Pupils I'll never forget

29th April 2005 at 01:00
Nixie Taverner used a bit of magic to help Daniel to flourish

After many years of home tutoring, Daniel stands out. He was referred to me when he was five; he is now 25 and, although we no longer live in the same area, we continue to correspond and meet when we can.

When he was 18 months old Daniel had an acute asthma attack and suffered oxygen starvation; he was left with a cognitive, language disorder. As a growing boy he was diagnosed as severely dyspraxic and statemented for placement in a special school. I fully endorsed the statement but his parents also wanted him to have one-to-one tuition. Thus began our long and productive relationship.

Early on, I encouraged Daniel's enjoyment of fanciful stories as an incentive for learning to read. At that time, the Puddle Lane books, featuring a lovable monster called The Griffle, were popular. One spring term, while the children were all enthralled with "Griffle magic", I rather foolishly suggested Daniel might write to the Griffle inviting him to visit us. As a result, I had to stage a "manifestation".

I made a head mask and one of my granddaughters agreed to act the part; an appearance was scheduled for one Saturday morning in our garden.

Unfortunately, a heavy shower drove us inside where the Griffle appeared from behind my sofa and distributed Easter eggs.

Daniel's initiative boosted his morale and proved an incentive for improving his literacy skills; undoubtedly, the Griffle incident sowed the seeds for more creative storywriting, all centred on magic. In recent years he has written a series of unusual stories, all illustrated with computer-scanned images.

After completing a catering course and working in a hotel, he started writing about a magic kitchen where various implements come to life. His creative output continues to flourish and I was delighted when he had a story published in a special needs journal. More recently, he has ventured into verse with a poignant poem entitled, "Young Daniel who worked in a kitchen". Daniel's achievements prove that equipped with basic literacy and a reliable means of expression, there can be compensations for some disabilities. He is my oldest pupil and the most unforgettable.

Nixie Taverner lives in Surrey. Do you have special memories of unforgettable pupils? Write to Sarah Bayliss at the address on page 3 or email sarah.bayliss@tes. co.uk

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