Column: The challenges of not knowing you have dyslexia in college

In Columns, Opinion
girls look at a book and sees a random jumble of letters and numbers

Learning the sequence of the alphabet is as easy as adding 4 plus 5, but if you’re dyslexic, there’s a possibility that those two things can make the shortest sentence or problem turn upside down.

I learned I was dyslexic when an author visited my community college and had the audience do an exercise. He started with asking us to raise our hand if we didn’t like reading. He surveyed the audience and followed up with, “Raise your hand if you can’t get through one page without re-reading a sentence or paragraph and still not understand what you read.”

The author said if we raised our hand to either question, we were probably dyslexic.

My hand raised for both.

My doctor decided against running expensive tests to diagnose me, so she did so by using what she already knew and based on what I told her. She confirmed I was dyslexic with as much certainty as when she told me I was lactose intolerant.

Finally, the days of daydreaming, motion-sickness and lack of depth perception made sense.

I’ve known about dyslexia since it became a storyline on George Lopez’s self-titled sitcom. I related to many of the struggles that the character Max, Lopez’s youngest child on the show, had in school, but my struggles were always dismissed as laziness or not trying hard enough.

I was trying, but there weren’t enough hours in the day for me to give my school assignments everything I had. I’m still one of the last people to finish a test and I’m usually a few pages behind on reading assignments.

One of my most embarrassing moments in school was when my eighth grade teacher told the class she was surprised I had scored so low on my high school entrance exam that I had to go to summer school as a result.

In high school, I finally grasped reading a novel from cover to cover. I usually read my literature assignments through SparkNotes and scored decently enough on tests that I was allowed to be in the International Baccalaureate higher-level English course.

My poor reading habits were magnified in my IB class, and even more so when I got into college. There’s a lot of reading in college and with one semester left until I graduate, I still struggle with assignments for my Spanish class.

I’m jealous of people who can read a novel in a month. It takes me over a year to finish a 300-page book, but it doesn’t stop me from going to Barnes and Noble and buying a piece of literature every month.

As a journalist, I’m usually reading and writing numerous articles per day. I panic at the thought needing to write down someone’s name as they spell it out because I don’t have my voice recorder. I used to hate voice recordings because I hated hearing the sound of my voice on playback, but now I can’t survive without it.

When a person starts to say letters, I feel my brain freeze. When I need to write down a phone number, I feel anger start to boil within me because I know I’ll have to ask the person to repeat themselves and say it slower.

I confuse c with s, and 45 can easily become 55 if I don’t concentrate hard enough.

Contrary to popular belief, dyslexia affects more than just reading and spelling; it can affect over 30 different traits within a person.

One of these traits is a lack of depth perception. When I look into the mirror, my curling iron usually touches anything but my hair.

What most people fail to understand about dyslexia is that it doesn’t relate to the intelligence quotient. Some of the greatest minds in the world were dyslexic: Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci and Thomas Edison.

I’m nowhere near their intelligence capability but I certainly don’t think I am incapable of anything — except for curling my hair. I can read a book, but it just may take me awhile to finish it. Understanding the number side of baseball is one of my favorite pastimes, but the thinking process is like a 12-6 curveball: slow but effective.

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