• Jennifer Widemire Smith

Not All Rules Apply

Rules for dyslexics are different…Each dyslexic I’ve met is unique in how they struggle, but one fairly universal concept keeps coming up—the 20 minute rule.


The 20 minute rule is simple: Only read, study, research, write, or whatever, for 20 minutes at a time.


That’s it.


Set timers. Take 10-45 minute breaks and come back again, but only for 20 minutes. This will feel weird at first because the world says a person should be able to sit and study a subject for 45 minutes. Take a break for 15 and study again for 45. This is horseshit advise for dyslexics. Throw it out.


If you are dyslexic the amount of ATP—you remember that term from highschool biology and chemistry? It’s what our body’s cells use for energy? Yeah that thing that your brain needs to focus, decode, conceptualize, and assimilate information is needed in massive amounts for just a 20 minute study jaunt.


After 20 minutes you’ve used up the vast majority of your ATP storage and your body is now saying, feed me or let me sleep. If you don’t, you’ll face the consequences—you won’t like the consequences.


If you’re breaking this rule your body now has to make more ATP. If you ignore this rule of 20 and push through to 30, congrats. You’re at the beginning stages of a headache. Hope you’ve invested money in Advil stock!


If you pop some pills and keep going, at 45 minutes your eyelids start to droop. You’re looking around wondering if anyone would care if you dozed off for a few minutes?


If you're at home, maybe you get up and make some coffee--not that it helps much. Although, it’s nice to take a break!


Now that you’ve taken a break you’re probably staring at those books with a feeling of dread. This is when you get on Facebook, turn on the tv, find a dirty dish and decide you need to clean your whole place. The mess is really driving you crazy! You know what this is right? It’s called procrastinating! Dyslexics excel in procrastinating. Anything to keep that damn headache from coming back or that pit way down deep in your stomach from becoming an ulcer.


Next thing you know you’re calling yourself names like lazy, slacker, deadbeat, you get the gist...


20 minutes can save you from ALL THAT. Set an alarm and no matter what, stick to it. Alarm goes off, book gets shut for at least 10 minutes. Set out some brain food snacks too. Almonds are great. Guacamole is even better. Açaí smoothies another great source of brain food. A quick search on Pinterest will come up with visual charts and recipes to keep you busy for a year! Try whatever strikes your fancy. But for heavens sake stay away from sugar! Yeah yeah. You know. Sugar bad. Sugar evil.


Well sugar makes your brain operate like it’s in quicksand mixed with sludge mixed with molasses. You want to read that article? You want to study a book on dyslexia? <<I mean come on right? WE’RE DYSLEXIC but in order for us to learn about ourselves we have to read about ourselves. It’s ridiculous I know. I still haven’t finished Shaywitz’s “Overcoming Dyslexia” because I read the line “in 1904 a dude discovered dyslexia and how to remediate it but he was met with such opposition that we still struggle to overcome today” or something to that effect and I slammed my kindle down and went “What the actual #%@k!? You mean to tell me we’ve known for 113 years and these m&$#er-@&$ker’s haven’t gotten their #%¥$ing act together. Sh@&!” Yeah. I needed a time out...and soap...

It still irks me and I’m still trying to recover my religion from that day. But again, I’m struggling to finish the book that apparently the experts look to for understanding. I want to finish it. I’m going to finish it. But only in 20 minute increments. It’s a book that has a lot of information in it. That information I want to assimilate into my brain to actually use to understand myself and my two dyslexic children.


Patience and endurance wins this race. It’s ok if I have to read it multiple times. The knowledge it contains is worth the effort.


20 minutes takes the cake... it might take me 200 hours, of 20 minute increments, but it’s 200 hours well spent.


My personal tip is also this: Read exclusively on a kindle. Not the kindle app on a phone---this will hurt your eyes. Not a textbook, they’re too big, have to many words on a page and are frankly overwhelming. Not a hardbound book that makes you feel all gooey and nostalgic inside—A KINDLE! Why you ask?


#1) It’s small. So the surface area is reduced. This is super helpful if you struggle with tracking when you cross the midline. <<This is important! Understanding how the midline is crossed during reading is a big deal. I will be writing about it soon so stay tuned.


#2) The font and size can be adjusted. <<Very cool! Very important! Also means you don't have to cover the page.


#3) If you have the kind of dyslexia that letters move, morph, and shift, try the dyslexie open font on kindle. Might just change your whole life!


Yes, that’s right! Amazon paid the designer in Amsterdam who created a font for dyslexics that helps increase reading by 80% for some dyslexics. He’s amazing. Amazon is amazing. They actually are trying to help dyslexic readers read easier. Support it! Buy a kindle!


And if you’re sitting there reading this whining about how you enjoy the feel of a book in your hands. Let me ask you this, how many books have you read, enjoyed, and actually finished?

Thought so... I'm dyslexic and have read 150 fiction books for pleasure in 2017. Non fiction is different. I struggle with headaches and decoding with non fiction but a fiction book, on a kindle? Ooo la la!


The Paper White Kindle screen actually feels like a paperback book when you touch it. Invest in a nice leather bound cover and I promise, you won’t miss the feel of a book in your hand. Mainly because you’ll be too focused on reading to care. Who knows maybe you’ll be like me and find you can read fiction easily on a kindle and the whole wide world of reading FOR PLEASURE might just engulf you. This is a subject for another day, so for now, if you want to read a little bit easier, invest in a kindle! Then buy stock in amazon... I will write a whole blog post on kindle, but for now, you’ll just have to take my word for it.


TallyHo Darlings!


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