Dyslexia and Me: What you see, What I see
Posted by ainemosh
People often ask me what it’s like visually when I am reading. When you grow up looking through your own eyes, I guess you don’t realise that you’re seeing things so differently until someone asks. The best way I have found to describe my vision is like pixels on a computer or TV screen. Each of the pixels makes up a more solid colour through RGB. When I look at solid colours or shades, I can still see other colours flashing around, though I know it is a white wall or a red book or a pitch black room. Even when there is no light at all, I still see colours. In fact, it becomes even worse! I walk a lot slower and cautiously in the dark because my vision to make out shapes is distorted by flashing ‘pixels’ of colour that cloud my vision.
At New Year 2013/14, we headed out along a path by the river at 11:30pm to watch the fireworks and to welcome in the new year. The only light was from the houses around and reflections on the water. In these types of circumstance, I may as well be blind. I already have issues with my balance and coordination which make me cautious on muddy paths, but with so little light, my vision was of little use. I had to look at the ground and get my boyfriend to walk slowly in front of me so I could see his feet and his path to know where I was going. There was a fence at the side so there was no way I would have fallen into the river, but I may have ended up flat on my backside in the mud!
When I tell people about my ‘pixel-vision’, the usual reaction is ‘WOW! That’s so cool!’ Believe me, it isn’t! I have eyestrain a lot, despite wearing glasses to the correct prescription. I suffer from a lot of headaches and migraines, especially when I have a lot of reading or writing to do. I need to take regular breaks when doing so or I burn myself out! And I don’t mean the usual ‘I worked so hard I burnt myself out’ I mean ‘my eyes are burning so much from all this reading’!
But it’s not just reading and writing. As I said, I get lost in the dark as my vision clouds over, but it’s even worse in white rooms! I had classes at my Erasmus university that were in pure white rooms, with a white board and artificial lighting. There were times where I would end up with my eyes closed and head on the desk while I listened to the lecture, hoping my lecturer didn’t think I had fallen asleep. I also had a laptop on with an added glare. Fortunately I have ClaroView, a software that can change the screen of my laptop to a different colour such as blue. It’s like an electronic overlay. What I discovered though while sat in that classroom has changed my fashion sense forever.
With the amount of light hitting my eyes causing me to have crashing headaches, I ended up wearing a cap into class one day and found it extremely beneficial! While most people would wear a cap to block the sun from hitting their eyes, I use it to block light in general, especially from artificial lighting. I have seen a massive difference from doing so! I have far fewer headaches and migraines as I used to. White rooms are still my arch nemesis though despite this. Magnolia and cream don’t have the same effect though. My bedroom has white walls, but I have clutter on the walls; calendars, gig tickets, posters, leaves sent to me from a friend in Cork, a drawing a friend gave me etc. Clinically white rooms leave me in a miserable state, but if there are other colours or other things to catch or focus my eye, I feel far more comfortable.
My hats get a lot of comments. ‘Why do you never take that thing off?’ ‘We never see you without your hat!’ And I think a lot of people are very sceptical of how beneficial it is in reducing the number of headaches I have. What’s worrying me now is that when I graduate, if I have to work in an office (like I have in the past) with white walls, am I going to have a return to the migraines I used to have when I worked before? How do you tell an employer that you’re wearing a hat to stop you having headaches and migraines when it looks ‘unprofessional’?
I can remember in school other kids who wore caps (long before I discovered the benefits) being told to take them off. If I had found this technique out when I was younger, would my school have had the same attitude to me wearing a cap all the time? I am still waiting for a lecturer to tell me off for wearing a hat inside. Fortunately when I have explained absences from class and the reason for the cap, lecturers have been very understanding!
I created a gif years ago to show someone in student support at university how I see things when I read. This was the result:
Along with the png file at the top of this blog post, hopefully you will have a better understanding of my vision. Though the one at the top is perhaps more accurate in ‘pixel’ size, the gif shows how these pixels and shadows are not static and it’s the movement that makes me skip lines when reading long passages. I don’t see letters back to front or upside down. It’s only when I write by hand that I invert letters, but it’s never the classic db or qp confusion but un and mw.
Even in the writing of this blog I have developed a headache, so it’s time for a break, some painkillers and a cup of tea before I start reading my university work!
So if you see me in a hat, or question why I have so many headaches and migraines close to deadlines and exams, maybe you will have a better understanding of just how difficult it is with my crazy ‘pixel-vision’. It really isn’t as cool as it sounds!
Posted on March 2, 2014, in Personal Experience and tagged Awareness, Cap, ClaroView, Class Rooms, Computer, Dyslexia, Dyslexic, Education, Employment, Erasmus, Essays, Exams, Eyes, Fashion, Hat, Headaches, Irlen Syndrome, Learning Difficulty, Learning Support, Migraines, Optic, Perspective, Pixels, Reading, Scotopic sensitivity syndrome, Specific Learning Difficulty, SpLD, Studying, Television, TV, University, Vision, Visual, Visual Stress. Bookmark the permalink. 26 Comments.