Life is a game of snakes and ladders, and I’d been quite successful climbing up the ladders for the first two thirds of my working life and in my fifties was a suit-wearing manager. Then, I was made redundant: down a very long snake. However, a couple of years later I picked up a job in a college and began earning again. So far so good, but something I hadn’t been required to do in my suit-wearing days was work with a PC…and this turned out to be required for the college work. It baffled me. I could do the typing and the emailing, but couldn’t deal with the templates, the forms, the charts, even some of the on-screen instructions. The student disabilities officer spotted the problem, dyslexia she thought; and as I didn’t feel able to pay £250 for a professional assessment, urged me to consult HR – who referred me to the college medical officer. He looked at my grey hair, and the notes, looked up and said, ‘Ah yes. The Personal Computer. Quite a new invention. You just have to face it. You’re getting older.’ (Boy, did I need to hear that?!) ‘Nothing to do with dyslexia. I’m going to spend time learning more about ICT when I retire.’
So, that was that. Except that shortly after, the disabilities officer contacted me again – ‘You’re doing a new in-house qualification. You’re registered as a student, so that means you qualify for an assessment!’ That’s how it came about. I WAS a dyslexic thinker. Mind you, I AM retired now, and the doctor’s words come back. Does aging have any impact on dyslexic thinking? Has there been any research on this? I’m comforted by Douglas Adams’s rules to describe our reactions to technologies, from his posthumously published book The Salmon of Doubt:
“1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.”
This, of course, is why only one’s children could operate the video recorder (if you remember those days), but don’t forget that dyslexia and some other neurodivergencies are so often indicated by a working memory problem, which was the case with my difficulties with the PC. Moving to an AppleMac helped, but I still have difficulties understanding and completing forms online. Lifetimes and the period of ‘retirement’ are getting longer. For the dyslexic, is this a boon or a burden?
Vin Arthey, Dyslexia Scotland Volunteer Speaker