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Dyslexia and Me - Cycling Metaphor

These posts cover how dyslexia has, and continues to, influence my life.


My previous post finished with the conundrum my primary school teacher had: They knew that I knew the answers but was not completing the school work on time. Most of my primary school teachers saw this and came to the same conclusion, that I was smart but lazy.

Meanwhile I was dealing with my own conundrum:

How can everyone else in the class work so fast?

The work was easy enough but no matter how hard I worked, I could not get the answers onto the paper fast enough. Years later I came up with a metaphor for describing the situation:

My brain is a bicycle stuck in bottom gear1

Doing the normal class work was like going along a flat road. Everyone else with a higher gear was able to power along at great speed. Yet not matter how fast I worked, I progressed along the road slowly. The work was not hard, just slow (and consequently boring).

Occasionally we would get given a 'hard' problem. One that required a bit more creative thought or perhaps needed to combine what we had just been learning with something we had learned the previous week.

This was the equivalent of going off the smooth flat road and hitting a steep hill. The others classmates, with brains that worked in a higher gear, suddenly started to struggle. Perhaps the fell off and couldn't solve it at all, but at very least they had to slow down.

My brain on the other hand, already in a low gear, ploded on without issue. The 'difficult' task was similar to the normal ones and so I was able to answer these sorts of problems.

This was the reason the teachers thought I was smart but lazy. If he can do the difficult ones at that speed, he should be able to do the easier ones much faster.

This also leads to an interesting situation. Normally when a child is not completing it in the allocated time, it if because they are struggling with the difficulty of the task. A teacher might reasonably assume that giving easier tasks would allow them to complete it in the correct time. This however, would have the opposite effect with me. I could already do the work, it was just slow and boring (How would you like to drive through town stuck in first gear?). Making it easier would not help and would make things worse (How would you like to drive down the motorway in first gear?).

Instead, the better solution would be to make it more challenging. Make the individual problems harder but less of them. This would make it interesting and still learn the work. It would move the bottleneck away from writing the answer down and onto the problem itself.

More tomorrow.

  1. Doesn't need to be a bike, a car would work as well
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