It's like this. You walk into church on Sunday morning a little late. The parking lot is at full capacity because it's a special day and there are many visitors in from out of town. The pews are packed. Your husband goes on in ahead while you bring your pasta salad down to the basement kitchen. When you come upstairs, you look in the direction of your usual seat to find visitors sitting there. It looks like every seat is filled. You know there is a seat for you- it's right by your husband if only you can "see" him. But you can't see him at all, you can only look out into a sea of people, none of whom are him, even though he is looking directly at you, trying to catch your attention. You start to panic. No matter how hard you try to "see" your husband, you can't. Your eye is repeatedly drawn back to your regular seat which repeatedly confirms that it is taken. Why can't you see your husband who is no more than twelve feet away? People must think you're crazy.
Or...you're sewing the sleeve on a dress. Everything is going fine. You finish and discover that you sewed the sleeve on perfectly...inside out. It looked fine all along. You can't imagine how you did this.
Or you can't read a map.
Or you leave the stove burner on and leave the house, because you can't "see" the flame.
This is dyslexia.
October is dyslexia awareness month, and as someone who has a form of this unique disability, I like to do my part and spend one post out of the year educating others about it. The form of the disability that I have is called dyscalculia or "number dyslexia", and affects mostly how I view and process numbers. It is mainstream dyslexia's cousin. My learning disability was not caught for many, many years. No teacher or college professor could explain why I excelled at english, writing, spelling, and foreign languages, but could not advance my math skills beyond a very basic elementary level. In fact, some people probably just thought I was lazy or even worse, was not "applying" myself. Nothing could have been further from the truth. No sooner could you show me how to conquer a math problem, than the instructions would leave my head and the numbers would transpose. It was terribly frustrating. It frustrates me even more when I meet math teachers who have never heard of dyscalculia. This is a learning disability that as many as 1 in 20 children have. And although it is a recognized learning diability, awareness of it lags far behind when compared to more mainstream disabilities.
For those of us with forms of dyslexia, it affects far more than those years in the classroom. It follows us everywhere in life as we create innovative and terribly clever work-arounds for our disability in an effort to become clever and able.
So. If someone you love suffers from a learning disability, or you suspect that a child does, please take time to educate yourself about this and have it properly diagnosed as early as possible. There is a wealth of information online, and I recommend starting here.