Laughing About Dyslexia

Most people think that being dyslexic boils down to having difficulty reading, but every person who has dyslexia knows that it is much more complicated than that.

The true impact of dyslexia affects many facets of learning. In fact, it sometimes seems like every person with dyslexia has their own Achilles’ heel — the one place where their dyslexia takes over and make itself a particular nuisance.

Personally, I have always found spelling to be extremely challenging. My spelling is almost always off, but I generally get close enough to the correct spelling that I can fix my mistakes using spell-check or Grammarly. (In fact, I’m using Grammarly to edit this post!) But sometimes when I try to spell a word, it’s like my brain glitches and my spelling goes hilariously wrong.

This happened to me the other day when I was writing my grocery shopping list. Here’s what I wrote:


Can you guess the word I was trying to spell? I asked my coworkers, and they guessed, “A quart of something?” “Avocado?” “Quatro?” That last one is not even food related, but they were all off.

Would you believe I was trying to spell “Cointreau”? And, by the way, this was not my first attempt to spell the word. I simply cannot even begin to spell Cointreau. (I have similar issues with the words broccoli and vacuum.)

Now, friends have been generous enough to point out that the word Cointreau is French, so its spelling would be more difficult to an English speaker. This is true, but it doesn’t make the frustration any easier. When I come up against a word I cannot spell, it feels like there are two parts of my brain that are arguing. The executive part of my brain, knowing that the word is incredibly wrong, is sending increasingly frantic signals to the spelling part of my brain to correct the word. The spelling part of my brain is absolutely sure that it is spelling out the word the only way it could possibly be spelled. The disconnect is a strange feeling.

This used to upset me, but I’ve found that when you’re dyslexic you just have to accept that your brain is going to get stuck in ridiculous situations sometimes. You have to learn to roll with it and find the humor in the situation. My misspelling of Cointreau was so off that it struck me as pretty hilarious, so I decided to share it with the world. Owning the mistake takes away its power to hurt me. I felt almost proud of the oddness that my brain had produced.

Sharing these stories with other people with dyslexia is particularly helpful because they will understand and can probably share a few of their own.

The next time work you with dyslexic students who get frustrated by their errors, show them my mistake and some of the other stories on the Being Dyslexic post. That way they will know they are in good company and that it is a possible take away the sting of making a mistake by laughing at it.

  • Elizabeth Ross, M.A., SMARTS Media Manager