Saturday, 18 July 2015

Daft or dyslexic?

Someone has just posted a very positive view of her son's learning difficulties on Facebook. The overall thrust of the piece is that (a) he's smart, (b) he works hard, and (c) he's been given help from some experts.
She forgot to add (d) his parents  have supported him - his sibling too.
I would say all those things are important, very important.  The maintenance man in one of our local shopping centres is dyslexic. He has extreme difficulty in reading or writing anything. When a directive comes through from the owner of the centre he still has to find help if he needs to read a long document in a hurry.
He wanted to learn to read but he had gone through school without learning to do so. Everybody told him he was dull, stupid, an idiot and more. He didn't get the help he might once have got in a special class. Nobody took him out of class and gave him any extra attention. He just got lost in the cracks. He could easily have ended up in trouble but he was smart enough to realise he wasn't "stupid". He got the job as a maintenance officer because he can turn his hand to almost anything. He works hard too.
When I first met him he could recognise emergency words and not much more. He barely knew his alphabet. He certainly couldn't read fluently. He wasn't unfriendly but he was definitely reserved. 
One of the former staff in the bookshop introduced me. She had already told him what I had once done. In a very embarrassed way he told me he couldn't really read.
"Still want to learn?" I asked. He nodded but didn't look too confident about it. He was prepared to work at it but... oh yes, it was a big "but" because his school and even his family, particularly his parents, had always called him "stupid".
So a group of us got together, shop assistants and me and another teacher with expertise in the area. I gave him a simple test. He squirmed through it but it told me what we all needed to know. He could do it. The teacher took him on as a twice weekly evening challenge. I added my time on a less regular basis and so did bookshop staff. 
Reading will probably never be a pleasure for him. He reads too slowly for that but he has greatly improved. He now borrows graphic novels from the library - a place he didn't dare enter several years ago. He borrows DVDs and magazines too.
Late last year I saw him in the bookshop. He had some tools in hand and he had just fixed something. He gave me a cheerful smile as he left and told me quietly,
"This place doesn't frighten me now." It only took fifty something years.



Judy Edmonds said...

What a delightful story, but so sad it took so long for him to reach that stage i too have seen the difference made by wise, supportive families with dyslexic children - my daughter's oldest friend was diagnosed at 7 (after struggling to learn her alphabet for three years of school), only because her parents organised private testing for her, followed up by years of private tutoring and spending the money on an expensive private school that had facilities to keep helping her. That little girl who could barely read the alphabet while my daughter was ripping through 'chapter books' - she's just been accepted into a PhD programme. Most of the success is hers, of course, after years of ultra hard work, but also the team behind her who never gave up. I;m as proud of her and her family as though she were my own daughter :)

catdownunder said...

I'd be proud of her too. All children who need it should be able to get that sort of help!