Now, frequently at the conclusion of my internal rants, mixed in with my sense of superiority I’d feel vaguely confused, because this “lazy” or “stupid” idea was inconsistent with other qualities I’d seen in that person. “I don’t get it,” I’d wonder. “She seems so creative and smart and conscientious...Why can’t she spell?” But I’d still end up shrugging my shoulders and proceeding on my self-satisfied, smug little way.
Then, a couple years ago, I found out my very intelligent, hard-working, and determined young daughter had dyslexia, an unexpected difficulty in reading which, research shows, is completely unrelated to intelligence. Affecting one in five people to varying degrees, dyslexia makes it difficult for people not only to learn to read, but to spell and master certain other rules of language. Yet if anyone ever dared say or even think my little girl was dumb or “just not trying,” I would have an overwhelming impulse to set them straight -- and not using my “inside voice,” either.
As my understanding of my daughter and dyslexia have unfolded, I’ve become silently mortified and ashamed of all those “holier than thou” thoughts I’ve had over the years. Obviously many of those I’d been misjudging (even if they never knew I was doing so) must have had dyslexia. The fact that they misspelled words or omitted punctuation had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with their intelligence or their work ethic. In fact, these very same people were often brilliant at things that I absolutely SUCK at. So take that, me.
To all of those people, I would like to take this opportunity to say, I AM SO SORRY! I had no idea. I was ignorant, and I was being a jerk. But I’m done. I am officially resigning from the Grammar Police squad. And to all you remaining grammar snobs, grammar police officers, or however you fancy yourselves -- may I suggest you tread gently, both out loud and in your mind, when you notice spelling and grammatical errors other people make? Because you never know.
Finally, if you are an adult with dyslexia, I hope that if you’re not already comfortable talking about it, you can begin to move in that direction. Others need to begin to understand what dyslexia is, and that if you misspell words or omit a comma now and then, there's a good reason for it, and that reason has nothing to do with how smart or diligent you are. And, for that matter, you usually have incredible strengths or gifts that others, like me, do not have. Or, in the words of one my favorite dyslexia advocates, Ben Foss, “So you're a great speller? Who cares? It’s just a cool party trick.” It's dyslexia; end the shame.