The three R’s– and one ‘L’

We memorize the alphabet, the multiplication tables, and other skills early on.  But for some, rote memorization and repetition of the “three R’s” (“reading, writing & ‘rithmetic”) does not result in “L”- learning.  For most of us there’s no question at the college level of our ability to read, spell, and express our ideas in writing.  Most of us find it’s not taht dficuflit to raed eevn hwen ltertes wihitn wrods are mexid up.  But for some people, the brain processes spoken language, written words, and/or numbers in  different areas of the brain.  My partner, for instance, has no trouble interpreting this:

F(s) = \mathcal{L} \left\{f(t)\right\}(s)=\int_0^{\infty} e^{-st} f(t) \,dt.

Laplace transform

or this:

Speaker schematic,

Speaker schematic,

But a page of text appears like this in terms of comprehensibility:

From Reading by the Colors by Helen Irwen









Like many people with learning disabilities, my partner tires quickly when he reads.  He transposes digits and letters when he writes.  His handwriting is inconsistent and sometimes illegible– but designing and building, visualizing and thinking creatively, are very easy.  He was not diagnosed until a year ago, at age 28. He went through testing that showed he has an IQ in the 99th percentile– and ADD as well as learning disabilities in reading, writing, and arithmetic.  This explained why he could do calculus and computer programming at age 14, but still does the times tables on his hand; why his composition and speech are descriptive, fluid, and well-organized, but he spells many words wrong, often in a different way each time.

People with LD’s have great gifts: they see things differently, think “outside the box”, and with support, can find ways to flourish in an educational system that is rarely geared toward their needs.  In too many cases, however, they drop out of school out of frustration and poor self-esteem.  In childhood, parents and teachers may each assume the other would observe and share any concerns about the child’s learning– meaning a student may make it to college undiagnosed, and be adept at working around his or her difficulties. They may be embarrassed about and hide any struggles they have in school.  Diagnosis may never happen– or be necessary for some.  For others like my partner, they eventually hit an obstacle that they can’t circumnavigate.  His department is the only one in the College of Engineering to require an 8-hour written qualifying exam for PhD candidacy– a test my partner didn’t pass.

This was probably the most valuable failure of his life, as it led to his LD testing and subsequently to a better understanding of himself.  Unfortunately, many individuals with ‘invisible’ disabilities still find themselves suffering due to others’ ignorance. They may be put in the role of teacher rather than student, trying to explain their needs to professors who lack education in how “intelligence” and “learning” may manifest.

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The Rule of the Written Word

Write a blog post?  No problem, right?  I’m in the social sciences, so I already write hundreds of words a week.  A few more would be easy.  However, I find it’s not.  Not because I can’t think of anything to say about blogging, but because writing it would be the least meaningful way I could use this space.

I have to write for classes, for journals, for a living.  But online and at home, the carefully crafted English sentences I spent so many years learning and practicing become somewhat irrelevant.  There are amazing people in my life whom I admire, whose full appreciation of any message requires that it not be written.  That’s where this blog can come in.

An example: a Wikipedia entry can tell you what autism is: “The autism spectrum or autistic spectrum describes a range of conditions classified as pervasive developmental disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)… These disorders are typically characterized by social deficits, communication difficulties, stereotyped or repetitive behaviors and interests, and in some cases, cognitive delays.”

But Joshua Bennett can tell you much more than what you can read in an encyclopedia:

Joshua Bennett poet

Joshua Bennett, “Levi”

Computers and writing can do more than produce visual text; they now empower people who have struggled with traditional communication:

Dora Raymaker in “Loving Lampposts”

Next time, I’ll share some more thoughts on blogging and different abilities, for those who have a hard time reading what I’ve written here, but have no problem reading this:

f(x) = F_k^(-1)[F(k)](x)
= int_(-infty)^inftyF(k)e^(2piikx)dk

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Hello world!

Welcome to Blogs@VT Sites. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!

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