Tag Archives: reading

How Dyslexia impacts on my writing and my confidence.

Most of what I write on this blog tends to be about autism, but I wanted to take the time to talk a bit about my dyslexia, and how it impacts on my work. I have written about having dyslexia in the past, but to tell the truth it’s not something I think about all that often. I get so caught up with my autism, and how that impacts on my day to day life that I tend to forget that I am dyslexic and dyspraxic too. However, at times I cannot help but think about it. When I work I am keenly aware of my dyslexia, and how much it slows me down and frustrates me.

My work is my writing; I write blogs, and articles about autism and disability in general, and, as yet unpublished, short stories and novels. I have co-written and published two autism books as well as writing my own autism-related book, and had that published last year. Like everyone who writes I go through times in my life where it is hard to write, and where I don’t get much work done at all. But most days I write something, and that has been the case for over ten years now, and yet I can’t spell or hand-write. If I were to be tested I don’t know what level my spelling would be at, but I know it would be poor. There are very few words I can actually spell right first time, and when it comes to spelling out loud that number goes down even more. When I type most of the words I get right I do so without thinking; my fingers just hit the keys. If I had to tell you out loud how to spell half the words I do manage to get right, I would not have a clue.

It will be hard for a reader to fully understand quite how bad my spelling is; by the time you read this blog it will have been spell-checked and edited by my Mum, so most if not all of the spelling or grammar mistakes will be gone. I could publish a blog without any spell-check or editing for you to get a full idea of what I mean, but I don’t think you would be able to read it. A lot of the time the inbuilt spell-checker does not even know what I am trying to type. It changes the word to what it thinks it is meant to be; sometimes to a word that is so close to being right that I don’t even notice it`s wrong until someone points it out – other times to seemingly random words. When this happens I have to resort to googling a word (as Google seems to have more luck working out what I am trying to say) and pasting it in to whatever it is I am writing.

My spelling has always been poor, and I am sure anyone who is dyslexic knows that feeling of frustration when you try over and over again to spell a word without getting any closer. But there is an added level of frustration when it impacts on what I do for fun, and my work. I write at a much slower pace than I would if I did not have to worry about my spelling, but its more than that – it’s the lack of confidence in my own work. A lot of the time I do not even feel like I can put a tweet out there without having someone else check it first to make sure I haven`t spelt everything wrong. I can’t ever see myself feeling confident enough to write a blog and publish it without having my Mum, or someone else check it over first. When writing is what you do it can be unbelievably frustrating to know that you are reliant on someone else to make even the most basic of your work understandable. I am a published author, and yet I do not even feel confident to send out a tweet on my own. As for making notes or hand-writing anything, there is next to no point in me even trying to do this anymore. I cannot even read my own handwriting! I have to type and I can type quite fast, so things now are a lot better than they were a few years ago, but there is still this underlying feeling of frustration at my poor spelling.

I don’t want this blog to be full of self-pity, but I felt that I needed to point out how much extra work myself, and fellow dyslexic writers have to put in to get our work ready to be read. There is a part of me which thinks that even with some of the difficulties that come with my autism, it’s my dyslexia that gets me down the most. That’s what makes it hard for me to do what I love, and that’s a huge part of what makes me so reliant on other people when it comes to my work. And even though I have gotten so used to it I might not think of it much, it’s the effects of my dyslexia that keep impacting on me day to day.

I don’t have any practical advice to leave you with in this blog as it was intended more as a way for me to vent some frustration, and explain how hard writing these blogs can be. But I might try and put together a list of tips and things that have helped me over the years, as well as things I might try in the future, and post that at some point.

You can find my new book: http://www.jkp.com/uk/communicating-better-with-people-on-the-autism-spectrum-34253.html

If you need any more help or advice about Asperger`s/Autism or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS?

Twitter https://twitter.com/ASKPERGERS

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ASKPERGERS?ref=hl

And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)  http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/author/1762

A Book Launch, A Thunderstorm, and an Overload.

There has not been a blog up on here for quite some time, and I feel I should explain why.  As some of you know it’s been a pretty busy few weeks. I had the launch for my new book last week and my time has been taken up with planning for that, and dealing with the overload after the event.

A book launch in itself is an odd thing; you write the book, send it off to the publisher, and then spend months waiting, and then editing, and then you are told it`s going to come out, and you just wait some more. A few months later there is the book. And more than a year after you started working on it, and almost a year from when you knew it was coming out, you have an event to mark the beginning of something.

We never had a launch event for any of our other books, but the publisher got in contact with us and told us we could set one up for my new book if we wanted. Even though we were unsure of what to do we said yes, and went about trying to set up our first ever book launch.  And all things considered it went very well. We of course were unsure what to do, but we managed to book a room, get flyers printed out and sort out food and drinks. Even though we ended up with a lot of food left over! We ordered books from the publisher, and advertised the event on twitter and Facebook. I can’t say we got everything right, as I say there was far too much food. But we got things as right as we were able. Yet on the night it still looked as if the launch was going to be a failure. We got there two hours before it was due to start to get everything set up, and about half an hour later, as we were setting up the food tables it started to rain. Within half an hour it was pouring down with rain, and a short while after that the thunder and lightning started. It just so happened that the worst storm to hit Manchester for a long time happened to hit on that night. We carried on setting up, but we all felt that the weather was bound to put some people off. We found out later that some of the trams had stopped running and some roads where so full of water they were impassable.  The weather calmed down somewhat in the twenty minutes or so before we opened the doors, but it was still a bit of a surprise to see over thirty people crowd in to the room. Thinking about how bad the weather was, and how easy it would have been for them to stay indoors, I am very glad they came out, and ensured that the launch was not a failure.

The book launch only ran for an hour and a half and felt like it was over in no time. I talked about the book and my reasons for writing it, and then sat behind a table selling and signing books. I was happy to see how well the book sold, and I hope it will be of use to everyone who bought a copy. As I said in my talk that is the main aim of the book; to help both the professionals who read it, and the autistic people they work with.

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Even though it went well I was very overloaded from it, and still am to some degree. This is why I am only now sitting down to write about the event. I am sure most of you know how hard an overload can be. It’s not the same as being tired, and I think it must be hard for anyone who is not autistic to fully understand how much an event like this can impact on someone who is. Not just standing up and giving the talk, but also all the one-on-one talking that came after.

Seeing as this was our first book launch and the weather was against us I feel it went as well as it could have. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. I had fun and sold quite a few books so all-in-all it could not have gone much better.  I don’t know if or when there will be a new book, and a new launch, but hopefully there will be another one sometime soon.  But with it being over at least for now I plan to get back to my normal writing and blogging.

You can find my new book here: http://www.jkp.com/uk/communicating-better-with-people-on-the-autism-spectrum-34251.html

9781849057080

If you need any more help or advice about Asperger`s/Autism or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS?

Twitter https://twitter.com/ASKPERGERS

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ASKPERGERS?ref=hl

And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)  http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/author/1762

The Rain Man Effect

One of the things that annoys autistic people the most, I have found, is when they tell somebody they have autism, and the person responds with `do you mean like Rain Man?` or something along those lines.  I hadn’t seen the film itself until very recently, but after I watched it I thought I`d write this blog.

 I suppose what it`s really about is whether it`s the portrayal of autism in a film which people dislike, or something more than that.  I personally think that it was quite a good film, and I don’t have any real issues with its portrayal of autism.  The fact is that autism affects everybody differently, and there is no reason that Dustin Hoffman`s character would not have acted and behaved in the ways that he did.  You could take argument with some of the generalisations made by the professionals in the film, but it is a film made, and based in the late eighties when people knew much less about autism than they do now – so it is not particularly unrealistic for medical professionals in the film to make sweeping statements.

 What I think most people take issue with is actually nothing to do with the film itself; it`s the fact that people who may have seen the film once, or maybe even have only seen snatches of it, think that they now know everything they need to know about autism.  They think that everybody on the spectrum will behave in that manner.  It is their only real reference point for autism.  It is that lazy attitude that I think people dislike; as if watching one film tells you all you need to know.

Nowadays there are a lot more portrayals of autistic people in the media.  A few years ago all you used to really see was the random autistic characters who were put in to detective shows so that they could conveniently note down car number plates, or remember details from years before.  These seemed to be characters who were created by people with no real knowledge of the condition – simply recycled versions of older characters.  There was a point a while ago when having characters who were supposed to be quite funny, with obvious traits of Asperger’s`, became quite a popular thing.  I don’t find that offensive, as making people laugh is one of the best ways to get through to them, and make things stick in their minds.  Now you have programmes like Derek and The Bridge; with characters who aren’t point-blank called autistic, but blatantly are.  I would recommend these two shows as a good place to start if you want to learn more about autism, because they portray two people who are on the one hand completely different to each other – extreme ends of the spectrum –but in reality deal with a lot of the same issues.  Also, Derek is obviously male, but displays what is normally perceived to be a very female version of autism, whereas the main character in the bridge portrays what is typically thought of as a very masculine profile of autism.; perhaps the reason why, to the best of my knowledge, neither of them has ever been diagnosed with autism on the shows.

Now I am not saying that if you go away and watch these shows you will have a full understanding of autism, because that would be nonsense.  I don’t think you can ever have a full understanding of anything just from films and books – you need to do research.  And more important that any of those things, you need to talk to autistic people in real life.  The Bridge, Derek, and Rain Man, amongst others, are good portrayals of autism, but because the spectrum is so vast, and complex none of them give you a complete picture.

You also get characters like Roy Cropper in Coronation Street, who is almost a mix of male and female profiles of autism,  Again, I don’t think there has ever really been anything said about whether he has autism or not, but it is fairly obvious to see if you know anything about autism, that he does.  I think that as a lot of people do their learning through what they watch on T.V. or the cinema, the more varied and well-acted performances of characters with autism, or autistic traits there are in T.V. and cinema, the better.  Basically, there is nothing wrong with Rain Man; the problems lies with people judging an entire group of individuals on the basis of one movie.

If you need any more help or advice about Asperger`s, or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS? On Twitter https://twitter.com/ASKPERGERS Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ASKPERGERS?ref=hl

And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)  http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/author/1762

Awareness versus Acceptance

 

Many people argue about whether awareness or acceptance are what people with autism want from society.  Lots of people will say that an awareness of autism is fine, but people can be aware and still not accepting.  Virtually everybody thinks they know what autism is, but that doesn’t stop people being offensive.  And some people argue that acceptance suggests that it is up to the neuro- typical people to say `Oh, we accept people with autism` as if NTs can decide what types of people are acceptable, as if autistic people have put forward a fairly good case and they`ve been accepted in to the day to day order of things.  My view is somewhere in between:

Awareness

  • Awareness means everybody being aware of what autism is, and having at least a basic knowledge of it.
  • Awareness is a positive thing because it will hopefully lead to greater understanding, easier access to services, and make life easier for autistic people.
  • The vast majority of people are already aware of the existence of autism, even if they don’t fully understand it.
  • Awareness can help improve the lives of people with autism.
  • Awareness can’t solve all of the problems.

 

Acceptance

  • Acceptance means people who aren’t autistic accepting autistic people and their ways.
  • Acceptance can be very positive as it might make things easier in the work-place or learning environment.
  • The word acceptance does have a tendency to give a lot of power to the people without autism, as it suggests that it is up to them to decide if they want to accept autistic people or not.
  • A lot of people don’t like the phrase `acceptance` for that very reason.
  • Does this mean that acceptance is a bad thing?  No, it doesn’t. But it doesn’t mean that it is something that you have to be careful about when approaching.

 

Taking the positives and negatives from the concepts of awareness and acceptance, I think that there is a good ground to be reached somewhere in the middle.  Most people are awareof autism to some degree – even if it is just through Rainman. Some people are acceptingof it without really knowing what it is.  For me the real key is understanding; you can be aware of autism, but not really know what it is.  Often this will lead to pity, people being patronising, or a belief that people with autism are either dangerous, or completely pointless trying to communicate with.  A lot of negative stereo-types pervade the public’s perception of autism; they are accepting yes, but quite often they are not accepting of real autistic people.  They might be aware, but in reality they are not aware of real autism, they are aware of the Medias` portrayal of autism.  That is why understanding is so important: you are aware of autism – good.  You are accepting of autism – good.  But do you understand autism?

If you need any more help or advice about Asperger`s, or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS? On Twitter https://twitter.com/ASKPERGERS Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ASKPERGERS?ref=hl

And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)  http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/author/1762

Dyslexia real or not?

There has been a lot of talk lately about whether Dyslexia even exists.  As someone who was diagnosed with Dyslexia when I was seven, it seems very odd that people are questioning whether it exists or not.  I know it exists because I have lived with it all my life.  I know this blog is normally about autism and related issues, but I have given a bit of thought to this over the last day or so and just wanted to put my views out there. People who claim it doesn’t exist seem to be saying a couple of different things: one thing I`ve heard is that it is mostly middle-class children who are diagnosed with having dyslexia, suggesting it is something rich people come up with to make excuses for children who aren’t really that intelligent – the main argument seems to be that instead of trying to diagnose something, you should simply give the children the help that they need. It was also argued that a diagnosis wasn’t helpful and all children who struggled with reading or writing should be given the same amount and type of help.

There are a few points I would like to make:

1)      Of course mostly middle-class children are being diagnosed – you have to pay for a diagnosis – even if that comes back saying your child doesn’t have dyslexia.  The reality is that in today’s economic climate, the vast majority of people can`t afford to spend a few hundred pounds on something that they can`t guarantee will help them in the long run – but if you have the money, you spend it because you think it might benefit your child.  It is no different than anything else throughout history; middle and upper class people will often look as if they suffer from something more, simply because they have the money to go out and get diagnosis and treatment.

2)      One former teacher said that he believed debates about terminology and correct diagnosis were taking up time that could be spent helping children and coming up with ways to teach them to read and write.  Well, in a way he is actually right, but my question would have to be – if he thinks spending time on terminology and categorising peoples problems are a waste of time, why spark a debate about terminology?  It is hypocritical in the extreme.  He is right, it is better to help people rather than spend time debating what you are going to call the issues they are having, but does that mean we should remain ignorant and refuse to diagnose anybody – no, of course it doesn’t.

3)      Should all children who struggle with reading and writing be given the same type of support that dyslexics are given? Short and simple answer – no – First of all, there is a reason people with Dyslexia have specially designed techniques to help them to learn to read and write and spell.  It is because they need specific help.  Somebody without Dyslexia may pick things up faster than somebody with Dyslexia (and remember I speak as someone with Dyslexia when I say this) Why should they have to work with techniques that go more slowly than they can learn?  There is no point holding them back.  Of course it is right to give them the same level of support, and to not act as if their inability to pick something up is less important than that of someone with Dyslexia.  But that doesn’t mean you teach everybody the same.  Also, if you teach people with Dyslexia just like everybody else, the likelihood is that you will destroy their confidence.  They have a perfectly valid reason why they struggle to pick things up – it doesn’t mean that they will never be able to do it, it just means they will have to work hard.  But if you take that reason away – you tell them that it doesn’t exist, that they are just like everybody else – what does that make them? Stupid?  I am not saying Dyslexia can be used as an excuse.  People with Dyslexia don’t need an excuse – they have a perfectly good reason.

4)      Diagnosis itself – of anything – is a strange one.  Without getting too philosophical about it – does anything really exist?  Something like autism for example; everyone in the world thinks and feels things differently.  They have things they find easy and things they find hard.  They have a certain way of thinking.  A certain percentage of these people, who think and feel and interact in a different way to the majority of people around them are put in to a big category named autism.  Now at one end of that category you could have somebody who is slightly socially awkward and likes spending time alone – you could have a highly successful business man who could be the CEO of a company and make massively important deals every day.  At the other end you could have somebody who just sits in their room every day, can’t talk or look at people and still uses nappies.  Now without wishing to be derogatory towards anyone, you can see that there is a vast difference between those two individuals, and yet they are both diagnosed with the same condition, because they both share some of the core symptoms – just to differing degrees.  All you are doing when you diagnose someone is ticking off a list of symptoms that put them in a certain category and sub-category which somebody else thought up years before.  Now that might sound pretty negative, but in actual fact I am not so sure it is.  If you can put a name to your collection of issues it is much easier to get help. You can search for specific resources out there and talk to other people with the same condition, find out what worked for them and what might help you.  If you don’t diagnose it, you never really know what is going on for you, therefore you can’t get help.

5)      If you mention Dyslexia to most people, even a surprising number of professionals, they seem to think it is something to do with how well you can read.  This is nonsense.  Dyslexia has certain key elements, but depending on who you are you can have all kinds of different issues that go along with it.  Difficulty in either reading/ writing, poor organisational skills and a bad short-term memory are the most common issues, but there are many more.  People who argue that because it doesn’t affect everybody in the exact same way it can’t exist, are just being silly if you think about it.

 

 

6)      A lot of people will claim that everybody has had symptoms of Dyslexia at some point in their lives, and really they are just things that everybody struggles with – that some people are simply more intelligent and get through these issues faster.  I should probably tell you a bit about myself at this point:  I could read efficiently by the age of three, but now, even aged nineteen, my hand-writing is still like that of a very young child and my spelling is terrible.  I don’t mean that in the sense some people do, where they make the odd mistake and then go back and change it – I mean there are literally thousands of words that I still can`t spell, even to this day – many of them basic, everyday words  I was diagnosed with Dyslexia aged 7.  At this time I had an IQ of 120, which was higher than the average fourteen year old.  I co-authored and published my first book aged twelve.  At this time the only things I could handwrite were my name and a few basic words.  When I was fifteen and had my second book published my handwriting and spelling had improved, but was I still years behind the average fifteen year old.  Because I was home educated I did not have a GCSE in English, so I had to take one when I was in my second year at college.  I did get half an hour extra in my exam but I didn’t use it, but I did do the exam on a lap-top, and I managed to get the second highest mark in the class.  I finished college after obtaining the equivalent of three A* in IT.  I don’t think that one of my assignments was handed in without at least ten spelling mistakes.  I am not some kind of genius but I am fairly intelligent, yet even to this day my handwriting and spelling are absolutely terrible.  If it wasn’t for having a diagnosis of Dyslexia, and my Mum creating Dyslexia friendly strategies to help me with my spelling, I don’t believe I would have achieved any of the things in this list.  The frustration and anger that you feel when you can’t spell a word you need to spell or write for an assignment, even though you know it is only a basic word, is incredibly hard to describe to anyone who hasn’t felt it.  But I think that if I didn’t have a diagnosis this probably would have destroyed my self-esteem and caused me to get so angry I`d put my fist through the computer.