Many people are genuinely dyslexic. These people have my sympathy but, unfortunately, that doesn't help me to understand what they are trying to communicate. I have friends who have really bad dyslexia but they can type almost perfect English - because they took the trouble to get help.

I asked one of them how she manages to cope with her disability. She told me:

Years ago at school I had to put up with all sorts of bullying at school because I was seen as "stupid". Later I received adult criticism and even had problems getting work, so I started my own business as a way around it. But I still had problems and I had to employ a part-time secretary just to type letters.

Five years ago I ended up on a psychiatrist's couch, thoroughly depressed and very angry. The psychiatrist told me that my problems weren't mental and that technology could help. He told me to buy an Apple Mac laptop, make sure the spellchecker was turned on, and install "TypeIt4Me" software.

I was desperate and did what he told me. He got me to type an essay then helped me list all the words which I usually got wrong. He helped me to program "TypeIt4Me" with all those words and corrections. Now, whenever I typed one of those words, the software corrected it automatically as soon as I pressed the spacebar. He explained that I would periodically mistype other words and the spell checker would underline them in red. By right-clicking on the word, I could make a drop-down list of suggested words appear and I could select the correct one (if I recognised it). If I didn't recognise it, I could look up each suggestion in the dictionary until I found the meaning that I wanted. I could then program "TypeIt4Me" with the correct and incorrect versions. If I really got stuck, I had to swallow my pride and ask a friend.

None of this solved a major problem - I was typing some words correctly but they were the wrong words! I would type "there" instead of "their", "weather" instead of "whether", here instead of "hear", and so on. The spelling was correct so the spell checker didn't underline them - but the meaning was wrong! Worst of all, I didn't know it was wrong.

I went back to my psychiatrist. He told me that it wasn't going to be easy and I would have to work hard just to achieve what most people could do without thinking. I told him I was still having problems with people criticising my choice of words. He told me that most people were simply trying to help and that, if I didn't tell them I had a genuine problem, how could they possibly know? He said I should accept their corrections with good grace and write them down. Gradually I could make my own little "dictionary" which contained only the words I have problems with. I could then get a feel for the extent of my problem. Instead of trying to look up words in a dictionary of 100,000 or more words, I would have to look at only a hundred or so.

Putting it into perspective like this really helped. I could cope with a hundred words. I began to recognise certain of them as I wrote them. I could refer to my "dictionary" to check and correct as necessary. I still make mistakes - especially when I'm filling in forms or using terminology that I'm not familiar with. But the really common words, which I use every day, are in my little "dictionary" and I can check them easily. I put the less common words at the back, so I don't get confused. Sometimes people ask what's in my little black book. I tell them I'm a recovering dyslexic. It's an interesting ice-breaker and I've made new friends, several of whom are dyslexic. We have formed a local group and we meet once a month to exchange stories and ideas of how to cope. And that's the answer. We have to cope from day to day and thank anyone who helps by correcting us. I'm a lot happier now and I don't feel inferior any more.

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