Sketch 7 Charlotte

Charlotte wrote to me as follows:

I'm now - at the ripe old age of 60 - reading for a Doctorate in Psychology. I am dreading the time when I have to analyse statistically all the data I have collected on my field-work . I consistently have a habit of reversing the numbers in my head and writing them down in the wrong order when doing my professional accounts, which drives . my financial manager to distraction. I am quite incapable of doing mental arithmetic except for overlearned mathematical tables material. The only reason I finally passed General Maths at O level (4th attempt) at the advanced age of 36 prior to going to university to read my first degree was through the understanding of my tutor at the local College of Further Education, who taught me how to translate arithmetical problems into algebraic equations and get the answers that way. I could just about cope with algebra, geometry and trigonometry at O level since I could follow and apply the logic, but sheer computational skills were very difficult. My mind would go blank unless I could visualise simple sums.

As far as language and reading ability is concerned there has never been any problem. I learned to read at the age of 3 and was an avid reader for pleasure as well as school work throughout my career. My spelling is over 95% perfect. I used to have an eidetic memory, which of course has faded quicker than a normal one. I now have to write down everything I need to remember ... When under emotional stress or undue pressure of work I get easily disorientated geographically and often lose my way when driving, remembering only the wrong way I went on a previous occasion. When under great stress I can easily confuse 'left' and 'right'. My ability to estimate quantities and sizes is also impaired, and my spatial abilities are not good, nor am I good at judging distances or time.

She concludeds by saying that:

dyscalculia has largely been ignored in comparison (with dyslexia) but the disability can be very demoralising - not to say inconvenient - in this modern world. There must be thousands like me who have struggled with this common condition all their lives.

I was able to give some tests to Charlotte. There were certainly no literacy problems with either reading or spelling: on the Schonell tests (Schonell and Schonell, 1952) she read all the 100 words correctly and made no mistake on the words which had to be spelled - an unusual result as far as I was concerned. I also gave her the Terman-Merrill (1962) vocabulary test, in which the subject is given 45 words to define. The later ones in the list are very obscure and those who define 30 or more of them correctly obtain a pass at the highest grade of 'Superior Adult'. She obtained passes on 42 of them; this is the highest score on the Terman-Merrill Vocabulary test which I have ever encountered.

The results of the Bangor Dyslexia Test were inconclusive. She made one error on the polysyllables item ('an enemy' for anemone), made one error over subtraction and, having mistakenly said that eight sevens were 54, she continued by saying that nine sevens were 61. The results on the Left-Right, Months Forwards, Months Reversed, Digits Forwards, Digits Reversed and 'b'-'d' confusion were all negative.

She had, of course, told me in writing that she sometimes confused 'left' and 'right' when under stress, but I am not sure what significance to attach to this. I concluded that Charlotte was not dyslexic in the standard sense, but how best to characterise calculation problems such as hers will be discussed in the next chapter.

Sketches 8 and 9 are different from the previous seven, since my evidence is second hand. I decided, however, that, despite this and their brevity, they were sufficiently challenging to be worth inclusion. The historical sketch, that of Elizabeth Fry, is different again and exemplifies how dyslexia variants can be of many different kinds.

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Adult Dyslexia

Adult Dyslexia

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