Dyslexia Lures

"I recently saw a signpost pointing the way to the local cementary. Doesn’t that conjure up some gruesome images? Perhaps it was commissioned to the local signwriters who claim to specialise, not in vinyl, but in a hitherto unknown material: Vinyal? 

Who else but me would list one of their major sources of entertainment as reading the ads in the newsagents window. This is a particular favourite…

Granite Half

[In Dagenham accent, complete with glottal stops]

No? Try sayin' i' wiv a Dagenham accent. Grani' 'arf. 

Still not clear? (Hover mouse over the picture)

To Callum's Home PageMocking the semi-literate has always been something of a hobby of mine. So the gods looked down at me looking down on my fellow man and …this is my son Callum - he’s dyslexic. 

It wasn’t really a great surprise; my brother is dyslexic, I’m left-handed, Callum walked early and he talked an incomprehensible scribble until he was four - all handy pointers to a potential dyslexic. 

What we weren’t prepared for was the attitude of our education system and the battle that we’re still having eight years after he entered it.  For one thing, they don’t like the term dyslexia (“We prefer to call it a specific learning difficulty”). All very well if they didn’t try to teach all the children with specific learning difficulties from low iq to Tourette’s syndrome in the same classroom and by the same methods. 

Dyslexia is something of a misnomer; it gives the impression that it’s just a problem with reading and writing. In fact, dyslexics can boast a range of symptoms, many of which are actually brought about by the stress of trying to cope in school.  

Contrary to popular belief, dyslexia is NOT a form of brain damage. It is simply another way of processing information and it has its advantages. Dyslexics are creative, intuitive, innovative thinkers with huge potential. Unfortunately, their learning style doesn’t sit too well with modern life. In the past, no-one was considered thick because they couldn’t read or write; most people couldn’t. 150 years ago literacy was a rarity. But life has moved on and literacy is and will remain the lynchpin of education. But to teach large numbers of children of varying abilities in a class means adopting a rather rigid style of teaching, one which can have dire effects on the dyslexic.  

They can and do learn to read and write, but they don’t learn in the same was as non-dyslexics. Current teaching methods fail them. Teachers aren’t even taught how to recognise a dyslexic, let alone how to teach one and so dyslexia is regarded as a learning difficulty rather than a teaching difficulty.  

“There’s two or three in every class. Bright enough, but lazy. Attention seekers. What do we do with attention seekers? We tell them to sit still, pay attention and stop being stupid - and we ignore them.” The disruptive oik in class isn’t seeking attention - he’s trying to deflect it.  

Disenfranchised by an education system that pays no heed to their needs, many dyslexics leave school, unqualified, angry, lacking in self-esteem, and with limited prospects. Not surprisingly, a high proportion turn to crime.

There are a number of studies that show a disproportionate amount of dyslexics in the prison population. The Chief Education Officer of HM Prison service states that it affects almost a third of prisoners. All too often these are people who have gone undiagnosed through school, instead being labelled lazy or disruptive.

Of the dyslexics who do manage to stay away from a career on the wrong side of the prison service, many end up in menial jobs that simply are not commensurate with their intellect. What a terrible waste. Especially when one considers that of the successful dyslexics (Albert Einstein, Agatha Christie, Winston Churchill, Richard Branson), their success is because of, not despite their dyslexia. Dyslexia should be regarded as a gift, not a disability. Yet, sadly, ALL dyslexics, successful or otherwise, have had to struggle through our education system.

There are specialist schools, but they are mostly private and too few and too far away. Most of us wouldn’t want to send our beloved children to boarding schools hundreds of miles away even if we could afford £15K to £20K a year it would cost to do so.  

Now, we’re not talking about the odd one or two people here. Around one person in ten is dyslexic. That’s 10% of the UK’s population of 60 million. You don’t need to be Einstein to figure out that there are nearly 6 million dyslexics in Britain - right across society, irrespective of intellect, class or culture. 6 million people let down by the education system. That’s almost equal to the population of London. That’s more than the population of Scotland. Imagine the outcry if every Scot was denied a decent education; if practically every Londoner was semi-literate. 

By the age of four, a dyslexic child displays enough signs to be recognised. If these children are taught appropriately in infant school, they wouldn’t be entering adulthood as functional illiterates. Don’t tell me it isn’t beneficial or cost-effective to screen preschoolers. If it reduces the prison population, that has to be good. If it means that 10% of us don’t waste our precious childhood feeling stupid, that has to be good; if it reduces suicide rates, that has to be good.  

And as I’ve told my son: if all else fails, he can always become a signwriter! "

Comments

This was my number two speech (Speaking with Sincerity). My son is dyslexic, so I was certainly sincere. My evaluator, Asifa Ali, was very kind and her evaluation (her first, incidentally) was very well planned and executed. Her recommendations included a need to improve my voice projection, that I had stood slightly askew to my audience, and that while my visual aids were very good, I should have put down the photograph of my son. All very valid points.

I stymied myself with this speech, as I had my speech written on the back of the photograph of my son. I didn't even need my speech notes, as I had practiced the speech so much, but once I clapped eyes on my notes, I couldn't tear them away.

Also, the speech was a little bit too close to my heart and I felt very emotional about it. I actually wanted to cry when I was delivering it, which made me sound a bit breathless and could have accounted for my defensive posture.

I did enjoy giving the speech, though. I felt energised afterwards and can't wait for the next one.

Guests and Club Members' Comments

"Great speech! Loved the topic and how you were able to show your passion for this topic. I was moved and tell me where to sign the petition. Well done!!"

"Very informative. I have a particular interest in education and this is just one area where the current system is lacking. Great props."

"Very sincere and very good use of phrases and descriptions"

"Lovely speech and you are poetic. Don't overuse notes, use them as prompts, not a script."

"Very interesting topic. Looked very comfortable and well-rehearsed."

"Very humorous and emotive. Well-structured and good conclusion."

"Good mix of humour and a serious subject. As the aim was to speak with sincerity, I think you definitely did that! Eye-opening."

"Good idea using the photo as your notes. You did very well. Try not to read your speech for no. 3."

"Very interesting and well presented."

"Really WOW! Content, however, sentences were too long (hence the out-of-breath feeling); don't comment on own performance."

"Very good - moving speech, well prepared, organised and delivered."

"Lovely, lovely, lovely! So touching, well-written and very organised. You obviously prepared and it shows."