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Young and Dyslexic? 

You've got it going on.






General notes

This extract is an article from The Guardian online, which suggests that it is for a younger audience, probably of the same age as the writer. The purpose of the text is to inform people about dyslexia and persuade them that dyslexia isn't a barrier for achievement. It also uses vivid description of the writer's own life to get this point across. The tone of the article is quite informal and conversational, relaxing the reader and creating a stronger relationship between the writer and the reader.

1: Childhood experience of dyslexia

  • Title of the article 'Creative, Successful, Dyslexic' uses rule of three (tricolon) to create two positive words and one word which wouldn't usually be associated with them to surprise the reader and to show them what the article will be about.

  • First sentence immediately starts with a serious tone 'as a child I suffered', but quickly changes to a more triumphant mood, 'to turn dyslexia to my advantage.' Sums up the entirety of the article within the first line, guiding and directing the reader. Repetition of the infinitive construction, 'to turn', 'to see', which makes his words seem very grand, as though they're happening on a bigger level.

  • 'We are the architects, we are the designers' - use of 'we' groups the author and reader together in an inclusive pronoun, which makes us feel closer to him. Suggests that the capabilities of dyslexic people are huge, often in creative field in particular. Gives a sense of importance to them.

  • Paragraph Two describes the background of his youth when dyslexia was often unknown and always unsympathised with. Tricolon is used again in 'no compassion, no understanding and no humanity' which emphasizes how hostile the school system is to him. 'The past is a different kind of country' uses metaphor to emphasize that past is irrelevant to and very different to what is happening now.

  • Paragraph Three shows the writer elaborating upon the way in which the writer's different ideas and views got him in trouble. By using dialogue and anecdote, the writer makes the example seem much more real and vivid, and also emphasizes the injustice of the way in which he was treated. The writer treats his teacher in a much more understanding way than she treated him. 'She also had a point, but the thing was, she called me stupid for even thinking about it.' Shows the narrow-mindedness of the school system.

  • The next two paragraphs use further anecdotes about a teacher talking about Africa's 'local savages' to show the implicit racism of the teacher, and the injustice that the author got in trouble for standing up against this. The next paragraph also uses an unfair example of stereotyping but in a much more subtle way, to show how this can sometimes be mistaken as acceptable - stereotyping that dyslexic people aren't intelligent but instead should be good at sports. It shows how the author has learnt to recognize this subtle stereotyping. Furthermore, the fact that he was trying to get help is juxtaposed with the teacher's subtle mocking.

  • The poems 'in my head even then' are contrasted with his very basic reading ability, showing his talent even if he couldn't express it. 'But it would be such hard work that I would give up', this shows how even a strong character finds reading immensely difficult.


2: Expectations of him as a young man

  • I was expelled partly because of arguing with teachers on an intellectual level and partly for being a rude boy and fighting' - he wasn't just expelled for being rude and fighting, but it also implies that he was also expelled from being dyslexic and for having his own opinion, which we infer was more creative than his teacher's opinions.

  • In some scenarios he got revenge, he stole a teacher's car which initially sounds terrible, but this is juxtaposed with the reason for his crime, as the teacher had previously told them 'the Nazis weren't that bad.' This puts us on the side of the author against the teacher. It shows us how although he works outside the usual system, he is still justified in doing so.

  • Borstal was a youth detention system, the fact that he casually mentions it shows us that getting into trouble didn't bother him and it wasn't uncommon for people where he grew up. The author gives us another anecdote of how he has learnt something, e.g. 'to sit with a straight back', in order to contrast his time there with his supposed education. Instead of simply being taught how to do things, 'Being observant helped me make the right choices', which makes us feel that he wants to do the right thing, and he is very proactive and very engaged with the world around him.

  • The tone then changes slightly to be more factual at first and then more reflective on the path his life could have taken. 'A high percentage of the prison population are dyslexic' shows how his behaviour influenced his imprisonment, but juxtaposes this with the fact that a 'high percentage of the architect population' are also dyslexic, showing that his other goal is also achievable. Moreover it shows us the two extremes which dyslexia can lead someone to, depending on their background. As a 'black man brought up on the wrong side of town whose family fell apart', he would naturally have been expected to be in prison, strongly stating that he 'should be' in prison.This shows how he has defied expectations, despite being born in a really bad position.  It also shows the racial inequality still present in society.

  • 'But I think staying out of prison is about conquering your fears and finding your path in life'. This shows that to stay out of prison, people need to be motivated, courageous and certain about their course in life. This is emphasized in the following paragraph where he compares his life to others. Again uses the rule of three for emphasis.

  • The last paragraph of this section shows his self-confidence and his sense of worth. Sentence structure emphasizes this by using short sentences to mirror the writer's certainty and his confident train of thought.

3: Increasing involvement in poetry

  • At first we are seen that his girlfriend wrote down his poems, 'it really took off' uses an idiom/metaphor to show how well these were received. The fact that they were written phonetically shows the reader how he doesn't change the spelling just because it would be expected of him and actually led to his success because people thought it was creative.

  • The author only finds out that he's dyslexic at age 21, showing how everyone was ignorant about dyslexia during his youth. There is a use of humour when he asks 'Do I need an operation' to lighten the mood and also show just how naive he was about what dyslexia is.

  • Line 55 uses listing to emphasize the amount of things which he has written, and how he has a unique niche, 'I take poetry to people who do not read poetry'. His capability is contrasted by the fact that 'I have to stop and think', showing that his success is both because of and despite his dyslexia and that he's found ways of managing it. Maybe a reader could use this to help themselves.

  • 'Officially' more educated shows the way in which he believes that he has own kind of education, even if you can't measure it in grades. The important thing, he says, is 'having passion, creativity, individuality.'


4: Dyslexia as a whole

  • The article uses logical examples as well as experience to illustrate the point that he has accepted being dyslexic, and that people with dyslexia shouldn't have to change to fit in, it is everybody else being biased against them.

  • He goes on to argue that dyslexia is in fact more 'natural' than our reading and writing systems, showing that no one questions these things and he turns our usual assumptions on their heads, using his creativity.

  • Moreover, the article suggests that dyslexia is not a 'defect', but the ability to be 'creative', sentence structure mirrors the logical argument of the writer. The last sense of this paragraph uses a metaphor to express the idea that having dyslexia forces you to use your creativity more, thereby making you stronger as a creative person.

  • The final paragraph compares the fact that children now know what dyslexia is and to be proud of it when he didn't have that as a child. Its final sentence ends on a rhetorical question, finishing the article by making us think about dyslexia and by making us question our assumptions.

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