What follows is a variation on a Daily Prompt response I posted on Emotional Fitness Training, Inc.’s blog this week. That prompt asked about experiences that shamed you. The newest Daily Prompt asked you to write about a time you couldn’t quite get your words or images to express what you wanted to express and what you thought kept you from expressing what you wanted people to know?
The constant barrier for me is a learning disability called dysgraphia. This is a little known and not visible disability that most who suffer, most parents, teachers, editors, and other readers of a child’s written word know nothing about.
A personal tale about living with dysgrapia
I deal with failed expressions all the time. each day when I put finger to keyboard and press to publish something I wrote, I face failure and possible humiliation particularly by spelling purists and grammarians, but also by my inner critic.
I am an author who cannot spell. Spell checker only helps some of the time with some words. Dictionaries help only when I have some idea about how a word might be spelled.
I am an author who also punctuates erratically.
I am an author who suffers from and with dysgraphia.
I am an author. I write and publish two blogs five days a week.
I am an author, Norton published my first book; Penguin my second book; most recently, Metaplume has published sixteen of my eBooks.
I am an author and rejection and the pain of rejection visit daily.
I am an author, but first, now and forever, I am a writer. I cannot not write. That obsession – perhaps grounded in a desire to overcome the difficulties and uncertainty dysgraphia burdens me with – may be what helped me eventually found me a published author. Some pundits say the chief ingredient in obtaining a goal is persisting in your efforts to successfully cross the finish line.
parent advice and tips ABOUT DYSGRAPHIA
Tip one: If you child is struggling in school, seems bright but can’t get with writing start by learning about dysgraphia. Dysgraphia is a brain glitch that interferes with many writing related tasks. For some it means sloppy hand writing. For others it means difficulty organizing the thoughts in your head so you can get them on to paper clearly and easily.
For me, dysgraphia meant not being able to see spelling errors when I wrote, even when I could tell you the correct spelling. A simple word like “the” becomes hte, eth, het; “now” becomes not; “not” becomes now: “ever” becomes never.
A related challenge that has worsened with age, my brain has decided it knows better than I what word I am trying to write. This means I might be wanting to write “thank you” but my brain decides I mean “thoughtful.” Not helpful and has placed a huge barrier to writing quickly and effortlessly.
Punctuation is part of the my writing error mix, but lies more in a memory glitch. This one most affects my ability to remember simple numbers. My social security number still baffles me at times; a new telephone number takes months to learn and even then numbers reverse.
Why these problems? I have what a strong narrative memory, but an almost absent semantic memory – the memory that allows you to recall isolated facts, rows of numbers, formulas, and punctuation rules.
In case you wonder, I do not suffer from the better known learning disability Dyslexia. I am a rapid and voracious reader. Nor have I ever suffered from writer’s block.
I am a writer, I have become a published author only by the grace of those who did not stop reading when hit over the head with one of my errors. Let me say here, I know that for some people finding spelling and punctuation errors is a visceral blow to your being and to protect yourself, you often read no further. As one well-known president noted “I feel your pain” but I keep reading; many do not.
I am a writer and one with a brain and an open mind. I have become a published author because beginning technology helped me catch many errors.
I also became a published author because beginning with my teachers in elementary school, many saw the brain behind the errors and honored that part of my being, not just the part that can’t spell or punctuate as most of the English-speaking world honors.
Tip two: Do not ask the impossible of your child and keep teachers from doing the same. Contrary to the popular myth that all are equal and all can get all they want, just by trying hard enough, we are all mixes of strengths, talents, deficits, and flaws. Those asking me to spell properly and expecting perfect punctuation, ask the impossible of me.
When a child is failing in school or very unhappy in school, the most likely cause remains asking the child to do what s/he cannot do at that time.
Tip three: Ally with your child: I was lucky to have been born during the years when pressure for academic success was moderate, particularly for women. My parents wanted to me to do my best, but did were balanced. Teachers were not pressured to by programs by “No Child Left Behind.” One of my brothers had a harder time, expectations were stronger at that time for boys to achieve academic excellence.
Tip four: Advocate for your child and do so respectfully. Manners always matter.
Tip five: If it turns out your child has a major barrier to school performance find an advocate who can partner with you on your child’s behalf.
Tip six: Early on teach your child to advocate for his or her learning needs. This means knowing how you learn, what gets in the way of your learning, what your rights are, and how to explain to others your specific learning needs.
Tip seven: Encourage all your child’s interests and help him or her find an area that creates feelings of competence and mastery. I learned to ride horses as a pre-teen and credit that mastery experience with helping me through lots of tough times. Having and training a dog, did the same for my husband.
Tip eight: Dream dreams with your child, but keep the lesson of American Idols failed-not-talented contestants. Some who should have only sung in the shower were falsely encouraged to think they could be media stars. Not helpful. Be realistic about your child’ strengths and weaknesses.
Tip nine: Help your child develop strong soothing skills; learn and model them. You might want to start with my eBook Self-sootheing to ceate calm in your :ife.
Tip ten: Honor all work. Gardeners and garbage menn add more value to our world than philosophers, professors, and doctors, but get less gratitude and few parents suggest garbage collection as a career. But it is a worthy one.
Tip eleven: Be patient, most children with these sorts of problem if given support and help to learn the way they learn succeed at life.
Tip twelve: Do not try to predict the future, instead help your child live now while preparing for tomorrow/ Even the experts do know what the world will be like in five, ten, or twelve years. Even predicting tomorrow’s weather is a guessing game.
People are more than their color, their clothes, their jobs, their religion, their nationality, and their ability to speak or write “properly.” Most of us pride ourselves on our tolerance, automatic dismissal of another person for any of the above reasons is prejudice, not tolerance.
Life is hard and relationships often hurtful; staying strong is far from easy. I fail often. But persistence and keeping on with what matters makes all easier. Note, I did not say easy, only easier. You and your child will fail, but you fail less and succeed more if you keep trying on what is realistically possible.
Thank you for all you do. And share if you think another parent will find this useful. That will be practicing kindness and practicing kindness makes a difference in your world and mine.
Links and other articles of interest
Image by: (spellingdearest.com)