Before most people had even heard the word, I was born with the curse of severe dyslexia. I won’t get into the emotional scars I live with because I grew up as the “retard” sitting in the corner of the class, or the countless ways that dyslexia affects me even now.
I eventually learned to read, not because I was cured, but because I learned to connect words with a functioning frame of reference: my ability to speak those same words in English.
Should I be annoyed by people I meet who casually say, “oh, yea, wouldn’t you know it, I’m dyslexic, too? And, come to mention it, I’m also Aspergers.”–then continue, as if it were a fashion statement, incorporating popular myths about dyslexics and Aspergers into their personal narratives?
According to psychometric tests, Aspergers and dyslexia are near opposites (the former, a non-verbal learning disability, the latter, a verbal learning disability). Yet, as a real dyslexic, I am currently bumping up against sensory integration issues that are typically associated with autism. I joined Toastmasters and am learning the art of public speaking. For me, the biggest obstacle to public speaking is sensory overload—I can’t look at my audience while hearing myself speak. My auditory and visual worlds just don’t come together.
In my research autism, I came across a number of other sensory issues that also belong to me. I guess dyslexia and Aspergers can overlap, at least in the sense that they both present with sensory integration problems.
According to the DSM-V, autism is a “catch all” for so many subcategories, that it boggles the mind. Maybe it’s like a “rash,” once was, before there was psoriasis, acne, lupus, poison ivy, or seborrhea. These types of rashes present similarly, but treatments for each have diverged.
As history repeats itself, autism, like a rash, is settling into constellations of similar symptoms with disparate causes. For now, it’s convenient to call a rash a rash, or autism just autism, so researchers can get around to business—sourcing the causes of autism with greater precision and addressing them separately.