On Learning Differences

Vol. 2, No. 2 - Information on Learning Differences Online Spring 2003


In This Issue

Auditory Processing: Potential Effect on Learning

On the Path to Remediation

A Technology Breakthrough for Educators and Students

Overcoming Fear and Shame:
It is Never Too Late to Learn

Book Review


An Editorial Consultant and Writer Extraordinaire

Conference Information

About the Editor

Sharing Ideas

Permission to Copy from Visions on Learning Differences

Please see other issues



  by "Maryanne Johnson"

For years I struggled with the shame my father instilled in me because of my weak spelling skills, even though I was competent in other academic subjects and generally received good grades in elementary and high schools. However, as an employed adult, I masked my shame and lived in fear of losing my employment if this deficit were to be discovered.

Furthermore, I thought I could disguise my deficit by using spellcheck. I was generally so successful in other aspects of my life as an administrative assistant, dress designer, wife, mother, and an officer in my church that no one suspected I had any problems with learning.

One day, I saw a poem about the danger of relying on spellcheck as an
authoritative source on spelling accuracy.



I have a spelling checker,
It came with my PC.
It plainly marks four my revue
Mistakes I cannot see.
I've run this poem threw it,
I'm sure your please too no,
Its letter perfect in it's weigh,
My checker tolled me sew.

From John Martin
Santa Rosa Jr. College



When I realized from the poem that spellcheck was not always able to differentiate which homonym to use and, as a result, might not detect the wrong one, I felt cast adrift without a lifeline. Although others who were not struggling with weak spelling skills found the poem humorous, I thought it was frightening because it indicated that I might never cover my poor spelling adequately and might lose every employment opportunity. I sought the help of a psychotherapist to face my burgeoning fears.

She helped me to realize that we all have strengths and weaknesses, and to consider tutoring to overcome the pain and fear this deficit created. I held the beliefs that this should have been addressed in my earlier years, and that it was too late for me to correct this problem now.

With the help of the psychotherapist, however, I found a learning specialist who assisted adults with such problems. I waited several weeks before I could muster the courage to begin studies, and, even then, my eyes filled with tears of shame when I explained my circumstances. I was especially frightened that word of my learning difference would emerge and I would lose my employment. Once I understood that the psychotherapist and learning specialist kept client information confidential, I was ready to begin to overcome this frightening problem. Even though I spoke then and still speak with a high level of diction in my verbal vocabulary, I was fearful of writing using that same vocabulary since I was unable to spell many of those words correctly.

The learning specialist realized that I never received phonics instruction since I attended grade school in a district that concentrated on the whole language approach to learning to read and spell. After further testing indicated I was struggling with dyslexia as well as a limited knowledge of phonics, the learning specialist gave me specialized exercises to alleviate the dyslexia, along with phonics instruction and other related linguistic components.

I used the specialized exercises to lessen the problems of dyslexia, learned the phonics in depth, and then applied them to spelling. As I began to improve in spelling skills, I discovered I was not relying on spellcheck. This so assisted in dispelling my fears of exposure, ridicule, shame and the possible loss of employment that I felt encouraged to continue my education in advanced studies.

"Maryanne Johnson " is the pseudonym of an administrative assistant who recently began part time studies as an undergraduate student at a university on the East Coast.