Dyslexia May Be Behind Directional Confusion

For those who do suffer from “directional dyslexia,” the simple act of responding to situations where they must act on left-right decisions can produce stress, anxiety, and all-out panic.

Marson Nance’s wife doesn’t have to worry about him leaving her; she simply says his sense of direction is so bad, if he did go back to his parents on the east coast he’d probably end up in Nevada (where they live) anyway.  When she tells him to turn left, he’ll always turn right.

Like possibly millions of others, Marson may have a form of dyslexia that can be the root cause behind directional confusion. The matter of left-right confusion, which is found in those who suffer from dyslexia, as its own form of dyslexia, has not been considered, so there are probably more people with this problem than is known. For those who do suffer from “directional dyslexia,” the simple act of responding to situations where they must act on left-right decisions can produce stress, anxiety, and all-out panic.

The underlying reasons for directional confusion are still unknown, but its most probable cause is the difficulties with spatial relationships those with dyslexia experience. Many people who suffer from the reading, writing, and math issues of dyslexia also have directionality issues. These issues are mostly visible in their writing, with directional letters and numbers, such as b or d and 3 or 5, facing the wrong way.

However, these left-right issues can also be seen with the inability to tell the difference between the left hand and the right. This leads many people to continue using, throughout adulthood, the tricks their parents taught them as a child to tell the difference. Compass positions, north, south, east and west, also are a problem. With these obvious directional challenges comes the problem of confusion with directional words, such as up and down, before and after, over and under.

For those who have not been officially diagnosed with dyslexia and have no difficulty reading or doing math, there is little scientific explanation for why they have a problem telling left from right. Those who struggle with this confusion on a daily basis just consider themselves “directionally disabled” or as one put it, having “Directional Deficit Disorder.”

Feelings of anxiety, panic, embarrassment, and isolation have been associated with this condition. Just being told to “go back the way you came,” can produce enough panic to put many sufferers into a cold sweat.  Friends and family become irritated when a simple “turn left here” turns into an extra mile around the block. They’re told to “pay better attention.” Some suffers become isolated, giving up driving altogether. With or without dyslexia, they have no idea what may be behind their directional confusion; they just want to get a handle on it.

Because those who consider themselves “directionally disabled” have a difficult time reading maps, the invention of the GPS, has been a miracle of sorts. Now, adults who were still getting lost after living in the same town for years can drive with confidence. Other devices the directionally challenged have used include having landmarks for guidance, memorizing routes and never deviating from them, and  leaving for a destination long enough to compensate for getting lost.

Just knowing that dyslexia may be behind their confusion with direction and that there are lots of others like them, can help relieve the stress. For many the best way to deal with “directional dyslexia” is to see the humor. In a recent blog post, a commenter summed it up, “I feel like we should band together and have a parade. A parade with non-geographically challenged people telling us which way to go and then walking us back to our cars.”

By: Lisa Nance

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