Dyslexia for Teens: The Top 10 Hacks to Enjoy English Class for Fellow Dyslexics

You may not know that I am an author with Dyslexia. What is Dyslexia? It is a visual disability where the brain interprets images as the mirror-image of itself. In classrooms and general medical offices this term is also often mistakenly used to refer to all visual processing disorders, which is to say issues where the eyes see things clearly but the brain jumbles them up in all kinds of ways. Other visual processing disorders besides specifically Dyslexia can include images rotating, flipping around, skipping over things like entire lines of text, scrambling letters or numbers, double vision, and more. Needless to say, it can be very difficult to enjoy reading and writing when those darn words won’t stay still on the page and choose to zoom all around instead, and it can be embarrassing to be a teenager and still write your letters and numbers backwards.

pexels-photo-462353

Have no fear though. Not only is treatment available at any age from specialized Optometrists for all of these visual processing disorders to train your brain to stop scrambling information and drastically reduce how difficult these conditions can make classwork and learning, it’s also possible to make some tweaks to your approach to learning to make it all a little easier.

  1. Point at the Line

    • It can help to point at the line you are reading so your eyes are less likely to wander across the page.
    • Younger students even point at each individual word, but that is not as subtle a thing to do and can make you look like you are having trouble following what you are reading which can be embarrassing in Middle and High school.
  2. Use the Context

    • Use what you know about what you’re reading to help you figure it out. If you can’t decide if a word is “magic” or “moose”, knowing that you are reading a fantasy book about Romania can help you decide the right word is “magic”.
  3. Use Previous Sentences to Figure out the Current Sentence

    • If the last sentence was about a guy drowning, he’s probably still underwater.
  4. Guess Ahead in Reading

    • Use what you know about what you’ve recently read to guess at what will likely happen in future sentences, that will let your brain know what to expect so it is more likely to cooperate and translate what you’re reading into the correct ideas
  5. Ask Your Teacher to Say The Homework Out Loud

    • If your teacher only provides written homework instructions or a written rubric, ask for either an audio file of the same information on your online classroom
    • OR for your teacher to say it out loud when assigning the work instead of just writing it on the board
    • OR to be extra safe and make sure you can’t forget the assignment ask to record the teacher saying it during class so you can have both methods.
  6. Get Audiobooks for Class Work

    • When you are assigned books to read either buy audiobook editions of the book yourself or use Bookshare or use the National Library Service if you are an American.
  7. Dictate Writing Assignments

    • Use either the free dictation software in a smart phone or computer OR buy a dictation software like Dragon to complete essays and other written assignments.
  8. Allow Extra Time to Finish Work

    • Homework took me twice as long as other students. You may find you have a similar problem. Plan your schedule to leave more time to do work than you or your teacher think is needed
  9. Find Your Worth-It

    • Many Dyslexics find that despite their disability, they can become more proficient than the average person at just one type of visual processing: either reading/writing, or math, or reading music, or memorizing lines for acting, reading a foreign language…
    • This process is usually longer than peers take to become comfortable at the task. For myself I was in the “stupid group” for reading in school all the way until Third Grade when after years of plowing through the work and struggling to learn I became the best reader in the entire school. Becoming skilled and even better than average at a task involving visual processing is difficult if you have that disability, but if it is some one thing you really love and want to conquer it might be worth the pain and feeling stupid to eventually make it.
  10. Remember the Benefits of Dyslexia

    • Dyslexia has been shown to be connected to better problem solving skills and increased creativity.
    • Dyslexia supports greater critical thinking skills
    • Before getting visual therapy to reduce the severity of my visual processing disorders including Dyslexia, I never read the same book twice because even with all the context clues I used for reading, a word here or there being interpreted incorrectly led to very different stories each time! It was magical because I was never bored even reading my same favorite books over and over again!

What is your favorite hack to be successful in school and work with a learning disability?

 

Advertisements

Why I Chose to Write My Books with Diverse Characters

Some people view an all white able bodied cast of characters in a book to be pretty normal. I guess to them it’s pretty normal, a reflection of their daily life, and not an active artistic choice. Or perhaps it is purposeful, and meant to illustrate some truth of the culture or experiences of that group.

You can find that kind of mindset in books from every country though- all Japanese cast in Japanese books, all white Dutch people in Dutch books, all ethnically Middle Eastern people in a Middle Eastern book.

My books aren’t diverse because that’s the thing that sells best in YA. They’re just diverse because my experience of the world has always been a mix of perspectives.

It’s not always a bad thing- Persepolis, a graphic novel written by an Iranian woman who had been a teenager during the rise of the Taliban, depends on all the characters being Iranian to bring the story across.

Then there’s other books where you can get a feeling that the homogenous cast is due to the author wanting to cut out characters of different perspectives and backgrounds, just like they cut the same people out of their real life.

And there’s the third type of author who, funnily enough, is scared to write books with a diverse cast. They are scared they won’t portray the characters perfectly, that they’ll accidentally slip into stereotypes or they’ll make a minority group feel Other with their portrayal of them. I get that. Fear of wanting to be perfect, fear of hurting others, is definitely something I share.

pexels-photo-923657

But I grew up in place where a group of friends like this looks normal. I grew up with a tight knit group of friends in High School that were disabled, gay, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, Polynesian, African American, and white bread American. I grew up receiving New Year’s money in a little red envelope, eating larb and pad prik khing as my comfort foods, taking my shoes off at the front door of most houses I’d visit, hunkering down for a five hour Bollywood movie. For me, a diverse cast of character is just the way I think of characters.It’s not something I have to tweak afterwards because I know how much that means to people in less represented groups, it just happens that way for almost all of my books (except for Family Inflamed, where the choice of having the abusive family be white and the healthy loving family be mixed race was on purpose.)

For the most part diversity isn’t something I think about, because it just is my particular reality. I don’t go through my character lists and try to make sure it is perfectly split between genders, sexuality, race, or anything. I do try to avoid representing characters I know nothing about, but that is only because I am putting those perspectives on hold to explore in future books after I’ve gotten a better understanding of them rather than throwing them out altogether.

So, to sum it all up, my books aren’t diverse because that’s the thing that sells best in YA. They’re just diverse because my experience of the world has always been a mix of perspectives.

How to Become the Hero of Your Own Story in 5 Steps

How To Be Your Own Hero in 5 Steps hero confidence self-esteem self esteem mountain travel

I used to spend every second of every day with my nose stuck in a book, jealous of all my favorite heroes. Spending all of my time wishing that I lived in these other places and that I could maybe one day have an adventure fall into my lap just like it happens at the beginning of every quest book.

150739
I love this series so much I bought a print boxed set of it. You can try your library or buy the exact same set I have here.

But you and I aren’t Princess Cimorene. A talking frog isn’t going to come up to us one day and offer to help us solve our problems. There are plenty of real humans in the world who are willing to help, of course- the suicide hotline (US number: 1-800-273-8255), friends, all the usual things about a trusted adult I’m sure a million people have said a million times at this point. Still, though there is truth that kindness may be hard to find in difficult times but it never dies, no one can help you if you don’t help yourself. No one can help you go on adventures if you refuse to talk to the frogs that offer them.

So one day I decided I was done waiting for the day when someone would pop up in my life and offer me adventure under the right circumstances- I had to prepare myself to be ready for adventure to happen at any time like with Bilbo Baggins in the Hobbit, or to chase down my adventure for myself.

Somewhere between traveling the world and committing to be a full time writer as an actual career that I pay the bills with, I think I’ve found my adventures. I’ve turned a few opportunities down, of course, because being unable to say no is also problematic, but I think it’s a great skill to be able to helm your own life and know what your dreams are so you can chase them down. That brings me to my first point:

  1. No one has the power to make your life what you want, besides you

    • You can’t wait for your parents, or friends, or fate to make life happen for you. If you sit on your couch and just let life pass you by, you’ll be one of those people who wakes up one day in their fifties and realizes they haven’t chased a single dream or done a single thing they were compassionate about in their whole life.
  2. No one has the power to stop your adventure but you

    • Of course everyone has their own inner demons, and faces their own life problems- prejudice and hatred can bring you down in very real ways, and people who live in less than ideal places like a region bombarded with bombs won’t be able to just prance into a dream life. But you can still have something to live for, no matter what your life is like. You can still find some measure of at least satisfaction in even the most trying circumstances. And if your life is a more peaceful experience in the suburbs, you really are all that is holding you back.
  3. Don’t depend on others to make you happy

    • Positive Psychology, the study of what it looks like when the brain and psyche are actually working properly (as opposed to regular psychology, which you must admit learning too much about can make you paranoid and think everyone in the world has a mental illness whether they truly do or not) says that happiness is a fleeting and situational response, while joy is a constant and a mindset. So, in a way, it is sort of true that other people and things make you happy, but they don’t make you content with your life overall, and that’s the thing that leaves a searing ache in your heart when it’s missing. Cultivate joy, and if you don’t know how, check out this page which does a pretty good job of summarizing at least the basics I learned in my one semester of this stuff.
  4. Looking for everything to fail in your life means it will

    • Look, I’m not saying you should be bubbly peppy joy-joy all the time. Optimism isn’t really everyone’s thing. But if you give up before you even get started doing something, you will probably sabotage yourself without even realizing it. This goes double if your goal is to make friendships and all you talk about to potential friends is whining about not having friends, because being whiny is really annoying to most humans. It’s not that other people don’t whine, make excuses, and play the blame game- it’s just that it’s best not to fixate on it and be stuck in that mindset all the time. If you can limit verbally sharing your whining with the world to the minimal amount you need to feel better about things, even better then.
  5. You deserve to be the kind of person who sticks up for yourself

    • Why do you need a hero? Is your life boring? Do you hate hate hate school? Try to be your own greatest hero and find some way or thing that can make your current life satisfying, or even fun. Make a game of doing boring tasks. Try to figure out how to give to your relationships in such a way that you get the love and friendship you need. Tell someone what isn’t working, and problem solve ways to fix it together. And if that still doesn’t help and you can’t change things up so it gets better? Figure out how to rescue yourself from the situation- drop from the advanced math class to the easier one, break up with a friend who just cannot stop being toxic, get to work building the career you actually want to have. (And yes, even if you are younger, creative jobs like the indie book biz or IT jobs can be started when you are a teen as long as you can put in some work and do the research.)

I used to be the kind of person who read because I was bored of my own life. Now I enjoy reading about adventures AND I go on my own. It’s a win-win when you decide to look for your own adventures instead of waiting for them to come to you.

 

Congratulations

Worked hard at a great job

A wonderful job,

But my dream was still to write full time

And when my contract was done I knew my time had once again come

So we amicably parted ways

And everyone expressed regret to see me go.

All except for one-

Who congratulated me on taking the chance to move

forward into the path I wanted to move toward

And it felt nice to remember this wasn’t an ending,

But the start of yet another adventure.

And to be reminded that this wasn’t goodbye,

But congratulations.

pexels-photo-590510

 

The Sorrow of Goodbye

Hello fans, and friends, and friendly fans. I have been a bit derailed in writing in general lately- no blog posts, no progress on my next book which is now far late of the proposed February 15th release. The progress on the book being delayed was expected, but the lack of any communication by blog or social media was not anticipated.

pexels-photo-208315

Just a few weeks apart I faced the death of not one, but two grandparents. I loved them both dearly, but the death of my mother’s father was especially painful as we hadn’t had much time to anticipate this happening and because he raised me as much as my parents did.

And this hard time I’ve taken some time off of work to spend time with friends, and loved ones. And reading. So much reading. One of the greatest ways to give ourselves a little distance and clarity when grieving is to drown ourselves in the world of fiction. So I spent a few nights ordering Thai takeout and binge watching movies. I did some shopping and bought over a hundred used dvds- normally I avoid retail therapy but this felt so right. I ate a lot of desserts, and I didn’t care that I have a lot of food sensitivities that stress my body out and ate just about everything regardless. I went on some long nature walks.

I did everything I could to bury my emotions, and then I switched to facing them head on.

I wrote some poetry that I’ll probably never publish. I drew. I tried to play the harmonica like my Papa (grandpa) did. I sat and stared out of windows and just let myself think a lot.

I’m glad this job gives me the flexibility to take things easy when I really must. I’m glad to see you are still willing to visit my site after a month long dry period. And I’m glad that I feel better now and am ready to get back to work writing. I know it’s what both of my grandpas would have wanted.

 

Love is a Kind of Magic

In honor of February, we are on our last installment of Romance classics. In the past few weeks we’ve visited English romance classics, and world romance classics.

Today we are diving into the category of Fantasy Romances! These are a little sparse to choose from the English canon (canon= what we call the collection of all classics), as there aren’t a ton of fantasy books written before the early 1900’s in general that are still well known today, let alone romantic ones. That said I’ve combed through all the lists of classic literature and found three that fit this theme perfectly AND are a good read. Win-win, amirite?

Ramayana

ramayanThis Central Asian classic (India, Bengal, Persia, and basically every culture in that whole region have their own versions of it) features a beloved wife who is kidnapped by a demon and held for basically a year. Then the hero rescues her, only to have their relationship fall apart at the question of whether she still loves her husband or has instead fallen for her once captor. This story could be described in Western literary terms as “The Tale of Everyman” meets “Hades and Persephone”.

The King of Elfland’s Daughter

51fp8xbgpblThis book by Lord Dunsany hails from the 1920’s. That means any similarities between it and JRR Tolkien’s character Lúthien Tinúviel and her love story can’t be because Elfland is a copy of that story- after all, it predates it.

This is a story of an elf maiden and a human man falling in love. Their love is NOT smooth sailing. I feel like I’ve already revealed too much of the plot by saying it has some similarities to Lúthien, so I won’t go any deeper into this. Suffice to say it has elves and magic and two lovers from different worlds who will not find it easy to be together.

Beren and Lúthien

5186ktzntyl

Now that I’ve mentioned them I have to include them again, huh? “Beren and Lúthien” is the first NEW book by J.R.R. Tolkien that has come out in years. Once again his son has combed through piles of old notes and done a bit of judicious editing to bring the story together into one novel for the benefit of the legions of fans of the deceased author.

The story of a human and elf falling in love, I am not so sure of the rest of what happens in this tale. I have read abbreviated references to this, of course, included in the footnotes and appendices of Tolkien’s previous books, but I have not gotten around to this particular full length novel version. I’m really looking forward to reading it, actually!

Which of these is your favorite?

A World of Love

This month we’ve embarked on a series of romance books, and we come today to the second installment: global romantic literature. I think many of my American readers will have read at least one of the books in my last post, but today we are going to go what may be new territory for you.

Global Romantic Literature

Today we will visit Japan, Russia, and France via some of their books. Be emotionally prepared that things will get pretty rough in these books, because the concept that “Romance=happy cheerful books that always have great endings” is a pretty modern invention, and we are delving into the history of the genre today.

The Tale of Genji

9780679417385

Probably the most globally well known Japanese book- not including famous manga series because that’s sort of considered a different category of story telling in America at least- The Tale of Genji is also really interesting because it was written by one of the earliest female writers in the world. Murasaki Shikibu, like all women of her time, was not allowed to be taught the sophisticated characters called Kanji every book before her was written in. The uneducated and women were restricted to writing in the basic letters of hiragana, which were made to be simple looking versions of complicated kanji- with the association that it was for simple people. The author was one of the first to write an entire novel in the only form of literacy available to her, but the plot was not simple at all.

It follows our main character who goes from riches to rags, plus the women he loved and his affairs, and how much each of his romances sucked. It’s sort of riches to rags to riches meets family drama, and a romance colors every stage of the story because honestly wooing the ladies is just Genji’s favorite hobby.

In modern terms this book might not sound super interesting. But if you are the kind of person who likes to hear all the juicy details of Becky’s on again and off again relationship with Todd who she sometimes dumps to be with Corey, then you might really be into the novel version of that kind of every day drama. In book terms that means if you really liked the love triangle aspect in Twilight this might be right up your alley.

Anna Karenina

il_570xn-405280684_8j0u
Apparently you can buy the vintage book on Etsy (photo props not included)

As this one is not a British classic it wasn’t taught in any of the literature classes I took in school, or even college. (Funnily enough “Genji” was, but that’s just because I took a Japanese class in Highschool, for all the good that did me.) That said, it’s definitely a classic- just a Russian one. If you like drama, drama, drama, then this is for you. It’s sort of like Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars and Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” all rolled up in one huge drama of affairs and divorce and spurned love.

Le Grand Meaulnes

9780141441894Called in the English translation “The Lost Estate,” this has become a must read for me. Be forwarned: this French classic is a tragedy. At least I consider it one. All the pieces were lined up for this to be a beautiful perfect happily ever after, but then the characters had to go and ruin it. That’s probably exactly why this is considered a top must read of all French books ever written, according to the French, according to a survey taken of a few French people.Is that complicated enough for you? It gets worse. The plot in this thing twists and turns. As before this has affairs, and heart breaks, and a lot of messiness going on (but the good kind of plot messiness that makes a story juicy, not the lazy plot hole variety at all.)

Which of these books have you read before? Which would you add to your TBR pile?

Locked on Love

pexels-photo-225233

Every day somewhere in the world people get married, or start dating. Sometimes these couples will show their love with a lock placed on a bridge or fence to show they are locked together for the long haul. Sometimes they’ll show is by exchanging a wedding ring, or a partnership ring. They might raise children or a dog together, or buy a house together.

But those things happen infrequently, or maybe even only once.

So they will remind each other how much they care with yearly tokens on the fourteenth of February.

Valentine’s Day

Whether with flowers, or chocolates (Fun fact, in America traditionally the chocolates are given by the men to their ladies within straight couples, but in Japan women make chocolates for their man), or even cards that just for this holiday are called valentines, it’s important to make sure your loved ones remember you love them.

I don’t like limiting the holiday just to romantic loved ones, though.

#ForeverAlone

I think it really is essential for couples to do small shows of caring, especially since not everyone feels love the same way and it’s easy to let showing you care get lost in the business of life.

That said, I think it’s especially important to let your other loved ones know you care. Be sure to give a few candies or a card to your friends and coworkers, make a special meal for your immediate family, or take your single friend out for lunch and just spend time with them as a friend- of course remembering not to mention the holiday itself or anything about your own love life to avoid the risk of making them feel like an outsider on a holiday that leaves many broken hearted or feeling hopeless and alone.

Most of all just show you care, to the people you care about.

Wishing you a Happy Valentine’s Day!

A Little Love is Worth a Lot

pexels-photo-207962

A little love is worth a lot

Because even a little is better than none.

And no one has quite an idea of what they’ve wrought

When a person who had no one,

suddenly has a someone.

And you don’t need to have romance in your heart,

Just to care about someone is quite enough-

After all, there are many kinds of love,

But to survive a person needs to receive at least one.