Learning Disabilities Forum
This expert forum is not accepting new questions. Please post your question in one of our medical support communities.
Avatar universal

Help with dyslexia-like condition

Hello everyone. I apologize in advance for the unstructured and not very coherent structure of my message. I have been having hard times lately because I sort of stumbled across "dyslexia" a few weeks ago and I wanted to get in contact with  people who have some experience with dyslexia and how to cope with it.

First of all, I am 20 and a college student. I grew up in Germany and My native language is German. I learned English at a very young age from my mom and by now, i feel more competent expressing myself in English than in any other language due to my hard work I invested into perfecting one language.
I am in my second year at university here and I study applied English linguistics and literature and culture studies. More details on this choice follow.

In general, I am nto very decisive and I still have no idea what I want to do in life. My parents, friends and Teachers told me I was talented in music (I've been taking piano lessons for 13 years), storytelling, drawing and drama but I couldn't decide for any of these arts.

Anyway, my childhood "felt" pretty much average and unspectacular to me.
In retrospect, I do notice a few minor difficulties none of my friends have gone through:

My parents confirmed I was a late bloomer and they had taken me to several counsellors because I started walking later than everyone else, I started talking later, and I learned some basics like tying my shoes later than everyone else of my friends who were at the same age.
I was overly sensitive as a kid, crying a lot and I suffered from nostalgia/ home sickness until about 14. I learned to "grow up", or rather to deny my exaggerated empathy by then.

I will post this message in several replies to stay under the 20000 character limt.
6 Responses
Avatar universal
Eventually I repeated a year of pre-school/K and my parents taught me to read before I started regular grammar school and I did more or less well at home but in my reading classes at school I hardly ever participated which resulted in more than one parent teacher consulting meetings and a classification as 'timid' and 'unmotivated' pupil. I would try anything to avoid reading or writing and I remember inserting "decorative" lines of drawings between lines of writing to shorten the lengths of my texts.

Early on I developed a great aversion against reading because I never really could concentrate and it gave me difficulties recognizing words in written form compared to their written forms (In German as well as in English). Despite my parents' motivations I don't think I finished more than 10 books up to this day. I was disapointet every time I got a book for my birthday but I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings so I said thanks, and hoped my parents would read it to me.

In high school I was lucky because I was able to avoid several major reading classes and I chose teachers whose focus was on oral exams and minor written tests. In my junior year I struggled because I had severe problems keeping my handwriting readable and my spelling was awful. My reading aversion had turned into a fear of books and I didn't even look at books that were thicker than a pencil. Eventually it became as severe as I didn't even want to look at book titles that consisted of more than three words in bold print and consisting of more than two sylabels.

In school some teachers, most freqently our new history teacher made us read out aloud and I was terrified of doing so. I hardly ever could finish a sentence without ommitting a word, mispronouncing words or reading things that were not  written in the book. My teacher had me repeat it over and over until I got it right which I still remember as some of the most humiliating situations in my life. Other students were mocking me because I was the "junior whose reading skills are outdone by kindergarten kids". The whole bullying died down in senior year and I never wanted my parents to get involved. In fact, I was too embarrassed to tell my parents and They only got their own versions from my teachers who classified me as 'highly intelligent but lazy'.
Avatar universal
Especially during my senior year I was working very hard to compensate my difficulties with language and I was able to get routine in reading and recognizing words in written form. I was able to cover my bad spelling because we were allowed to use dictionaries for the final exams and I did pretty good on my Finals. However, I almost failed my chemistry class which was pretty much the only class requiring to do our own reading and apply the read knowledge in chemical reactions exams...

Because of my preference of the English language I decided to take the only courses taught in English at the local university, which, unfortunately, was linguistics and literature.

I still didn't realize this might be the wrong choice and at first I was lucky the teachers didn't require much reading and I could apply my routine knowledge to cope with the academic pressure and perfect my English language skills.
Gradually, I discovered, I was having big problems acquiring new words and I kept confusing them with similar words or spelling them wrongly because I mixed up pronunciation and spelling. I generally enjoyed learning and using new words and increasing my vocabulary but until I had even a vage image in my head it was painstaking hard work. I did pretty good in phonetic transcription classes using those phonetic alphabets sounds because it was more logical to me.

I decided to increase my work-load and did pretty well covering my disabilities with reading and spelling but unfortunately that's when the "reasoning" and "critical thinking" tests kicked in. The last two semesters my grades reached a new low since they introduced standardized reading and comprehension exams which require speed reading, inferring and critical thinking.

This is when I started thinking something is wrong with me. None of my friends had any troubles reading the instructions and texts and delivering essays and replies that fulfilled the tasks and prompts. All I did the last two semesters was guessing and hoping I got the right answer. I had gotten used to the fact that I started reading the required books at the same time my friends did but they finished their copies in about 2 weeks while it took me 2 months at least to finish the book and several study guides explaining the books' story lines because I have never been able to get that while reading. But those critical reading tests opened up a new low point for me.
Avatar universal
As for now, I deeply hate reading and even comic books with too many bubbles are a pain to read. I hate liturater classes and I keep waking up at night with nightmares of teachers who make me read books in front of a big lecture Hall. I hate myself for my incapabilities and I wish I could just increase my workload one more time to make up for this.

Besides that I decided to apply for international study programs because I am very unhappy with my current choice of courses and I want to keep taking classes in English. I tried taking a class in German but I failed because I made to many spelling mistakes in the final exam.

So  I took the SAT some weeks ago. Despite I was studying so hard like never before and I did focused speed reading and reasoning training, I only was able to skim the texts and guess at each reading question that asked for comprehension, intention or context of texts. I am still waiting for my scores but I hope it will be at least good enough to apply for the desired program.

Then, I was working on a group assignment, I came across the term of "dyslexia". Dyslexia is almost unknown here and under a different term. Dyslexics are treated as "disabled" in class and they get limited degrees and diplomas. (The general description of the disorders I'd different as well)
At first I didn't even think I COULD be close to what is called learning disorder but my friends who worked on the project with me showed me symptom charts they printed from several online information portals. They did not have the intention to confront me personally with the topic (I am still doing a good job covering my faults and they don't know yet I am going to fail most of my classes this year) but it got me thinking because For the first time I realized most (and I mean about 90% of all the symptoms they had compiled) were present for me.

It felt really strange to read about people who, too, trace their lines of texts with their fingers, lose the line they are in constantly, have problems getting the contents of the texts or have spelling problems.
Besides that, my friends pointed out I switched my pen from the right to the left hand and write with both hands, prefer giving directions using objects rather than left/right or east/west and I did describe memories more on picture/feeling basis than relying on words.
They jokingly called my "a dyslexic" which really hurt my feelings yet those facts were undenibly true. Other than those I admit I do have problems focusing over a long time and I also do have difficulties formulating a focused argument and it ends up either being two-word sentences or five lines sentences.
Avatar universal
For the last couple weeks I spent my time denying those facts and I still keep telling myself I do not have any troubles but I am very very worried. I don't want to be dyslexic and I was doing a pretty good job increasing my work to keep up with the others but what worries me most is that my grades and academics fell like never before over the last year and I am most embarrassed to tell my friends, teachers and parents about this. They will say I'm stupid or
Lazy and even I think I am lazy when I want to get myself to read but after reading two sentences the words get blurry and I have to retread the passage five times.

I did a bit of research and i deliberately avoided those "are you dyslexic" online tests because 1) I don't think online tests can give an adequate diagnosis and 2) I know I'd have to tick most symptoms. I even had medical checks and an MRI scan of my brain taken to make sure I wasn't losing it.

Usually I would stick to my routine and study harder to keep up with my friends and since high school reading problems arose, I have been hoping I would make up for them one day and it would just go away but it is actually getting worse...

I am scared and I just wish it gone. I don't want to get it diagnosed because I don't want to tell anyone and I don't want to endanger my international study program. I don't want to risk my application being denied because of a disability but I also am scared to do really bad because I couldn't keep up last semester.

Does anyone of you have any experience with this? Is it even possible to "have" dyslexia at 20 without it being diagnosed as a kid? I am scared people would start laughing at me again if I got a formal diagnosis and my parents wouldn't understand. I successfully never let them know I was having problems with something as banal as reading. Their motto is "work hardest and even hardester" and they would think I would fake something I found on the internet to excuse my laziness. I don't want to be labeled again after my efforts to 'be normal'.
Please help me, I really don't know what to do and I feel it's getting worse every day, I'm becoming more insecure with every mistake I make on any test.

Thank you very much in advance, I am very sorry for the length of this message but I tried to describe my situation as acurately as posibel. Please forgive me for not proof reading this "novel" twice as I am sure I overlooked some mistakse.

Avatar universal
Thanks so much for anyone reading this awfully long message. It's really important to me and any help realy aprecciated.
521840 tn?1348840771
Hi Jake, it is certainly possible to have dyslexia at any age. Many bright people find ways to compensate, so it is always hard to say when and to what extent dyslexia will impact people's achievement. For some it is a major obstacle and for some it is more of an ongoing annoyance.

The way to learn if you are actually dyslexic is to arrange for psychological testing. Psychological testing will determine if you have a learning disability, and help you understand how your brain works. Individuals with documented learning disabilities are often eligible for accommodations on standardized tests (such as extended time or breaks "off the clock"), but you have to have testing to document that your disability has a negative impact on your performance to the extent that regular testing conditions discriminate against you. Psychological testing that reveals a disability is also an important part of being able to access disability support services at colleges and universities. Individuals with learning disabilities can have extended time or accommodations or even extra tutoring in college. If you decide to get tested, make sure the psychologist is up to date on documenting disabilities for high stakes testing and for individuals entering college. Ask about his/her track record with getting accommodations for clients with LD.

In the mean time, I would recommend you get an audio version of the book Overcoming Dyslexia by Dr. Sally Shaywitz. Dr. Shaywitz's team was the first to demonstrate through brain imaging studies how the dyslexic brain differs from regular brains on reading tasks. The book is a user friendly guide to the disorder and offers excellent ideas for how to work around it.

Best Wishes,
Dr. Rebecca Resnik
Disclaimer: This post is for educational purposes only. It is never intended to replace face to face mental health care.
Popular Resources
Fearing autism, many parents aren't vaccinating their kids. Can doctors reverse this dangerous trend?
Yummy eats that will keep your child healthy and happy
What to expect in your growing baby
Is the PS3 the new Prozac … or causing ADHD in your kid?
Autism expert Dr. Richard Graff weighs in on the vaccine-autism media scandal.
Could your home be a haven for toxins that can cause ADHD?