My Dyslexia

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I have a hard time reading the notes I take in class, especially with professors who rush through material or jump between topics a lot. My dyslexia makes it difficult to understand sequencing and directionality. With the inability to understand directionality and instructions with ease, things like tying my shoes and holding a pencil correctly are extremely hard.

It also affects my ability to do something in a mirror. Each year I get better at it, but I still have trouble. Reading an analog clock? Dyslexia affects my memory. ADHD has this effect too. Memorizing for tests is easy, but remembering my I. I usually end up calling someone by a name I think fits them for some reason.

Know the signs, and how to help kids with the most common learning disability

If I want to have an internal dialogue, I have to talk out loud, which I got made fun of for in elementary school a lot. This is dyslexia, my dyslexia.

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Stereotyping a disability can be harmful to the individuals who have the disability. One may think they know what a disability is, but honestly, unless you have done your research and have the disability yourself, odds are you have no idea.

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When we reduce disabilities to one element, such as dyslexia and reading, we only help some people and miss addressing challenges others face. We need to listen to our disabled students, peers, and loved ones, instead of assuming we know what they go through. Our brains were designed for language, but we were storytellers with an oral memory.

10 Myths About Dyslexia and How They are Harming Your Kids

The task of reading takes place in the parts of our brain initially tasked with recognizing and identifying objects, she says. I told Eden I was curious about what was going on in my brain and asked if I could get a scan at her center. Maybe keeping my dyslexia on the down-low is better.

In truth, my dyslexia had been weaponized against me by family members, classmates, and exes.

I often write about the things that make me uncomfortable—giving birth, breastfeeding , divorce , online dating , my sex life, and taking Ayahuasca to name a few—but in the process, I understand how I truly feel and surrender any lingering shame or embarrassment. Would I regret writing about how I see words?

See dyslexia differently

I meet Guinevere Eden outside. She speaks with the faint lilt of a German accent that I mistake for Dutch. I imagine her calm presence is helpful in putting her young subjects at ease. She walks me back to her office. Its large windows illuminate rows of bookshelves and a small anatomical model of the human brain on her coffee table.

I show Eden a list of words that I often misspell— maintenance, unfortunately, definitely, abominable —and the variations of their spellings I use. I printed them all out on a page in large letters. I want to know why I am still unsure of the correct versions. She looks them over. There's an area down there called the visual word form area.

Research has shown that there are neurons that are literally tuned to this word. They own this word. It's your dictionary in your brain, and these neurons, they fire when they see this word. This is my list of "common offender" words. I see the letter "e" as spelling's wild card. And it's often that misplaced "e" that keeps spell-check from correcting the word. I tell her that I think all of the words on the page are correct—even the misspellings.

Eden tells me that it's my dyslexia that's keeping my "visual word form" neurons from firing when I see the correct spelling. I find this explanation comforting. I live with this thing day-in and day-out, and yet speaking with Eden in the safe space of her office elicits a feeling I never experience—compassion for myself. I also want to know if my reliance on Grammarly to correct my spelling is dulling my brain.

Maybe I don't need to feel guilty about my reliance on technology.

Dyslexia - 8 Basic Abilities

Next, we head to the basement, where my brain scan will happen. Eden explains that while in the scanner, I will perform a series of tasks. I will be shown both real letters and a made-up font of nonsense letterforms, and I'm to push a button if I see a word—real or fake—with a long vertical line in it. This test is intended to activate the parts of the brain usually used for reading. There can be no metal in the fMRI machine, so I remove my earrings and slip out of my heels as Eden runs a TSA metal detector wand up and down my body. The fMRI scanner looks like a white airplane engine with a conveyor belt sticking out of it.

This is how I see the reading test. I am handed a rubber emergency squeeze bulb in the event I feel claustrophobic, and for a brief moment as I look out at the room from behind my plastic cage, I worry I might need to squeeze it. I'm also given two buzzers—one for each hand—as the conveyor belt feeds me into the giant hole of the fMRI machine. I look up at the mirror attached to my head, and see the image of a smiley face come into view.

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It is time to start my scan. My performance anxiety makes me press the wrong buzzer for the second image, and I wonder if mistakes will show in my results. When I finish the test, a voice from the control room instructs me to stay perfectly still while I watch a video. The idea is that this will show me how the different parts of my brain are wired together.

Along with the slices of my brain is the most hideous image—the 3D scan of my brain that includes my scowling face, looking very much like a demon baby. It shows the kids making real progress, their brains kicking into gear. Sometimes the parents cry, she says. I understand this. I have three children, and one is dyslexic. Yes, dyslexia is highly heritable, and I was on the lookout for signs of it in my children.

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  4. My son, now a high school freshman, benefited from being identified early on and has always attended schools that teach to his way of learning. On the train home, I find myself wondering what my brain scan would have looked like back when I was 8 years old during that summer I spent with the Controlled Reader machine. Back then, I think, I would have shown excellent results in the "after" scan.

    The Swedish company, which launched in the US last year, uses eye-tracking software that promises to identify a dyslexic reader in minutes. The Kroneberg project gathered data by recording subjects' eye movements using tech-enhanced goggles, sort of like very early-stage smart glasses. I am there to demo the eye tracker.