Monday, 15 July 2013

Finding the Keys

A protracted anaolgy about (some aspects of) dyslexia

Imagine the task you are trying to do (reading a word, filling out a form, making change) is a locked door. There is a little note on the lock that says 'blue key'.

Now for most people unlocking to door would just be a case of turning to the board next to the door which has all the keys lined up. Every key has it's own hook and is properly labelled with a different coloured tag or the right name.

If it's a door they know they can reach for the blue key almost without looking. Sometimes it takes a moment to scan through those carefully labelled ordered keys until they find the blue one.
But then they have the key and can unlock the door.

This is how a non-dyslexic brain finds the information to complete a task. It sorts through what it knows looking for the information it needs to finish the task. The information is in some sort of order that the person's brain knows and understands.

Now a dyslexic person comes to unlock that door. They might see that the note that says 'blue key' but that note might be missing or damaged, but they know they need a key. Instead of turning to a nicely ordered peg board they are confronted with a big bowl full of unlabelled keys all jumbled up.
At best they can go through every key one by one until they find the right key, but realistically it's going to be a daunting task and every key that doesn't face is a smack in the face that the keys aren't properly labelled.

A dyslexic brain can not always find the information needed to complete a task. It's not that it isn't there, we have the information we just can't find it. A dyslexic brain doesn't label things properly or put them in a nice convenient order. This means that a dyslexic person might not even know the information is there, never mind how to find it.

Sometimes there are methods a dyslexic brain can use to help overcome this. We can use relaxation methods to keep us calm whilst we carefully sort the information: separating the too big keys from the smaller keys, or in a real life situation breaking a big task into smaller tasks. We can practice new ways of learning or labelling information: looking at a key from all angles before we put it away so we can remember what it looks like or in real life trying different learning pathways like speaking out loud or practising when we learn new information.
We can ask for help. We can write things down. We can count on our fingers, draw pictures, sing songs, talk out loud, use reference books – anything we want for trying to make sense of that big bowl of keys.