Thursday, May 1, 2008


Here is an article entitled: How Do Green Roofs Work?

When I first came across this headline in Google Reader I was scanning the whole list of feeds and was unaware of how my brain read it until I found myself thinking, "how do green rocks woof? that's ridiculous. rocks can't woof." At which point my brain logically inserted, "this cannot be a real headline. something is wrong." At which point I stared at the words until they made sense. Of course I was the one that was wrong, not the headline.

It started me thinking about something I've suspected for a while. I have to be at least partly dyslexic. I generally don't have difficulty with reading (in speed or comprehension) but spelling is the absolute WORST. Thank goodness for typing because handwriting has become more and more tedious for me, too. Even in typing this entry my fingers spelled 'first' as 'ferst' before I realized it. I've been doing that type of thing a lot recently - phonetic spelling. It happens without me thinking about it. I'm pounding away at the keyboard, intent to get my thoughts out and BOOM, red squiggly lines abound. My backspace key gets lots of use. I've always been a terrible speller but it's gotten so much worse, especially since spell checkers are everywhere. Why waste important brain waves trying to decide on the spelling of a word? Just write! The spell checker will get it.

I'm not sure how I got this way, or if I've been like this my whole life (I suspect yes.) I've spent hours with an uncle of mine who is dyslexic in a different, more extreme way than I must be. He likes to write (poems) but has a terrible time reading back over what he's written to edit it. You can imagine the frustration of having a thought, getting the thought out on paper, and then being unable to clearly work with the thought. I've spent hours transcribing his scribbled words and returning typed pages to him with spaces for him to edit between the lines. We called the collection: Dyslections of Reflexia. He also writes backwards sometimes. Yes, completely backwards as in hold-it-up-to-the-mirror-to-read backwards. Sometimes his backwards writing is more legible, too, since he usually does it in cursive which is easier to do backwards. I can do it too - it's surprisingly simple. For me, at least. I do it with my left hand. My right hand is for forward writing.

Anyhow, so while I had that influence I've always had trouble with d's and b's and g's and p's even before I remember hanging out with my uncle. They're all letters composed of little circles with a stem going off in different directions on different sides of the circle (just tried to type that as sircle.) I can't tell you how many times I've spelled god as gog or beg as bed. In college organic chemistry lab we had to record the boiling point of various substances. How do you think that would be abbreviated? Right: b.p. Guess who nearly always wrote p.b. or d.g. or any number of other combinations until my lab notes were full of cross-out lines? Right again: me.

And then there are numbers. I "see" numbers (but not dead people, sorry.) In my mind all the integers are positioned a certain way and certain numbers have more "light" around them than others. My mind sees them always from the same vantage point, and that's how I relate to them in my head while working simple math problems. (I can't do complex math problems in my head.) I can't remember a time when numbers were not aligned in this way for me.

I will now try and describe it to you in a way that will probably lead you to conclude I'm crazy. Zero is where all the light comes from. It's the lightest around zero, and if you proceed in any direction away from zero it gradually gets darker. Strangely enough, the light levels seem to adjust for the problem I'm working with. There is no number that is completely in the dark, just very very dim light. So, from zero, numbers one through ten proceed slightly away from me and to the right. Then starting with eleven, the numbers make a 90-degree turn towards me and keep going past me all the way up to 100 (which is now very dim because we're so far away from zero.) Starting with 101 the number line turns 90 degrees again (parallel with 1-10) and continues up until somewhere around 250 or so, not exactly sure, at which point it turns yet again to be parallel with 11-100 until it hits 500.

Confused yet?

Whenever I'm working with numbers between 11 and 99 (usually adding things at the store or something) I stay on the inside of the half-square I've made with the numbers 1-10 and 11-100. That's the position from which I see the numbers. I never look at them from the "other side." Zero stays to my left and slightly behind me.

This might make more sense with a visual aid.

Basically. I'm nuts. If any of you can relate to anything I'm saying at ALL please leave a comment. I'm really curious as to how people keep their brain organized, or if such a concept even exists outside my own skull. Maybe it's just a me thing and not so much a dyslexic thing.

Oh! The letters of the alphabet have distinct positions in my head, too (but no light associated with it.) I'll leave that description for another time. =)


  1. Have you seen the movie Stranger than Fiction? On top of being an excellent movie, this discussion reminds me of the way that numbers are displayed as the main character experiences them.Seriously: excellent movie.

  2. You NEED to read Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet.

  3. bethany actuallyMay 1, 2008 at 10:31 PM

    I looked up synesthesia on Wikipedia, and guess what? You seem to have a form of spatial-sequence synesthesia, or Number-form synesthesia! How cool. :-)

  4. bethany actuallyMay 1, 2008 at 10:31 PM

    That is totally interesting, the way you see numbers with light and arranged in a certain pattern. I don't think my brain does anything like that, exactly. I am always seeing patterns in numbers, though. Like when I see an address or phone number, my brain immediately starts looking for equations, but usually they don't make sense to anyone but me. I saw a show on Discovery Network or one of those channels a while back about people who see words as colors, or taste them as various foods. Synesthesia, I think it was called.

  5. I don't think you're crazy, but also, I can't relate to your "seeing" numbers and letters at all. Everything in my mind that I "see" (if you could even remotely call it that) is so abstract and in such constant flux that it would be almost impossible to systematically describe.I think that's probably the difference between being a J and a P, at least as far as NT's go. (Meyers-Briggs reference)I guess that's why I like to talk things out in real time in order to figure them out: my mind works, but it doesn't make much coherent sense until it starts generating output.

  6. Check this out: do all sorts of weird things with letters and punctuation in my head (basically, I see pelling and punctuation when I and others speak; I think that's why I'm a good editor--because I'm always reading!), but the only thing that I consistently mix up is the numerals 3 and 9 (not the amounts, just the words). When I see 3, I think "nine" and vice versa. Strange, eh?

  7. wow, I went to a job interview earlier this week and some of the issues we'd work with sounded just like what you wrote about. Just like it! p/b/d/g and the number thing were specifically mentioned as examples of the "mild" issues. I hope I get it and then I can share my knowledge from the 80 hours of training I'll get with you!

  8. This is totally fascinating to me! I can't relate, but I thoroughly enjoyed your description.

  9. Also, I cannot spell either.

  10. Wow! Somebody should study this! Numbers have no position in my head at all. They go in through my eyes and poof! They magically disappear! This makes it really hard to add and subtract since I am constantly forgetting them while I'm in the middle of working out a problem. I don't think this is at all what you are describing because you are a whiz and I am very very very terrible at math. But wouldn't it be cool if my left-brained laziness could be explained!