Sunday, July 8, 2012

Disabled Citizen

The other evening I was putzing around, reading stuff online, when I stumbled upon an interesting and unexpected fact: I am disabled.

A woman I know from back in the day, Melanie, shared a link on facebook that looked like it involved brains and numbers. Naturally I chose to quickly move on, until I saw the words "It explains so much about my life. My K-12 schooling would have been more pleasurable had I known."  Being someone who also had a less-than-delightful K-12 experience, as well as a frustrating Higher Education experience, I decided to click the link and read on. 

What?! What is this thing, you ask. I'll tell you!

It's a totally real and legitimate mental disability called Dyscalculia, and I absolutely have it. I'm so relieved! All of my math-related life has been one stressful, cold-sweating game of avoidance. I honestly  have no idea how I managed to get through high school.

Well, that's not true. There were two main reasons: First, my 9th grade Algebra teacher sucked, hard. Rather than try to actually teach his students, he chose to work all of the problems out on the board, have us copy them down, and then give us extra credit for turning in our work on time. I think I passed that class with 140%. Unfortunately for all the grades following mine, he got busted and had to learn to legitimately teach kids.

The other reason I graduated on time is because my good friend Nayt told me just before I entered high school that the trick was to always laugh at the teacher's jokes. This advice was golden for me, and got me through some really tough classes. To this day I am excellent at laughing at stupid jokes. Especially my own. Especially when no one else is around.

But enough about me - let's talk more about my dysfunction.

So in a nutshell, math is really difficult for me. When people start talking numbers to me, I become like Eddie and Martin Crane listening to Frasier and Niles talk. "Argle Gargle Google Goo" is all I hear. I've always had this problem, but I'm really good at looking smart, which is why I'll never get rid of my glasses or my 'disheveled librarian' look.

Here are a few examples of why I know this is a problem I can relate to, as stolen from the Wikipedia page:

  • Frequent difficulties with arithmetic - um, goes without saying, but I'm saying it here, just to reiterate the issue

  • Inability to comprehend financial planning or budgeting, sometimes even at a basic level; for example, estimating the cost of the items in a shopping basket or balancing a checkbook - I honestly couldn't even read beyond the word 'financial'

  • Difficulty with multiplication-tables, and subtraction-tables, addition tables, division tables, mental arithmetic, etc. - Hey! Don't be a jerk - I can definitely add.

  • Inability to visualize mentally - Does this mean I have a hard time walking into a shithole and imagining it looking completely different? Then yes, that's true. 

  • Might do exceptionally well in a writing-related field — authors and journalists are more likely than average to have the disorder - Hello, meet your incredibly talented author, Me

  • Difficulty navigating or mentally "turning" the map to face the current direction rather than the common North=Top usage - Those things TURN?! Ha ha, just kidding...I don't even use maps. I need step-by-step written directions, listed neatly, preferrably with pictures or descriptions of landmarks included, i.e. "Turn RIGHT at the big green pole barn. Drive past the pond. Turn LEFT at the tree that looks like a scarecrow"

  • Having particular difficulty mentally estimating the measurement of an object or distance (e.g., whether something is 10 or 20 feet (3 or 6 meters) away). - I'm famous for having no concept of distance. What the heck is a 'meter' anyway?

  • Often unable to grasp and remember mathematical concepts, rules, formulae, and sequences - I have no idea what any of that means 

  • Mistaken recollection of names. Poor name/face retrieval. May substitute names beginning with same letter - I've had customers coming in to my store for almost 5 years, and I still don't remember their names. Oops! But I'll remember the random grandma who came in once 3 years ago. Weird. 
So, there you go. I'm going to do more research, but for now I have to say, I'm really pleased about this. I can't tell you how many times I've felt like the stupid-head in the room because of my complete lack of confidence in the subject. I finally have a valid excuse! Woo hoo!!

Now if I could just learn about Science and Politics, I'll be all set.


  1. We would make a whole person, I'm really good at all those things. In fact, if someone gives me directions in the format you like, I have to convert it into a map to use it. And I don't remember giving that teacher advice.

    1. You were painting a mural on Mr. Pott's chalkboard. I remember it very clearly, you saved me! I owe you one.