06 November 2010

Woolly thinking

“Your thinking is woolly,” my headmaster told me in my final year at primary school. Even at the time, it annoyed me, and I told him I didn’t think it was. I should say that I remained on very friendly terms with him until his death many years later.
He may not have known then, but in retrospect, his comment was accurate. Well, almost accurate. It wasn’t my thinking that was woolly, it was the expression of my thinking that was garbled. Nowadays, I’d get sent for assessment to see if I had ‘special needs’.
Something similar happened to my daughter in the middle of her final examinations at University. One of her tutors told her that her marks in the examinations were not as good as would have been expected from her course work. He asked, “Are you dyslexic?” She didn’t know, but was advised to be tested. She did have a short test which, unsurprisingly, suggested that she was indeed dyslexic.
Now, I’ve never been tested, and there doesn’t seem much point in it now, other than a certain satisfaction in proving myself right, but I strongly suspect that I am also dyslexic.
You may well associate dyslexia with difficulties in spelling, and this can certainly be a presentation. There is another form, or perhaps it’s part of a spectrum, which is much more difficult.
I can have absolutely crystal-clear thoughts in my head, yet when I come to write them, the result is quite mangled. Connections that I’ve mentally made simply don’t appear on paper, often because I’ve left something vital out. And usually I simply don’t recognise this. When I re-read, I seem to fill in the missing bits automatically, so it makes sense to me.
It also happens in conversation. Mostly, I can keep up with the flow, but now and again I go off somewhere, say something totally inappropriate and upset or annoy my audience. I really don’t mean to, though.
I have found some ways to help myself, though it would have been much more useful if I’d known about them years ago. And I don’t mean the pleading for extra time in the examinations.
Putting thoughts down as mind maps is the most useful technique I’ve found. I don’t go for all the visual effects and pictures, it’s enough for me just to put words down, and move them around and create linkages. There are lots of computer programs available now, I use Mindjet’s Mind Manager, largely because it was said to be the best when I started. I like the ability to create linked maps, so that when something gets too big, I can simply link it to another map, and carry on from there. My maps often have connections all over, links to all sorts of concepts and ideas. This is the sort of thing I end up with, though it may well horrify mapping purists:Rome2.jpg
Such mind maps are also very useful when it comes to recalling a topic; I can generally recall a map pretty accurately, and do a quick re-draw, and use this as the schematic if, say, I’m answering an examination question.
A second, much less used tool is a program like Microsoft’s Visio. This is for making diagrams, flow charts, fishbones and so on. Perhaps it’s the effort involved in getting it all into the computer, but I do find that I can use this to construct a logical flow pattern for my thoughts.
This might well mean that I have a visual memory, I remember more in pictures than in words, even if the pictures are diagrams of nets of words.
So, if something you read here doesn’t make sense, now you know why. Dyslexia is not a feeble excuse, it’s for real.

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