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You are here: Home > Writing in Education > Writing at University > Writing in Practice > Current Issue > Writing in Practice - Vol 1 > Dyslexic Writing: Reflexive Practice as Authentic Methodology
Dyslexic Writing: Reflexive Practice as Authentic Methodology
Author: Louise Tondeur
Louise Tondeur explores what it means to be a dyslexic writer, including her own story — and language — within her larger, contextual study.


In this article I begin to examine what it means to be a dyslexic writer, when those two terms appear to be antagonistic. I contextualize the discussion with an overview of some of the recent writing on dyslexia positivity, citing, for instance, the Dyspla Arts Festival and RASP Books as important contributions to this movement. I describe the value of reflexivity as a methodology, using Jane Gallop’s work on anecdotal theory (2003). I justify the use of reflexivity despite notorious twentieth century theory that is suspicious of author as origin, reclaiming the role of writer-reflection as both subjective and valuable. Taking up a position as a writer intrigued by the writing process, rather than the product of writing, I think about the ways in which dyslexia affects and enhances my practice. I finish by looking at the work of two other dyslexic writers and by understanding how “lexics” (Phillips 2005) can be inspired to think differently.

Keywords: dyslexic thinking, creative practice, writing process, reflexivity, methodology, auto-ethnography, anecdotal theory.


In this essay I discuss some of the current discourses circulating around the notion of "dyslexia" and examine what it means to be a dyslexic writer. I also consider reflexivity as methodology, using a reflexive motif. I define reflexivity as a form of practice-based research, before looking at the problem of Author-Authority, asserting that reflection does not involve a return to the writer as an essentialist "origin" of his or her text, as if that could ever be possible. I turn to Jane Gallop’s work on anecdotal theory (2003) to investigate these ideas and look at some of the crossovers between anecdotal theory and reflexive practice, in my search for what I call an authentic methodology. I spend the penultimate part of the essay looking at my own position as a dyslexic writer, and the antagonisms such a term creates. I finish by briefly examining work by two dyslexic writers whose writing has challenged me to think differently.

First of all, it is important to make clear the context for this work. Part of that context is an emerging discourse on dyslexia positivity, that is, the idea that dyslexia is a strength, or an advantage, or has advantageous attributes. This discourse has appeared alongside more traditional and well-established research into dyslexia in the fields of education, psychology and neuroscience.[1]

In terms of my own research interests, I am working on a proposal for a project which will examine the links between creative and dyslexic thinking. I hope to bring together dyslexia organizations, practitioners and academics who are interested in creativity and dyslexia to form a network so that they can communicate with one another. I also hope to involve teachers, other educational practitioners and dyslexic students. This work is grounded in a response to the recent move to see dyslexia as a strength, and I have begun a literature review on dyslexia positivity and its relationship to creativity.[2]

At the Dyspla Festival in London in 2013, I spoke on a programme with Chris Arnold and Benedict Phillips amongst others.[3] In the mid 1990s, Chris Arnold produced a series of images for a campaign by the Dyslexia Institute – now Dyslexia Action – including one that reads “What kind of system neglects the problems of 350,000 children? Skool.” (c. 1995) This was a thought-provoking advertisement, aimed at teachers. It draws our attention to the statistical probability that there is one child with dyslexia in every class, and clearly we can extrapolate from that statistic and apply it to adult learners too. However, more recently the discourse on dyslexia positivity has moved from simply highlighting dyslexia towards embracing it and even satirizing the educational establishment’s response to it.

Benedict Phillips’ performance art, his creations and his writing involve a subversive re-writing of the dyslexic experience. This includes the character of the DIV, who wears a dunce’s cap, encapsulating the experience of many dyslexic people at school (see, for example, Scurfield 2014). Like a modern Fool, the DIV is therefore enabled to dispense wisdom.[4] Both Arnold’s and Phillips’ iterations are part of the discourse of dyslexia positivity; currently there is a shift in emphasis towards a celebration of the experience of thinking differently.

I will pause for a moment and include a brief note on terminology. Benedict Phillips’ residency The Invisible Apartheid of Words included a sign called "Warning", which begins “it is berleevd that some were between 90% and 95% of the populasion of the UK are Lecksick” (2005), where “Lecksick” (or Lexic) is the opposite of dyslexic. The dyslexic/lexic opposition follows the same pattern as another, related, pairing: neurodiverse/neurotypical. The coining of the term neurodiversity is attributed to Judy Singer (see for instance Silberman 2013) who used it to celebrate diverse ways of thinking and seeing the world, in the same way one might celebrate biodiversity. It was initially a positive way of describing the experiences of people on the autism spectrum.

In contemporary discourses "neurodiverse" tends to be used to mean any way of thinking differently that we might otherwise call a deficit, in line with Thomas Armstrong’s book from 2010: Neurodiversity: Discovering the Extraordinary Gifts of Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia and Other Brain Differences. These "other brain differences" include depression and learning disabilities. I have also heard the neurodiverse/neurotypical pairing used to mean something similar to divergent/convergent thinking, reminiscent of J. P. Guilford’s work on creativity in the 1950s (see Hammond et al. 2003). This tends to be described, in one particularly popular cultural idiom, as thinking outside or inside the box.

It seems to me that in his assertion that “95% of the populasion of the UK are Lecksick” (2005), Phillips makes dyslexic/lexic synonymous with neurotypical/neurodiverse. Although it is clearly problematic to construct experience out of binary paradigms, both of these binaries can be used to celebrate marginalized experience in a similar way to straight/queer.

In fact there are now a number of texts, events and organizations that celebrate the strengths of dyslexia. In Phillips’ satirical rendition, lexics can: “be given hope saport and practakell help” to join “dislecksick culcher” (Phillips 2005a). This suggests that lexics can learn from the dyslexic way of thinking and, by implication, that dyslexic thinkers can teach lexic thinkers something about creativity. Phillips subverts the idea that dyslexia is a problem, that dyslexics need help, and that we must put in effort to learn how to think, read and write clearly, to cope in a lexic world. That this positivity discourse has developed in recent years often comes as a surprise to those that only understand dyslexia as a deficit, and as an epiphany to those of us who are dyslexic.

One of the first examples of dyslexia positivity I read was Rebecca Loncraine’s article in the Times Higher published ten years ago. In the article, Loncraine, a poet, discusses her experiences as a graduate student, and sums up some of the strengths of dyslexic thinking. Here are some of them:

dyslexia tends to be viewed within higher education simply as a "problem" to be overcome. [...] The strengths of my doctoral thesis were born out of my lateral thinking abilities and visual perceptiveness, which are typical strengths in the pattern of cognitive strengths and weaknesses that characterises dyslexia. [...] My visual and three-dimensional way of thinking enabled me to produce original insights (Loncraine 2004)

Easily accessible online, I recommend the article to any higher education practitioner teaching dyslexic students. Other examples of dyslexia positivity include the Eides’ book, The Dyslexic Advantage (2011), Armstrong’s Neurodiversity (2010) and Thomas West’s In the Mind's Eye (2009). The Eides also run an online community called Dyslexic Advantage, and an annual conference in California. Other influences on my own work include Feargal ó Lideadha’s film Left from Write (c. 2012) which is a good starting point when engaging with dyslexia as a way of thinking differently.  The aforementioned Dyspla Arts Festival has been running in London since 2010 and Naomi Folb has established the small press called RASP.[5] Both champion dyslexic creatives and dyslexic writing. RASP has produced two anthologies of dyslexic writing (2011 and 2014), in which some of my writing appears. Dyspla and RASP have brought together creative, dyslexic thinkers, providing a space for an exchange of ideas.

Having established the general context of current dyslexia discourses, including dyslexia positivity, I will now concentrate on understanding myself as a dyslexic writer, and how I gradually came to realize that examining myself as such was a form of reflexivity. Therefore I spend much of the rest of this piece discussing reflexivity and what it means. I am deliberately reflecting on my own (dyslexic) writing processes.

Because "neurodiverse" has an upbeat feel to it and because I am also dyspraxic, it might have been more appropriate for me to use the term throughout. I have stuck with "dyslexic writer" in most cases precisely because of what I see as the paradoxical, antagonistic pull between the etymology of the word "dyslexic" and the word "writer". "Neurodiverse" is also less specific and I do not seek to speak for others with different thinking styles, nor would that be appropriate in a reflexive methodology.

Reflexivity as practice-based research

Because the academy necessitates it, one often negotiates and comes to understand practice-based research in writing to be the writing itself: a novel, short story or poem, for example. Reflection on writing is something we, as writers/teachers enable our students to do in essay form – as distinct from the straightforwardly analytical essay – and there are a great many examples of reflection from well-published practising writers, written in an accessible style. Writers who have used anecdote to reflect on the writing life include Anne Lamott (1980), Natalie Goldberg (2010) and Julia Cameron (2006), producing bestselling books that continue to have an impact on the writing lives of their readers. This type of reflection forms a particular trope or cultural idiom by which our subject can be understood. This is reflection as practice-based research, not something separate from it. In addition, reflection occurs anyway, through the writing process; redrafting is itself a kind of reflection.

Indeed, reflection on practice is an established methodology in practice-based research, something that all kinds of creative practitioners – at least those within the academy – are forced to negotiate. The term “reflexivity” is a more accurate description of the process involved. According to the dictionary reflexivity means “taking account of itself or of the effect of the personality or presence of the researcher on what is being investigated.” (Oxford English Dictionaries Online). It seems to me that writing practice and reflexivity are inextricably linked, existing in a symbiotic relationship. Therefore to understand writing practice as research, one must be open about that relationship. Knowing that writing is constructed and that a subjective “personality or presence” influences the process of writing, and thinking about what that means, in turn affects the process. To say "I am a dyslexic writer, what does that mean?" is a way of me investigating “the effect of […] personality or presence” on my practice. It is a circular process, but one that has the possibility of creating – or initializing – change, a form of reflection that may well end up asking others to think and behave differently.

According to Gillie Bolton, one of the most prominent practitioners on reflective writing:

[Reflexivity] can enable the writer to make contact with thoughts and ideas they did not know they had, with completely forgotten memories, and enable the making of leaps of understanding and connections. It can also enable the expression and exploration of issues which the writer is aware of, but unable or unwilling otherwise to articulate, communicate and develop. (Bolton 1999)

Bolton is, in this instance, facilitating a group of healthcare workers, who are reflecting on their professional lives, but I was struck by how her ideas about reflexivity apply to other creative practitioners. Because of these facets of reflexivity, it is important to approach it with authenticity, an idea I return to later. This may take different forms; it isn’t necessarily an essay, it might not necessarily be written down. For these reasons, reflexivity is not only worth holding onto as a practising writer, it is an intrinsic part of the writing life.

Other writers and critics have already said "here is a history of dyslexia" (see Reid 2009 and Snowling 2011, for example) and "here is a history of creativity" (see Sternberg 2006, Dawson 2005 and Pope 2005). My own authentic contribution to the current debate is to write from my position as a dyslexic writer and for that to be its own methodology. This is, upfront, a political project and one which sets out to bring about social change and to improve the situation for dyslexic students, particularly those wanting to live a creative life. Because of that aim at social and educational impact, it is even more important that I am authentic in my methodology.

The problem of Author-Authority

Critical theory could make us uncomfortable with the notion of reflection because it seems to turn our attention back to Author-Authority, which could then be read as the ultimate meaning of a text. Is it essentialist to assign an origin to a text in this way? One famous example of this contestation is Barthes’ "The Death of the Author" (1977). Others have, of course, discussed and critiqued it (see, for example, Neale 2011). I mention it here because it has always been important for me to acknowledge the subjectivity that is a force in the writing process, with emphasis on the idea that writing is a process as well as a product.

By owning and reflecting on the subjectivity present in our work, we disrupt the idea of an Author-Authority who is “conceived as the past of his own book” (Barthes 1977). Reflexivity as a methodology works against the idea of ultimate power, objectivity, rationality, and origin. Using a reflexive methodology, we do not claim to be the ultimate source of meaning for any particular given text; we are instead interested in reflecting on the process of writing. We are not assigning an ultimate meaning, we are showing ourselves to be intrigued by the doing of writing. If I say "I am a dyslexic writer, what does that mean?" I am looking at a particular aspect of my practice. For my purposes, when thinking about process, I can, after all, say something about “the body that writes” (Barthes 1977).

Anecdotal Theory and the need for an authentic methodology

Jane Gallop’s work relates to reflexivity because she writes about the theory of anecdote, which “speaks against a conception of intellectual engagement that necessitates the intellect being divorced from the body and affect to be deemed legitimate” (Loveless 2001). I have taken this quotation out of context, but it does express a feminist sentiment that supports the idea that intellectual engagement need not be separate from “the body that writes” (Barthes 1977). From the point of view of a writing practitioner, this understanding is beneficial to one’s practice.

For me, Gallop demonstrates that reflexivity is also a feminist methodology. In the following description of Gallop’s work, for instance, there is an interesting crossover between anecdotal theory and reflexivity:

Anecdotal theory […] escapes the confines of legitimizing knowledge productions and begs questions of the mutable embedded practices of critical thinking in situated social contexts; it offers a displacement from a practice of reading for the known (answers) to a reading that takes as its charge the mark of the unknown (that is, one that is drawn towards an interesting question). (Loveless 2011)

Both anecdotal theory and the reflexivity carried out by creative practitioners have this in common. They move away from “the confines of legitimizing knowledge productions” and involve “a reading that takes as its charge the mark of the unknown”, or “a [writing process] that takes as its charge the mark of the unknown (that is, one that is drawn towards an interesting question)” (Loveless 2011).

It is possible to think – both seriously and playfully – about what the anecdote does and its effects on process. I can ask "what does it mean to be a dyslexic writer?" and own the pull between those two words, without the question becoming instantly reductive, like textual quicksand. I can also carry out research from the somewhat slippery position of the dyslexic writer; I can put on that mantle – or perhaps the dunce’s hat that Benedict Phillips reclaims through his dyslexic performance art – with self-awareness.

Anecdote involves a “willingness to account for one’s responsiveness, regardless of whether or not it seems to be leading where one thought one might be, theoretically, heading” (Loveless 2011) and it seems to me that reflexivity has a similar effect. As I reflect on what it means to be a dyslexic writer, there is a “working-through […] life events”, an “entwined […] theory-making practice” (Loveless 2011). To form a methodology, I look from the point of view of a practising writer, at the meaning behind my writing practice. I need not repeat a history of dyslexia and a history of creativity. Although that would be interesting, it would be somewhat inauthentic to form a methodology that way, and the answer to the question of methodology is always about authenticity. What did I actually do? What will I actually do? The authentic answer is that I am examining my own writing practice. I am discovering a reflexive methodology.

Dyslexic and Writer: paradox, antagonism, process

I am suspicious of binary paradigms, so the next section is intended as playful. Elsewhere I have talked about what I do when I practise creativity (Tondeur 2012). Here I talk about the specifics of what I do as a dyslexic writer, spelling out – as if that were possible – some of the apparent negatives, and their flip-sides, the positive aspect to the same habit or trait. Because this is the first time I have broken down my writing process in this way, I have presented them in a list, in the order they occurred to me:

1. The critic inside my head is severe and makes me stop and start; or I keep having to stop to look up spellings / I use stream of consciousness and forget about making sense or spelling or writing on the lines in the first draft.

2. I find it hard to plan / I like to write and watch a plan emerge.

3. I find it hard to sequence / I enjoy playing with non-sequential forms.

4. I get anxious about proof-reading, and occasionally when I’m tired or upset I find it impossible. Often mistakes are invisible. The difference between dinning room and dining room took me a long time to learn / I am gradually developing strategies to get better at it. Facing the challenge has made me tougher and more practical. Print it out. Mark it up. Go over each line with a ruler underneath.

5. I forget the word I want to use, sometimes maddeningly so, even though I can see a picture of what it means, and I lose the flow of what I was trying to say / I can write around a word until I get it, producing creative intersections.

6. I’ve had to create strategies so I can cope with being neurodiverse in a neurotypical culture / The openness and flexibility I use to adapt also allow me to be open to new experiences, which makes me a more authentic observer of the world.

7. I find it hard to write if I am not emotionally connected to the work, usually to the level of passionate and epiphanic, which is one reason why it’s hard to plan / When I get connected to the work I can carry on for hours and hours without noticing. Emotional connection provides a way in, and I can use stream of consciousness until I reach that place.

8. I make too many connections to each idea, character, world, object, image, and find it hard to go in a straight line, or to decide what to filter out; paragraphing sometimes seems nonsensical. Sometimes I feel like I need hypertext links / I am able to make unusual connections, which helps me to create stories. I can see the whole picture, and can visualize the world of my characters so clearly it’s like I’m there. I get immersed in their world.

9. Sometimes I can’t find the right structure for a sentence, even if I rewrite it over and over again / I trust in the redrafting process and leave the sentence in its (apparently) wrong form, so I can get the idea down. In a few days, weeks or months, I’ll know how to phrase it.

10. I’m embarrassed; I blush when I can’t spell or find the word in my head or remember the name of a writer or book I like. I’m self-conscious and self-checking. It affects my self-confidence. It makes me vulnerable. I wish that I didn’t have this problem / Vulnerability makes me sensitive to the world, and empathetic.

In the following paragraph, I have made a list of words that attempt to relate my experience as a dyslexic writer. Because of the nature of the description, I have left the spelling alone. Being a dyslexic writer means / is / involves, or as a dyslexic writer I am:

inadequent, clumbsy, confused, frustrated, unqsequenced, ending before the beginning, not writing on the lines, queer, confessional, adept, coping strategies, unbalanced, impuslive, hiding, unsure, empahising, naive, unfocused, taking things literarly, interrupted by spelling, bombarded, visualising, reworking, eclectic, slow, ponderous, cardboard minded, interested, impateient, embrarassed, global thinking, freewriting, faking, lyrical, reasoning, colourful, sensitive, sense-aware, introverted, devious, misunderstood, unseen, overlooked, careful, wise, analytical, messy.

Rebecca Loncraine and Melanie Hunter

I am now going to look at two dyslexic writers, and what their work has to say about creative practice. The first is writer and academic Rebecca Loncraine, who is widely published, and whose work appears in Forgotten Letters (2011) and Everything is Spherical (2014). As I said earlier, Loncraine’s writing about the dyslexic experience was my first encounter with neurodiversity and the notion of dyslexic thinking as a strength. Usefully for this essay, Loncraine writes articulately about the experience of dyslexic writing. For example, in one poem called "Details" the narrator describes the experience of being unable to name “the thing” she is conceptualizing:

I can describe the thing in real detail, all the / smallest, most important bits of it. But I can’t / name it, can’t tell you who made it […] And I look like a fool with no memory, / with no real grip on the world (Loncraine 2011)

This has also been my experience, repeatedly, and it has affected my self-confidence as a writer and as a thinker. It was only when I began this research project and I had my official diagnosis, aged 41, that I understood that dyslexia affects the short term memory. It is interesting that in the introduction to Forgotten Letters, writer and editor Naomi Folb notes how dyslexics often:

describe the way they "think" as "seeing", so that they say things like: "I see the whole" and what they mean is: that when they think, they understand the idea or the shape of something in all its complexity (Folb 2011).

Loncraine’s narrator in "Details" does something more sophisticated in her thinking that simply naming “the thing”. Rather she sees “the shape […] in all its complexity”. It is an understatement to point out that if certain people think in this way, then it would be a shame to waste that talent, when our society urgently requires talented thinkers. The experience of “look[ing] like a fool” is a common one, which is one reason why Benedict Phillips’ reclamation of the DIV – the Fool who teaches – is so powerful to watch.

In the introduction to Forgotten Letters, Naomi Folb says of the writers collected in the volume that “apart from being dyslexic [we] have little else in common”, but reading Loncraine’s work made me see a connection to my own writing practice too, made me understand something about my own way of thinking that I hadn’t seen before. I stated at the outset that this will be a political project, and that it hopes to bring about social change. Poetry is often treated, in the cultural idiom, as if it is an unnecessary frippery, but allowing students to connect with others who think in a dyslexic way – through poetry like Loncraine’s – is not a frippery; rather, it has the power to change their lives. 

One of my favourite poems in Forgotten Letters is Loncraine’s "world in parallel" where the narrator describes seeing “a sugary” from her car, explaining “I didn’t know / there used to be such a thing as a sugary as well as / bakeries and butchers” (Loncraine 2011). The narrator goes on to imagine what the “sugary” would have been like and the “random shaped lumps of sweetness” which are “carved […] from / huge sugar loaves”. (Loncraine 2011). When she discovers that she saw a surgery, she is thrown back into the mundane world, but for a while the differently read word allowed her to go on a creative journey. This possibility – together with the “tangents” Loncraine writes about in another poem that “tunnel and weave through my thinking / their pointed ends stick out at odd angles” (Loncraine 2011) and with the capacity for “see[ing] the whole” (Folb 2011) – are examples of a different way of thinking. Others could learn about these tangible and specific ways of thinking as a tactic for developing their own creative thinking and creative practice.

The second writer I would like to look at is Melanie Hunter, whose work "Be Loud" was part of Dyspla 2013 in an installation that involved actors performing several monologues in an exhibition space, and the audience wandering between each of them. I mention this piece of work because the performance challenged the way I think in much the same way that Loncraine’s work did on the page in Forgotten Letters. I found myself wishing that other people who teach Creative Writing could have seen it, because I have given this advice to students, in the same emphatic way many times, and so have my colleagues, to the extent that it seems like sacrilege to challenge it:

"Never", she said. You’ll NEVER be a good writer if you’re not a reader. No room for argument. […] It would be very easy to believe her. (Hunter 2013)

Firstly, I reacted as a teacher: hearing this for the first time made me suddenly see that piece of advice from a student writer’s point of view, one who is inspired to write by “spoken word, a visual world” (Hunter 2013) and who feels uncomfortable and unguided when it comes to printed material. Secondly, I reacted as a dyslexic person, because, although I love reading, I have also struggled with reading. Not with literacy, but with reading small text, tripping over words, re-reading sentences, sustaining my concentration, getting to the end, being expected to read quickly, trying to read too many books at once, and, with texts I don’t connect to somehow, I find it almost impossible to stop my mind wandering around the page, what I describe as being “cardboard minded”, as if the pages themselves are cardboard and I am being forced to eat them. The previous two sentences feel more like "coming out", more embarrassing to say than any other part of the reflexive writing in this essay. What was/is the answer? I had to/have to work hard at certain kinds of reading and I have to have space for it. It is harder when I am tired or overwhelmed, whereas if I am in love with a book, I am so immersed in it that it becomes more like a lover than ink on a page, and I’ll follow it anywhere. Hunter’s monologue continues:

The written word is not the only place to be moved by the creation of a beautiful, flawed character, or lost in a powerful journey. […] I want to tell people not to believe her. Especially those like me: the non-readers who write anyway […] inspired by story, spoken word, a visual world, the world of feeling […] if it hurts, and if the words scramble in front of you, stop. Look around and be inspired by other things. (Hunter 2013)

Hearing these words, I felt the kick in the chest I get when I am challenged and forced to see in a different way. Needless to say, I have had so much pleasure from reading, amounting, as I say, to a love affair with some books, that Hunter’s narrator didn’t convince me, even though sometimes “it hurts” (Hunter 2013). That said, the emotional impact the performance had on me was more to do with the way the monologue celebrated a dyslexic perspective, and the way it championed visual culture and spoken word over printed text. In future, I will be far more cautious using the Creative Writing teacher’s adage that all good writers read, especially when there are likely to be dyslexic writers present. Even though I still believe it to be true, I won’t use it as a truism, as if it is self-evident how to do it. Hunter also allowed me to feel slightly less hurt and embarrassed by some of the difficulties I have had with text; that I have had to hide. It had a healing effect.

Pedagogical implications

What implications do these ideas have for creative pedagogy? The wider answer to that question is beyond the scope of this essay, but because writer-teachers are in the business of creativity and process, we are well placed to investigate what reading, writing and creativity mean to our neurodiverse students. Here are some ideas for use in Creative Writing seminars, based on my own experience:

1. Talk about neurodiversity and dyslexia directly. Use one of the resources on dyslexic positivity to lead a discussion with students.

2. Set structured group projects. For example, get students to set up a blog and publish each other’s work. Give students in each group distinct roles to allow them to play to their strengths: proof reader, project manager, designer, etc.

3. Don’t assume that as dyslexic writers we know how to proofread or how to structure something using sequencing; teach us how to do it. Then get us to teach others to do it. Some dyslexics learn better by doing. Having to teach certainly helps me to understand sequences.

4. Dyslexic students can be good at making unusual connections (Everatt et al. 1999). Mind maps, word association, word games and freewriting can help.

5. Ask students if they feel they are good at holding onto or creating mental pictures. Don’t assume that everyone’s visualization skills are the same. Discuss it. Get the class to practise visualizing a place, an object, a scenario or a character (Tondeur 2009).

6. Sometimes dyslexic writers see the big picture and therefore get to the end without going through the middle: this results in innovative ideas. Sometimes we find it hard to select the right amount of information, or seem to be ahead or behind the discussion. These two aspects of dyslexic thinking combined can lead to frustration. Listen, help us to select, acknowledge our ideas, write them down, teach them back to us.

Concluding thoughts

In this essay, I have shown how reflexivity can be used as an authentic methodology, with theoretical rigour, that we can say something about “the body that writes” (Barthes 1977) and be intrigued by the process of writing. Specifically, I have applied that idea to the notion of dyslexic writing, and the antagonism those terms create. In order to apply this methodology, I have spent a section of this essay reflecting on what it means for me to be a dyslexic writer, and have discussed the challenges to my own thinking presented by two contemporary dyslexic writers. There are certainly specific ways in which lexics can “be given hope saport and practakell help” to join “dislecksick culcher” (Phillips 2005). It appears that there are specific ways in which (at least some) dyslexic writers think differently; a form of thinking and working that others could learn and use for themselves. For example, these are all possible tactics: using stream of consciousness and forgetting about making sense in the first draft; playing with non-sequential forms; making unusual connections; writing around a subject until one gets it; trusting the redrafting process; seeing the “sugary”, and the “random shaped lumps of sweetness” (Loncraine 2011); thinking yourself into a visual world, as if you were there, seeing “the shape […] in all its complexity” (Folb 2011); going off on “tangents” (Loncraine 2011).

[1] See for instance, the work of the Dyslexia Research Trust at or Gavin Reid and Margaret Snowling.

[2] I have recently put some of my literature review online for students, teachers and lecturers to access:

[3] You can find a list of speakers on the Dyspla website, including more about the work of Chris Arnold and Benedict Phillips:

[4] There is an image of the DIV online at:

[5] You can find out more about RASP here:


Armstrong, T. (2010) Neurodiversity: Discovering the Extraordinary Gifts of Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia and Other Brain Differences. Philadelphia: Da Capo Press.

Arnold, C. (c.1995) Advert for the Dyslexia Institute using SKOOL image. [poster]

Barthes, R. (1977) ‘The Death of the Author’, in Image Music Text. Ed. and trans. by Stephen Heath. London: Fontana Press, 142–148.

Bolton, G. Reflections through the looking-glass: The story of a course of writing as a reflexive practitioner. Teaching in Higher Education. April 1999, Vol. 4 Issue 2, 193–113.

Cameron, J. (2006) The Sound of Paper. New York: Penguin.

Dawson, P. (2005) Creative Writing and the New Humanities. London: Routledge.

Eide, B. and Eide, F. (2011) The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain. Carlsbad: Hay House. The Dyslexic Advantage online community can be found here:

Everatt, J. Steffert, B. and Smythe, I. (1999) An Eye for the Unusual: Creative Thinking in Dyslexics. Dyslexia. Vol. 5: 1,  28–46.

Folb, N. (2011) 'Introduction’ in Folb, N. (ed.) Forgotten Letters: An Anthology of Dyslexic Writing. London: RASP.

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Louise Tondeur’s first two novels The Water’s Edge (2003) and The Haven Home for Delinquent Girls (2004) were published by Headline Review. Her most recent publications are "You are not Special" in Litro Magazine (2014), "The Swim" in The Front View (2013) and a poem called "Voices" in Forgotten Letters: An Anthology of Dyslexic Literature (2011). She also contributed "Versions of Creative Writing Teaching" to Writing in Education (Spring 2014). Louise teaches Creative Writing at the University of Roehampton.