I knew even in kindergarten something was different in the way I perceived and learned things. I was a tactical learner. Of course, I hadn’t a clue why or how I was like this; I just knew, somehow, I was different.
Even at this young age I started to stress and have headaches and stomach aches. Discovering I had to work 2 to 4 times harder than the other kids just to keep my head above water with my grades was a real rainbow killer. I was frustrated and angry as a child not knowing why this was happening to me. Why was I different?
I had other diversities that played a large part. I had Iren Syndrome, I was left-handed, and I had a terrible time keeping focused on any task for more than a few minutes. Oh, and did I mention I was hard of hearing? I was tone deaf. Oh yeah, I was extremely shy and stuttered. What is that old joke? They should have named me “Lucky”.
In the late 1950’s and early 1970’s, no real testing or comprehension of these disorders were realized and/or acknowledged in public schools, much less anywhere else in the world. The standard visual and educational tests which have been used for decades are outdated. They weren’t intended to detect these types of disorders, as a consequence so many students were (still are!) being either misdiagnosed as having no problems or being below average in intelligence. We have a long way to go but at least we are starting down a new path that will help improve quality of life for more people.
My dad moved us a lot throughout my childhood due to his work. I hated it but also loved it at the same time. I hated it for all the obvious reasons a kid does moving on to a new school. But I loved it too, as I hoped that I could start over once again, with a clean slate. Nobody would know that I wasn’t like them in the way I perceived things around me or learned in my old special way.
But, that hope was soon smashed. The dreaded reading in front of the class: As soon as I started to read, the class started their snickering and all the other things kids can do to make you feel that much smaller. I was ridiculed by all; even the teachers at times would say to the class that I was a “slow reader” or even I was lazy and/or dim witted.
You can image my popularity and self esteem seemed to be lower than a snails’ belly. My friends throughout my school years could be counted on one hand. The teachers at many schools that I attended throughout my early years used a ruler to hit my left hand and told me if I didn’t learn to use my right, I would turn out to be a nothing. I was punched, hit, and verbally abused still by other teachers. Looking back on it now I can only take a weird sense of comfort in that they really believed they were “helping” me to become a better person; after all they were trained by the educational systems at great universities, right? . They were taught to take this approach to “teach” their students the proper ways to improve their lives. At that time I had pure hate for them, but later, when I was an adult and comprehended how the system functioned, I realized they were only carrying out what they were told/trained to do. I have made peace with that part of my life and moved on.
After a short time, in most classes I become a product of the “special” group, which entailed being separated from the rest of the class. Not really getting any real connection or guidance with the teacher other than a periodic “check in” by them to see if we were not goofing off, we were just considered a nuisance and really shouldn’t be there wasting valuable money and the educational systems time. The law required that we be there, so the teachers wanted the appearance that we were studying.
I drifted through grade school, junior high, and then high school, counting the days that I was out of this hellish purgatory of people that didn’t want my “kind” there anyway. I swore that I was done with this type of schooling when I graduated. After I left high school my resolve was just this: proving “them” wrong. I worked with a defiant attitude that I’d show any and everyone that I wasn’t stupid and that I could succeed in life. I will forever remember what the last principal said to me while standing in his office on the last day of school before graduating ceremonies, “Roberts, you will never make anything of you
r life; you are stupid and a real loser.”
I began a self help program to improve myself academically. I worked feverishly at improving my reading skills. I read anything and everything I could get my hands on. Math was my hardest area. Years later, I had a friend that was head of the math department at the university. He said that I had the worst “math anxiety” that he had ever seen of any student in his 30+ years of teaching.
Self-educating requires self-discipline. It’s hard enough for a regular student so you can imagine for a person with many extra problems to cope with, the challenge was certainly high. I had to read most things 3 or 4 times before I comprehended the material. I knew that Tactical learning was my strongest suit, but the real world worked in memorization and visual first and tactical learning last. I practiced untold hours improving my memorization skills and honing my visual ability skills.
During this time I worked at many different jobs throughout Alaska. I prided myself in doing the very best and then adding 10% more for good measure. Because of the barrage of negative brainwashing I received going to school, I just couldn’t shake this stigma or labeling. I always had this cloud hanging over my head and heart that I was “stupid” and way lower than the average person. I was my worst enemy even after I got older and knew better. Typically human; that’s what I was.
Through the years I had owned a company. It was large enough that I had many employees. I also returned to school and have over 130 credit hours at the university. My IQ was tested in my later years and proved to be 135. When I took the test I really didn’t want to do it so I didn’t give it my all. I probably could have made a higher score but I still had that stigma of being stupid haunting me in the back of my mind.
In conclusion: Our teachers are the artist that sculpts our children; guiding them towards their future and destiny. The highest quality of training should be mandatory for teaching and have the very best tools available so they may succeed in their undertaking. Thankfully more governments, scientists in medical fields, and educators around the world have started focusing on research in these areas. The medical community, in many countries has acknowledged these conditions as real medical disorders. Giving credence to these disorders; hopefully we will see more and more attention, research, and solutions to the problems facing people that have developmental disorders.
What is Irlen Syndrome?
Irlen Syndrome, (IS), also known as Visual Stress, (VS) or Scotopic Sensitivity System (SSS) is a multitude of visual perceptual problems. The difficulty resides in the area where the nervous system encodes and decodes visual information. Due to the influence of the IS disorder, this information sometimes isn’t processed correctly. To give an example: You’ve transferred a text document from one program to another on your computer and discover when you open it on the new computer the document isn’t exactly like the original; it is all jumbled and/or mixed up making it a real challenge to read much less comprehend fully.
Academic and work performance, behavior, attention, ability to sit still and concentration can all be affected. Some individuals with IS see printed pages in a different way than others would normally see them. And the unfortunate thing about this under-exposed disorder; many people don’t have a clue that they are viewing the page differently from other people. They think what they are seeing is normal.IS prevents many people from reading effectively and efficiently. It is very common for students and/or adults to try and avoid reading. They are very uncomfortable to the point of highly stressed, if forced to read to a group; it is a traumatic challenge for them to do so. Their ability to reading in a flowing and articulate matter isn’t always possible. This can be one of the biggest single dreaded fears that students with IS encounters; having teachers and their peers perceiving them as stupid.