Growing Up (Older) with Dyslexia - part 2

Part 2 of Adlin's blog about growing up (older) with Dyslexia (read Part 1):

After I left primary school we moved to bigger city. I was doing really well academically. One of the best in my school. Which was errr… one of the worst schools in my town. So yeah, pretty much a big fish in a small pond. I had offers from great schools but I was too scared to leave.

I did well until I was 16. When everything got harder and required skills that are invisible to a dyslexic mind, my academic performance began to deteriorate.

My teen years:

1.Reading in general 

Reading got easier but I wasn't a fan. It takes too much effort because reading requires me to be able to sit still. I didn’t do “not moving” for more than 5 minutes very well. But my reading was adequate to survive early secondary school.

2.Writing in general

My writing improved but I was still my teacher's grammatical nightmare. My sentences were short but precise (to me). I didn’t see the need to have nice long draggy sentences to convey a message. To me longwinded was not my style.

But at 13 I found my passion for writing essays. Blog-like if I may, though at that time there was no such thing. I was the only one in my school with a personal computer (which was shared with my 3 other siblings).

My handwriting looked more like feet-writing. But when I needed to for art and crafts, I could produce really nice penmanship. Except, being a perfectionist, it takes a long long time and takes a lot of effort. Which was why such effort was saved for special occasions.

3.Differentiating my left & right shoes 

I don’t remember having much issues with shoes. But I had major issues with sports, and marching during sports day. I was in the girl guides, and yes marching is almost a basic skill. Left-right-left-right. Which hand do I use to hold the pencil again?

I had problems putting on clothes because I couldn't tell front and back. Same problem with pull-up pants leggings (which was popularly known as leotard back then).

4.Being a jelly fish

I was still little miss clumsy. I stopped being active in sports. Mostly due to my inability to handle being teased. Furthermore at my school, only cool kids play sports. Especially team sports.

I started cycling and had my first big bike (shared with my elder sister). I wasn’t good. A story my brother will never fail to reenact every raya was when one day, while walking next to me while I was cycling, he realised that I wasn’t there. He heard my echoed voice from a distance. Yes, I was in a deep drain. I remember seeing the darkness and thinking that I’m probably dead.

Some kids from my school saw the incident and yes: officially the end of my potential in sports or any other cool extracurricular activities at school.

5.Understanding what other people are saying 

It was real scary days. But being in a new city means I would have to learn a new dialect. Which I managed to do so successfully within the first month of being a new kid. I think I did pretty well in class as well. Mainly due to this technique I develop for survival in classes where there’s a lot of talking & less “doing” things like maths, history, english etc.

My technique is to ensure that I’ve covered all the topics before it was being taught in class. I had my notes ready. Nothing I heard in class was new. No surprises.

6.Expressing myself

I don’t remember struggling so much with talking to people in general. Perhaps because I was very shy and a timid girl and managed to avoid people in general. But what I find puzzling until now is that I was a active in all sorts of extra curricular activities (except sports). I represented the school for story telling competition (I know.. I know..), I was in the debate team and represented the school in many other activities that involved talking. Then again, there were always pre-written scripts.

I have this ability to see things in many, many possibilities. Which makes it easier to predict what type of ammunition the opponents will use, especially in debate. This was a gift for this type of competition and paired with my superhero memories, it was a winning combo.

Now being able to see too many possibilities delays decision making, but we’ll get to that later.

7.Understanding social cues

Teen girls can be very mean. At first everybody was curious to know who I was and started being really nice to me. All the cool kids were especially nice to me and we had “study group” where I do their homework for them or let them copy mine!

I also made cards for them to give to their teachers, parents, boyfriends and friends because they said I’m really good at it. And sometimes when they liked something that was mine, they asked for it in exchange for something they said is worth the same. Example: I shiny brand new click pencil for a worn-out half used notebook.

I was very trusting. I didn't feel that I was “bullied”. I wasn't hurt. I was happy to help. I was happy to share. I felt that I have some kind of sense of belonging. A “squad”.

8.Counting with my fingers 

By the time I was 13 I started loving numbers. Numbers were the only thing that had only one answer. There’s nothing abstract about math. I was still kind of slow, especially with problem solving involving reading long sentences. I would get lost in the questions.

But I learned to train myself based on my superpower memories. I developed a plan of looking at old exam papers and memorising the answers down to the “T”. And I also developed a habit of doing multiplications in my head to either fill up time when I’m bored or.. when I’m nervous.

9.How to became a socially awkward kid

It was still an issue back then. My inability to understand proverbs and metaphors, and worse, sarcasm. But my “mind blindness" (inability to attribute mental states to others) made it easy to survive school feeling like I did OK. I was very naive.

Social skills were a huge problem and I was beginning to feel like I was sinking and sometimes struggling to get to the surface. I guess that’s when I started to develop social awareness. At the same time the old rules didn't apply anymore since I was in a new city with new culture.

Back where I came from the cool kid is someone who did well at school. The culture was to do well, intelligence & perseverance are always in trend. Now at the new place, going against what’s right is cool, detention is cool and representing the school in nerdy stuff makes you a boy repellent. And girls wouldn't want to have a boy repellent in their group.

10.Concentration & attention span

I was still a busy person. With all the extra curricular activities, I was always moving, always learning something new. School decided that they needed someone to play the piano during school assembly replacing someone who’s leaving school. I volunteered and started learning it. Played by ear. Was easy.

There’s always something new to learn and something new I want to be good at. I was always learning. Was I able to concentrate on a task? No. I became a master of multitasking. I created a system of rotation for homework and revision where I only study one subject for 30 mins max and would move on to the next subject for another 30 mins.

In between, I would run around the house. There was no fidget spinner of slime back then. But I still enjoyed making things. Cards with glitters and calligraphy. And after 30 mins - back to work. Life was simple back then. When all I wanted was to do well at school. When all other girls from my class wanted was to be popular.

Looking back, academics wasn't the main issue. I struggled the most with socializing. As a teen, I wanted to be liked but it’s very hard to be liked when you are different and what you don’t share the same goals as other people. Although I had friends and was friends with a group of popular girls, I was always “lonely”. I struggle to find someone with the same “head”, who are as “random” as me. Someone who “gets” me.