Cognitive issues in a digital world

I am often puzzled by the idea that – in this enlightened day and age – people with cognitive differences such as dyslexia are properly considered and catered for. Actually, it’s not really happening. As the latest example, cheques are being taken out of use in New Zealand. I guess it had to happen one day. What interested me was a presentation to a select committee to the effect that this disadvantages a significant number of people, and not just the elderly. Dyslexics, for instance.

That’s true. The thing with dyslexia is that, because it is a wiring issue, those with it sometimes can’t see if they’ve transposed numbers, or got the wrong number. As the submission pointed out, internet banking – as but one example – becomes a difficult, energy-sapping and time-consuming exercise: the risk of typing a wrong number and losing real money is high.

I can only suppose that times have changed – but haven’t changed enough. Back when I was growing up back in the late twentieth century, dyslexia was a simple matter to deal with. It didn’t exist: kids who had it were simply stupid and lazy, and the fix involved the school absolutely slamming at them, all the while screaming about how worthless they were, relentlessly, every time they appeared at school. The idea was that a relentless barrage on the child, pursued with all the hate and power a teacher could muster, would incentivise the kid to choose to stop being dyslexic, snap out of it, and became normal.

Of course there wasn’t a hope in hell of this working. All it did was give the teachers a great deal of pleasure. But these days times are supposed to have changed – cognitively different people are meant to be properly understood and accepted. Because the medical profession like categorising things at the expense of the big picture, dyslexia has many names: dyspraxia, dyscalculia and so forth, depending on which aspect is most evident. Actually it is a fairly broad-ranging cognitive matter which (among other things) includes knowing something but being unable to express it, or getting a word wrong; or being literally unable to know which way something turns. Society doesn’t really accommodate people who have it, as the submission to the select committee pointed out to Parliament.

In short, the bashing has stopped, but there is little else to properly accommodate those who think differently.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2021

5 thoughts on “Cognitive issues in a digital world

  1. I know nothing about dyslexia, but I can imagine how difficult it must be managing in a digital world. I’ve just spent all day going through and changing passwords because of the massive security leak. And I don’t have any problems, other than a brain that’s now screaming ‘enough!’.

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    1. I am kind of lucky in a way, the issues I have don’t restrict my ability to read and write. But I have all sorts of other trouble, including knowing which way to turn things, or words coming out ‘wrong’ when I speak, despite my knowing intellectually (silently) what I wanted to say. And nobody, who doesn’t share the same issue, ever understands why. I believe Richard Branson had this happen while doing his first parachute jump and accidentally hit ‘jettison’ instead of ‘open’… (luckily one of his co-jumpers was able to release his reserve). Here’s the story:

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      1. Dear god…Branson is a maniac! Sorry, I kept watching and saw the interview about the balloon crossing of the Pacific. I am so glad writers can find purpose and interest in life while attached to a keyboard!

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  2. The law of unintended consequences…..

    After a head injury in 2014, I have to leave internet banking to my husband as I have problems with accurately typing and seeing issues with long numbers, as your quote says : the risk of typing a wrong number and losing real money is high.

    I really do NOT like being incapacitated by technology! It’s ironic, because I earnt my living in Telecommunications, until the head injury stopped me.

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    1. I am sorry to hear this happened to you. It’s something I struggle with for very different reasons – dyslexia, for me, doesn’t affect reading and writing but it’s dynamite for long numbers, and I’ll often either lose or transpose digits when calling someone not on my contacts list.

      It’s a difficult situation either way. The conscious mind, as I understand it, is a ‘second order’ or ’emergent’ property of the physical brain and as such transcends it in many respects. And yet, ultimately, cognitive abilities still depend upon that physical structure to actually work. Those affected know what they can’t do – but it doesn’t help.

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