Late Developing Dyslexia, anyone??

No, strike that… I think it’s spelled….

I think I’ve just  diagnosed myself as dyslexic. One of my students, a Portuguese cocaine smuggler, has a habit of switching letters in words when noting from the board. I spoke to the literacy tutor about him who recommended I give him a standard dyslexia diagnostic. As English is not his first language, I sat with him as he went through the questions  – and I answered in the affirmative to substantially more than he did!

It was all stuff like ‘do you mix up right and left’ ( I can never remember which is which!) do you muddle phone numbers when noting (all the time!) do you make mistakes when writing cheques (all the time! – so much so that I’ve got a sample cheque tacked to my wall so I can copy) do you need paper to do simple maths (of course!) do characters sometimes dance on the page (yes, but I thought that was my eyesight) do you get confused when relaying stuff like telephone messages (yes, and people get very frustrated/annoyed with my circuitous way of explaining things). Is you handwriting bad (mine is illegible, which is why I prefer to type – the only good thing about my handwriting is it sometimes hides my appalling spelling – which is another sign).

The result was the Portuguese drug smuggler: scored 10 (over nine meant there was likely a problem) and I scored 15! Which means I’m banjaxed.

OK, this isn’t a total surprise. I’ve long had my suspicions. The mixing of digits in telephone numbers has worried me that I might have some sort of numerical dyslexia but I wasn’t even sure that that existed – but (according to this diagnostic at least) it does. And I’ve long since known that I don’t think in the same logical, linear way others often do. And this shows in my writing, I tend to go all around the place before getting to the point and this is a problem.And I’ve had problems with my coordination when driving too (an that’s another indicator apparently).

I’ve been reluctant to do a dyslexia test, partly because I didn’t want to know and if I’ve coped so far and have managed to edit newspapers, get an MA and win awards for my writing I can’t be too bad a case – or perhaps dyslexia is not that bad a condition. I’m thinking that left to their own devices, most mild dyslexics will develop their own coping mechanisms.

Also, I have on occasion, met people who’ve told me they were dyslexic and SOMETIMES I’ve felt, no dammit I could see it a mile off, that they were using the condition either as an excuse for not achieving or by way of making themselves sound interesting or special – “I would have got a first/got into Oxford but I’m dyslexic and it wasn’t discovered until the night before the results came out…” or “I’m a one-legged, dyslexic vegan. What do you do?” So, I’ve been a bit suspicious of the dyslexic label for a long while, though I know its just that 1% that give the suffering 99% a bad name.

Anyway, my diagnosis is just my own but it was done honestly and using the literacy standard dyslexia diagnostic and judging by it I’m at the more severe end of the scale. None of this means anything, nothing needs to change – but it might explain my thought patterns a little more (to me) and it might help me know what and where to watch out when I’m writing.

euS xo


About suehealy

From Ireland, Sue Healy is Literary Manager at the Finborough Theatre, London, a full-time Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Lincoln. Her book on theatre literary management is published by Routledge, December 2022. Sue is an award-winning writer for stage, TV, and prose writer. TV Her current project, a 6x60minute TV series, is under option. She is under commission with Lone Wolf Media, producers behind PBS’ “Mercy Street”, to co-write the pilot and treatment for a six-part TV series. Stage Her most recent stage-play, Imaginationship (2018), enjoyed a sold out, extended run at the Finborough and later showed at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough. Her previous stage productions include Cow (Etcetera Theatre, 2017) and Brazen (King’s Head Theatre, 2016), funded by Arts Council England. Sue’s short plays have been performed at the Criterion (Criterion New Writing Showcase), Arcola (The Miniaturists) and Hackney Attic (Fizzy Sherbet Shorts). Radio Her radio work includes nine plays broadcast on BBC Radio 4 (Opening Lines winner), WLRfm and KCLR96fm. Prose Sue has won The Molly Keane Award, HISSAC Prize, Escalator Award, Meridian Prize and has been published in nine literary journals and anthologies including: The Moth, Flight, Tainted Innocence, New Writer, Duality, HISSAC, New European Writers. She has been writer-in-residence on Inis Oírr, Aran Islands, and at the Heinrich Boll Cottage on Achill Island. She has also benefitted from annual artist residencies at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, and at Ginestrelle, Assisi in Italy. An academic with a PhD in modern theatre history, specifically the Royal Court Theatre, Sue has presented her research internationally. She spent eleven years in Budapest, editing Hungary A.M. She has a PhD in modern theatre history (Royal Court Theatre) and is a UEA Creative Writing MA alumnus. View all posts by suehealy

4 responses to “Late Developing Dyslexia, anyone??

  • clare scott

    Wow Sue. Thats mad to find that out. But you know I figure your coping mechanisms can be a factor in your creativity and can make your approach to writing totally your own

    Its a weird syndrome(if thats what you call it)I know people with dyslexia who dont consider themselves dyslexic or have never bothered to be tested and I know people who are not dyslexic who claim the title because they think it makes them special or as you say its an excuse. Its very wide spread. Part of my hearing problem is a type of audio dyslexia and is probably why I’m an artist.

    My landlady has some form of dyslexia and it made her drop out of her photography course years ago and she only realised she had it when her son was diagnosed 15 years ago. At the time the authorities wanted to send him to a special school!but she fought tooth and nail and got him into a proper school.

    Isnt it brilliant that you have become a prize-winning writer?A testament to your character and your will to create. Nice one:)

    • suehealy

      Hi Clare,
      Thanks for your comment. I also think dyslexia is very complex, very widespread and contributes to creativity – as dyslexics are more likely to look at the world from another angle. And I don’t think my dyslexia is the classic ‘mixing up letters’ type. Sure, I can make mistakes when writing, my handwriting is illegible and my spelling is atrocious but not really enough to be a problem in life. For me, it’s more an issue with figures (the simplest maths are a chore and anything beyond the range of my fingers means the experts have to be called in…). If faced with a numerical problem, however, I can work it out – I just need to do so in my own way, which often involves me drawing the problem. It’s a bit more time consuming but I get there in the end. When speaking, I’m also very prone to spoonerisms and malapropisms, but I think my ‘dyslexia’ is most evident in my thinking – extremely lateral and never linear/logical. And I have a hopeless short term memory “where the hell are my keys, they were in my hand a moment ago!”
      All of this has its advantages and disadvantages.It means I’m more creative than most and less practical than most, I guess. Sticking a label on this peculiarity of mine isn’t going to change anything though, and I’m not going to get this ‘officially stamped’. It’s just confirmed a suspicion of mine.
      I’m also a little wary of ‘labels’ as I think they can stop people trying to develop and improve, to strengthen the areas where they are weak…. YOu know, like “I’m Taurus, so I’m stubborn” end of…. When I think it would be more healthy to recognise a defect and then want to improve it…. So, for me, dyslexia might explain my lack of ability at maths but it doesn’t excuse me from trying to improve on that. I’ve been given some gifts in life, and some challenges and it is up to me to work on the challenges. At least, that’s how I see it.

  • geraldine

    hi sue,

    I think the numerical dyslexia is called dispraxia and its just some people thin with the left or right side of the brain think the left is less logical so people are better at engkish say in school and the right is logical so maths would be their good subject im shite at maths and cant add or subtract unless on paper anyone can shortchange me! good luck with the writing its great to see it x

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