Oh, for fuck's sake.

I'm researching dyslexia at the moment. Specifically, I'm researching dyslexia and how it affects creative writing/essay writing (a note: I'm not conducting formal research, I'm trawling the internet for answers). This article is going to be heavy on anecdotal evidence in the absence of anything else, so take cover.

It all started off with my year's result for our English Literature module - the Modern Drama one, to be precise. Due to an act of God, my papers getting mixed up, or the crazy marking system they use, I ended up being one mark off an A* despite detesting the subject and doing almost no work. A friend of mine got a D, and I started hypothesising about the reasons, as I am often wont to do. He cut me off by saying "Well, I'm dyslexic" and left it there.

What he said is true - he is dyslexic. However, he's also in the top set in French and used to do Latin, and while I don't know much about his dyslexia, it doesn't seem that bad compared to when I first met him - actually, it wasn't even that bad, because I could read and understand what he said quite well. Now, I don't know how dyslexia affects his ability to write in paragraphs (one thing you get marked on in an English Literature exam) and I don't know if they mark spelling. Even so, I reasoned, dyslexia shouldn't affect his ability to think, especially as I'd heard anecdotes about several dyslexic people being good writers (and there are a couple of authors and poets around with dyslexia - doesn't seem to affect them; Alexander Faludy, who at nine passed the English Literature GCSE, also has severe dyslexia - when he was first admitted to Cambridge, at 15 by the way, he could only write two illegible words a minute). I thought that my friend was using his dyslexia to justify what might be lazy thinking, which pissed me off - having a condition which makes you bad at X doesn't mean you can  use that condition as an excuse for doing badly at Y. So off I went to do my research, and on the first page of Google what do I find...?

...The stupidity is numerous and varied, but it can be summed up in one word: HEADDESK. *thump* A quick search says things like "Dyslexics are special, unique, visionary" "They are here in this world to accomplish great things" "They have skills that you might never achieve unless you're dyslexic yourself" "Having to learn a foreign language...is a virtual impossibility for a dyslexic child and a sure route to failure"...oh, and there's some stuff about the left and right halves of the brain, the usual pop-psychology tripe which is quite outdated by now but still makes the rounds. (If you don't believe me, do even the most basic of Google searches and see what comes up.)

Before you decry me as some kind of mean, horrid anti-dyslexic, please take the time to read my stated reasons before you flame me.

First of all, dyslexics are not necessarily visionaries come to herald the second coming or whatever, and a condition which affects between 4 and 7% of the population - that's somewhere between 280 million and 490 million - is hardly unique considering the numbers of people involved. As for being special? They're special in the sense that they learn differently from other people, not retards or sparkly heralds of the New Age. My personal opinion is that they're just people. That's all. Perfectly normal specimens of H. sapiens who just happen to have structural differences in parts of the brain involved in reading.

From that "normal, but with structural differences" conclusion (which I will admit is a moot point, but only because of lack of evidence on either side - not every dyslexic person is a Nobel laureate or a failure living in the slums, and I'd guess that a vast majority of them are simply normal, but I don't have the statistics), one can also reason that they're not here to accomplish great things - they're here because a sperm fertilised an egg and what they do is up to them, not the mysterious tricks of destiny. I have no idea what the quote about skills means, but again it pisses me off because it's just...so politically correct. The driving force behind it is "Fuck the medical establishment, we're going to make up for the bad bits about dyslexia by portraying dyslexic people as a magically uber-specially superior breed of humans! YAY!"

Now to the bit about foreign languages. It's probably the last point I'm going to address. Yes, I will admit that some dyslexic people have trouble with learning foreign languages, especially languages like French, where what's written on the page and what it actually sounds like seem to have no connection. I wouldn't, however, go so far as to say that it's virtually impossible - remember my friend and how he's in top set? (Granted, his pronunciation isn't great, but French pronunciation is weird and it took me years to grasp.) I also know another person who has worse dyslexia - this person was studying French at the Sorbonne, last I heard. Yes, it may take more work for a dyslexic person to learn a language, but I don't think it's impossible, or even virtually impossible.

At root I think my issue with this is that I don't like to see some groups getting preferential treatment, or members of these groups being lazy and complacent because of their membership and the knowledge that they'll get preferential treatment anyway. I hold myself to high standards: I'm a perfectionist and I always want to do the best work I can. I hold other people to these standards as well, so it frustrates me when the bar is lowered - especially for subgroups rather than the whole group. If a certain group needs to work twice as hard to catch up, why then, they should work twice as hard, because it's no more than I'd do. I freely acknowledge that I hold others to my own personal code of work - it sounds arrogant, but it's true. I don't think that they're wholly incapable of reaching my standards, so I'll hold them to those because I genuinely want everyone to achieve highly.

And to those of you who say "well, high for one person is low for another"? Up to a certain point, achieving highly is relative; I'll admit that. However, there are some standards which are absolute, or so essential that they are almost absolute. I hold people to those. I won't lower my standards just because some people can't reach them - I support helping them and trying different learning styles, but I don't support outright lowering.

I'm not anti-dyslexic or anti-anyone with any kind of disorder, I'm pro-achievement and I get really pissed off when certain groups have to achieve less than others because of a condition. Let them work with extra help, let them work in a different style - I know and understand that different styles work for different people - but if they have to work twice as hard to reach the same standard, LET THEM WORK TWICE AS HARD. There are no excuses for laziness, except being burnt out, and that wouldn't come without hard work.