear
DW: Fear
The fist of fear that clenched my heart was enough to bring me to my knees. I fought it but was not so lucky in holding back the well of tears that stung my eyes.
Never before had I been pulled into his office to lightly discuss my studies.  That hadn’t been a polite preamble. That had been the entire point of the meeting.  The panic started to rise again.

Would he really hold me back?

Three weeks later, I got my answer.  In a puffy sleeved dress with big fluffy bangs to match, I was the happiest of grade eight grads.
High school, here I come.  It couldn’t be worse than public school. Right?
 
 

I am dyslexic and this is my brutal truth.

1986 – Sad

1989 – Panic

1990 – Fear

1992 – Anger

1995 – Fraud

 

1989 Brutal Truth: Panic

Panic…

an everyday occurrence for me in school. Back when I was unaware of my learning disability and knew nothing of dyslexia, all I felt was stupid and panic when centered out and forced to read.

This is my story.  A brutal truth, unknowingly living with dyslexia in 1989.

Panic has got to be the worst sensation next to dying.  Everything seems to happen at once. My throat goes dry but not before an impossibly thick lump forms. My vision begins to blur around the edges and my limbs go numb.  Then, there is the internal turmoil. My lungs don’t stop working as much as I forget to breathe. I can feel my heartbeat thrashing against my ribs and my lunch squirms its way around my gut. All of this because my grade-eight teacher has just passed around the school’s code of conduct that we are expected to read aloud in turn.

Dyslexic Writer, panic over reading aloud
Dyslexic Panic

Once the roar of my pulse lessons, I can hear and I realize that we will all be assigned a paragraph. Frantically, I blink to regain my vision and count the number of students that should be before me, as a way to find my paragraph. This routine is all too familiar but no less stressful. I read my part over and over in hopes to burn it into my memory. This is doable, I assure myself in hopes to calm my body’s commotion.

My breathing is almost back to normal when I hear my name.

 

Looking up, all eyes are on me. Panic rises again as I realize that the person next to me hadn’t been reading. I was to read after them, now all preparation time has been lost.  The teacher has switched directions on me and it is now my turn.  I haven’t a clue where we are or how to find this foreign paragraph that I have never laid eyes upon. Bile curdles in the hollow of my stomach and I feel my face grow cold.

Before I can think, I throw myself onto the floor seizing.  The shaking is so violent that I whack my head on the leg of my chair. But that doesn’t hurt nearly as bad as what happens next.

All the students are on their feet. Desks and chairs screech out of the way. Girls are screaming, some are crying. I hear the teacher order someone to the office when I am picked up like a rag doll.  Massive arms encircle me while a double fist slams into my chest.  The first blow nearly breaks me in half and the fifth surely busts a rib.  That’s when my lunch decides to make an entrance. At this point…

vomiting is more of less involuntary.

 

Faking a seizure seemed like a good idea at the time, although it failed to have an exit strategy. I did not foresee, Randy Caligan the captain of the basketball team and Boy Scout extraordinaire to jump to my rescue. He was so eager to perform his new found skill the   Heimlich maneuver that it didn’t matter that I was not choking.

None the less, minutes later, there I was in the nurse’s room a complete and utter hot mess. With sore ribs, a bruised chest, and blood shot eyes I waited for the final. The puke scent that I called my own was inescapable. Still, this was a far better outcome than having to read out loud.

I am dyslexic and this is my brutal truth.

1984 – Fever

1986 – Sad

1990 – Fear

1992 – Anger

1995 – Fraud