Not dyslexic, just thick, clumsy and bone idle

23rd September 2005 at 01:00
It is such a relief to know that I need no longer consider myself to be dyslexic. I can now return to the diagnosis made by my teachers some 60 years ago: that I was stupid, clumsy, bone idle, thick and an idiot.

From infant school up to what you would now call Year 9, these phrases were indelibly printed on me, based on an inability to read, write or recognise numbers. I found this bizarre: even though I had an exceptional memory, could make judgements and retain information, and had no problem comprehending the spoken word, I was still regarded as being stupid, clumsy, bone idle, thick and an idiot. Being hopeless at sports, I was never even selected for class teams: instead I had to join the "scraps" on the sidelines with the other clumsy people.

It wasn't until the latter part of my secondary education that I was fortunate enough to come across a mathematics teacher and an English teacher, who were able to get to the root cause of the problem and enable me to read, write and carry out arithmetic. It wasn't until my late twenties that I came across the term "dyslexia".

What was most noticeable about my education was that teachers fell into three categories: those who were sarcastic and cynical; those who cared, but did not have the appropriate skills to remediate my situation; and those two exceptional teachers I encountered who cared and did have the skills to help me. Based on my limited experience of education, I do not think that teachers have changed much since then. In relation to children who have difficulties with reading, writing and arithmetic, I still come across teachers who seem to fit into each of the three categories.

I don't hold a view as to whether the term "dyslexia" should continue to be used or not but it is clear to me that if dyslexia is no longer considered to exist by the maintained sector then there will be a reduction in the provision that is made by local education authorities to help children who have difficulties with reading, writing and arithmetic. Placements in independent schools by local education authorities would also diminish. One possible effect of this would be the emergence of an even greater cottage industry, where more parents would educate their children at home and start their own private schools or units. Similarly, more parents than before would seek support from independent schools. As well as both private tutors and the independent sector cashing in, the lack of a term to define the difficulties that some children have would also mean that parents would have no peg on which to hang their case in tribunals.

I gather from your article that dyslexia has been around for about a hundred years. Maybe, therefore, I should sue my LEA for not giving me the support I needed all those years ago. However, on reflection, perhaps they had a case: after all, what help can you give to someone who is stupid, clumsy, bone idle, thick and an idiot?

Bill Brown 9 Harnleigh Green Harnham Road Salisbury, Wiltshire

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