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Jon Adams: Someone’s had all the flippin mints - part three of five / 21 November 2010

graphic of a selection of mints

Graphic of a selection of mints by Jon Adams

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Saturday – waking up to London: Presenting at the British Dyslexia Association Educational Conference. I don’t think I will ever get over the shock of first signing autographs. Sure I’ve signed limited edition prints in private... but to be asked in public tastes very different.

The day started with breakfast - like a time-lapse filmed affectation - its empty then you sit down look up over your weetabix and in the time its taken to get through - half the place is miraculously full! It wasn’t too bad either, other than the toaster - one of those ‘conveyer belt jobs. I didn’t try a repeat  trip with the resultant warm bread as I personally had had a bad experience with one in Margate recently – This was where I sent the ‘uncoloured stiff bread’ through a second time where it promptly and inappropriately burst in to flames. Some quick action on my behalf resulted, not wanting the dubious honour of setting this ‘famously Hotel inspector’ covered place alight.

After finishing packing we made our may down to the lobby to check out and all meet for a joint taxi up to the conference venue. After spending some time looking at the fabulous framed black and white photographs on the walls (Colour sucks! Now that will get me into trouble) - I took a place at the table. After a game of  ‘musical chairs with new arrivals, I decided to sit at the very back, so I could draw and occasionally stand whilst not disturbing anyone else or drawing attention to myself.

Having been joined by Clare during the morning talks, we spent some of the time preparing the order of my talk, remembering relevance’s triggered by the other delegates. After a hot lunch and conversations it was soon my turn – if a little behind schedule. It had been 7-8 years since I had last spoken at a BDA conference, which had been in Bristol and there I read several poems I had written after first discovering I was dyslexic.

As most of the slides showed work that had been made in the time since - I decided to provide some continuity and read one. Having spent many a scary moment at school and ever since avoiding reading out loud it seemed an impulsive and difficult achievement. In telling my story, I speak of Junior school, where a defining moment was the teacher tearing a ‘precious picture’ up in front of the class as I had spelt my name wrong. I had been faced with a ‘no win’ choice.

Either I ask for help and be ridiculed or risk a lottery of ‘self attempts’ and submit. I had lost…. I started and reached the ‘reading point’ and did it, faltering twice, once leaving a ‘word’ out and stopping to let the lump in my throat clear when I reached a certain sentence. (Traditional opinions that aspies don’t get emotional are false – we feel – we feel too much)

And I presented ‘Flags’ at the end inviting people to come to the back in the break and ‘make’ or collect postcards with details so they can join in. This happened and we were overwhelmed both by the volume of people saying their school would join in and being asked to sign autographs on their cards (and even a book as I did the cover). A strange and unreal 30 minutes for different reasons for both of us.

The rest of the day went quickly and was soon over. Arriving at Camden Town station we were met with the ‘bolshie’ queue from hell - so we opted for the bus - heading back down the road to the nearest stop. The 168 was soon with us and being mostly empty (another Aspergers reasonable adjustment) and the ride was quick and without trauma. Waterloo was busy and we soon picked seats at the front of the Portsmouth train - both tired. We sat and went through the days highs and lows. It was at that point the ‘mints’ were revealed.

I have mixed feelings about ‘awareness’ days/ weeks as people can become oblivious to them and shouldn’t every day be a ‘dyslexia’ awareness day anyway? But the more people understand - the less socially disabled we will be. So I'm looking forward to Dyslexia Awareness Week next year

...and by the way I do know who had all the flippin mints on our table and if they had waited I would have told them!

Keywords: dyslexia,visual arts