Dyslexia, Irlen Syndrome and Alexia. (This has nothing to do with Amazon gadgets)

This post focuses on writing blogs, website content, social media and emails rather than stories and books.

As independent authors, our ability to write such is of paramount importance to our promotional and marketing strategy. Yet the way you write could be alienating those who are not quite as apt as you or me at reading.


How-is-All-Started

A couple of years ago, I had a wonderful comment from a person who suffered from dyslexia about a post.

Although his comments were primarily about the content and not the presentation of the post, he mentioned he found my post far easier to read than many, if not most.

Curiosity got the better of me.

Why I wondered, could he read and understand my posts, when he struggled to read so many others?

Over the next few days, he and I conversed, by email, about his reading on a personal AAEAAQAAAAAAAAxCAAAAJDdmZDE5N2IxLWUxZmUtNGMwNi04YzE3LWYyNGUxYjA3MDE1MQlevel and Dyslexia in general.

 

Before I carry on and explain the outcome of our conversations, I think as writers we should all know and understand what dyslexia and some of the most common reading difficulties are. So, I am including the following few paragraphs & bullet points, (which I cribbed from the internet), for clarity.

 

A formal definition of dyslexia used by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development states, “It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and / or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge. “

Unsurprisingly, the International Dyslexia Association defines it in simple terms. “Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability. Dyslexia refers to a cluster of symptoms, which result in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading. Students with dyslexia usually experience difficulties with other language skills such as spelling, writing, and pronouncing words.”


In contrast, Irlen Syndrome is a perceptual processing disorder, meaning that it relates specifically to how the brain processes the visual information it receives. It is not a language-based disorder and phonics-based instruction will not help someone with Irlen Syndrome improve in the same way it will help someone with dyslexia improve their reading skills.

At its core, Irlen Syndrome is a light sensitivity, where individuals are sensitive to a specific wavelength of light and this sensitivity is what causes the physical and visual symptoms that people with Irlen Syndrome experience. People with Irlen Syndrome have difficulty reading not because their brains have difficulty connecting the letters they see with the sounds those letters make, but because they see distortions on the printed page, or because the white background or glare hurts their eyes, gives them a headache, or makes them fall asleep when trying to read.

Unlike dyslexia, difficulties experienced because of Irlen Syndrome can reach well beyond just reading. People with Irlen Syndrome have difficulty processing all visual information, not just words on a printed page, so they often have trouble with depth perception, driving, sports performance, and other areas not generally connected with dyslexia.


Alexia is a form of dyslexia, but dyslexia is developmental, meaning that it does not happen from an occurrence such as a stroke or traumatic brain injury.

Alexia is an acquired reading disability because of an acquired event such as a stroke. It is most common for alexia to be accompanied by expressive aphasia (the ability to speak in sentences), and agraphia (the ability to write).

All alexia is not the same, however. You may have difficulty with the following:

Recognizing words ● Difficulty identifying and reading synonyms ● Difficulty with reading despite your ability to sound out pronunciation of words.

Although you can read words, it is too difficult to read for very long ● Blind spots blocking the end of a line or a long word ● Focusing on the left side of the paragraph or page ● Double vision when trying to read ● Reading some words but not others. Of course, this makes reading impossible.

A stroke survivor with alexia that can read larger words, but cannot read tiny words such as “it,” “to,” “and,” etc. ● Any combination of some of these traits.

35a9c571b81c1e53d69e2117b33d4623

 

My conversations with, (I shall call him ‘Jay’ during this post), led me to take a close look at how I was presenting my blogs, what made them so different and, could I improve them further?

It turns out the style I chose… I was going to say developed, but that sounds arrogant. So, the style I was using at the time was to write in small(ish) chunks, using relatively short sentences and paragraphs, as I have so far in this post.

Unlike the following.

This differed to most blogs and posts on the interweb which were, (and still are), long blocks of continuous sentences and sub-sentences, forming large paragraphs with very little line spacing or breaks. This may be a ‘style’ welcomed by universities and those writing technical/medical/professional and some literary journals. I have seen many papers which follow this style. I have even read a few and I must agree it makes for extremely uncomfortable reading. To read such a document, one must concentrate fully and focus on each word of each line. Whenever the eye moves from its forced liner motion, even for a moment, is when the reader finds some difficulty in returning to the exact location they were at previously, often meaning one must, annoyingly, re-read sections already read. Like you have possibly just done when reading with this last long drivelling, over worded paragraph I have written in just such a manner to illustrate my point that it makes for uncomfortable reading, even for those of us blessed with good eyesight and adequate skill. A point which I hope I have now made adequately clear with this paragraph which is representative of many blogs.

Writing in this form creates such a large block of words it becomes challenging to separate them into clear concise ‘bite-sized‘ and manageable ‘lots’ of information.

This is one of the areas of written presentation which was highlighted to me by Jay.

I already used a style of writing which broke long paragraphs into much smaller ones, whenever practicable, but I was not aware of the impact doing so made on the reader. From then on, I broke paragraphs down even further than I did ‘pre-‘Jay’

I was also made aware of unnecessarily long sentences, sentences with too many superfluous words.

This simply meant cutting out all those unnecessary words to make sentences read far more precisely and clearly.

OR

Eliminating irrelevant words.

You see, this is not fictional or creative literature as when writing a novel, or even a short story. This is describing and sharing thoughts, ideas, information and data. Another skill set entirely.

Authors often discover this when having to write a precise about their latest book, like the back-cover blurb, an agent’s query synopsis, or for a promotional activity.

We all know, or at least should, that mixing sentence lengths makes for better reading. But so does spacing and breaking them up, like I have done in most of this post.

Please do not get me wrong.

I am not solely writing or directing my words specifically to those with reading difficulties, but I am looking to be as inclusive as possible and not simply because I am attempting to be politically, or socially correct.

I do it because I want as many people as possible to read my words. That is why I write.

Looking at how one presents their posts on the screen does not take much effort. Neither does adjusting one’s style to make it clearer and easier to read… for everybody, including you and me.

To finish, look at this Git-Hub virtual reality page. It shows how we can best comprehend the way those suffering from dyslexia and associated reading difficulties may see the written word.

https://geon.github.io/programming/2016/03/03/dsxyliea

My lesson following my conversations with ‘Jay’ is, “We can all learn from others, even those we may have previously considered had nothing to give us. After all, I never thought a dyslexic could teach an established author how to write clearer, even better. How wrong I was.”

Thank you for reading another of my Ramblings. Please subscribe to this blog if you will.

I am open to all comments and try to reply to them all personally.

Keep happy, Paul


Oh, take a peek at my website, I have a ton of good stuff waiting there 

Advertisements

Ex Libris legatum

o-STEAMPUNK-WRITER-facebook

As we age we amass many life skills; some taught to us by teachers, lecturers, professors and our parents, some self-learned by patient practice and repetition, while most such lessons are thrust into our consciousness simply by the pure events of living life itself; births, love, passion, loss, hurt, pain, grief and death.

At some point during the period betwixt being born and gasping our last breath we have also, hopefully, gained some wisdom.

Although, only too often, such wisdom is realised and recognised far too late in life for us to use it in any true and meaningful way, such is the cruel nature of growing older.

However for those who manage to avoid a premature departure from this world, those who never got hit by lightning or run over by a trolley bus, become in some respect like a soggy sponge! Yes we droop and some often uncontrollably leak and dribble I am sure, but the analogy I was trying to draw was one of absorption and storage.

I know for a fact that I know more than I know I know, even if in that knowledge there is the realisation of knowing that one knows nothing.

With that stated clearly I will return to the train of thought which initiated my fingers to start tapping away today; that is, that within these southerly wilting, rather wrinkly, fading bodies which those ‘of a certain age’ seem to acquire, for the majority of us at least, are still our sprightly, lively young minds that have seldom aged beyond fifteen…or maybe (for legal reasons) that should read eighteen!

lgk3dvgehj4witu1j9gi

Now….these minds of ours need a little control. You see they tend too often fool us by considering that whatever they think that we, (those of us who are over 40 something…{no not waist size}…years of being alive), still have the physical ability to achieve such things as skateboarding, zip-lining, mountaineering and even imbibing in a large amount of alcoholic beverages and awaking in the morning with a clear head….hummph….I wish.

The reason that our minds ignore our creaking joints, throbbing tendons, scar tissues that pull as taught as an elastic band every time we move like this…ouch….I should not have done that! Is that once-upon-a-time we have done all of those things, once –upon-a-time when that same mind was in its infancy and knew nothing of risk or fear, that mind which we (mostly) protected from going too far; well far too far, too often.

Now during all those life threatening adventures, (those naughty and dangerous liaisons, the arguments and battles, the fights and flights that our immature brains took us on), we collected lots and lots of information, comprehension, realisation, skills and familiarity.

In other words we gained awareness, understanding and experience, this is how we became educated and intelligent, and this is what gives us an erudition of life. This is what we loosely and casually refer to as wisdom and knowledge.

These are the life skills one collects in the only way possible, by living over a long period of time, or at least the longest period that time allows our weak and feeble bodies to function. Gladly, but tinged with some forms of sadly, mine is doing…..okay….at this moment.

You see I have out-lived many thousands of others over the years I have been walking upon this earth, (which I can still do….unaided). I am glad that I saw the sunrise this morning, the sad is that many did not.

Over the preceding years, many of those who never got to see the sunlight today are a whole host of friends and family, many older than I, many younger. Worst of all some had only minutes of life with which we could chart their age.

IMG_4424The fact is, that the number of people who are older than I is quickly diminishing. Now my mourning’s are frequently for those of my own generation, a generation who should use the life skills and knowledge that they have acquired to help and nurture those who are young enough and fortunate enough to have one of those minds which believes it is protected by an invincible body, such as our own did all those years past.

All that we have learned by events of life and living; those births we have witnessed, our loves, both lost and lasting. The passionate moments, some intimate, comprised of twisting limbs and thrusting loins, others of the soul; music, art, theater, dreams and scenes, vistas of natural beauty. The recollection of our times of loss, of hurt, of feeling pain; both physical and of the heart, not forgetting the grief and deaths.

This is our accumulated wisdom.

This is what we should share, what we should endeavour to teach our children and their children.

‘Ahh’, I hear you say, but children do not listen, do not take heed, so it is best to leave them to find their own way.

I do not disagree.

However, (which is a nicer way to say but, because there is always a but)! If we share our knowledge, leave it somewhere our future generations can discover it for themselves, then they will learn, or at least hopefully be guided by that which we have spent a lifetime accumulating.

This is why I believe I have a duty to leave my own thoughts behind me when I have gone, when I have shuffled from this mortal coil.

No one can teach from our personal experiences as we ourselves can.

This is why I choose to write. Even within the lines of my fiction, on the pages of my fantasies, are woven the truths of life and the facts of living.MagicBook

The words within my books and short stories are my bequest to the world, to a future I cannot be a part of, at least in person.

I chose to be a writer, not for monetary wealth or recognition, but to leave a legacy beyond the simplistic value of personal greed.

My wish is that my words are read by the generations yet to come.

Maybe then my life will not have been lived in vein.

Ex Libris legatum Paul White.


Thank you for reading this Rambling.

To find out about my Published Books & Short Stories please visit my web page, http://paulznewpostbox.wix.com/paul-white-writer

© Paul White 2015