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Read Between the Lines

Read Between the Lines

, by Annabel Tannenbaum, 3 min reading time

I felt a great sense of shame and guilt. I thought I needed to try harder and study more but when I did, that still didn’t make a difference.

It was only as an adult in my mid to late twenties when I had a light bulb moment and realised why it was so much harder for me to ‘read between the lines’ compared to the rest of the class.

I still cringe thinking about English comprehension classes and having to interpret, then analyse texts and advertising posters.

For many years, I thought the rest of the class must have been getting different paper from the teacher which had these ‘magical invisible’ words printed between the lines. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t do it and yet it appeared to be so easy for some of the others. I experienced many frustrated teachers and English tutors during school who appeared baffled by my difficulties with comprehension, interpretation and analysing. I even managed to confuse a few psychologists with my developmental assessment results. No one seemed to be able to find a reason or ‘excuse’ for my low grades in some subjects and not others. My diagnoses of auditory processing disorder, which was diagnosed when I was 6yrs old, seemed to only half explain why I was struggling but it didn’t explain all my difficulties. I went 30 years without any diagnoses to explain my inconsistent and ‘spiky profile’.

‘When someone has a ‘spiky profile’ it means there is a big difference in their level of ability from one task to another.’  -

Neurodivergent people are more likely to have a ‘spiky profile’ than neurotypical people.

‘We all have a combination of strengths in some cognitive capabilities, and challenges in others.  People who are neurodivergent tend to have what are known as “spiky” profiles: a more marked difference between the strengths and the challenges.’ -

When I was diagnosed as autistic and delved further into the world of autism, I discovered that many autistic people struggled to read ‘between the lines’ in English comprehension classes. Just like autistic people find it more difficult to read and interpret social cues, that tends to also translate to written texts and images. There seems to be not only difficulties reading and interpreting social cues but also a difficulty in reading and interpreting in other contexts too. Now that I understand how and why my brain finds it challenging to ‘read between the lines,’ I have begun to question even more the school curriculum. I don’t feel that it’s just a matter of trying different teaching methods in order to teach the same curriculum either. Teacher’s and tutor’s tried all sorts of different ways to teach me to read ‘between the lines’ and it hardly made a difference to my grades. However it made a negative impact to my confidence and self esteem. I felt a great sense of shame and guilt. I thought I needed to try harder and study more but when I did, that still didn’t make a difference. I just felt even worse about my brain and focused more on what it couldn’t do, rather than what it could do.

I’m now learning so many incredible facts about brains. I’m finding out about my brain, spending more time highlighting and focusing on its strengths while accepting but not shaming its ‘weaknesses.’

Shaming minds, allows them to survive but celebrating minds of all kinds, empowers them to thrive!


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