The Ron Davis story

12th March 2004 at 00:00
For the first six years of his American schooling, Ron Davis (pictured) sat in a corner of the classroom, facing the wall, with a handkerchief over his head. At the age of nine he was "oblivious to everything", he says. "I wasn't even aware I was alive." At 12, he still hadn't learned the alphabet, despite the efforts of his mother. Later that year he was officially labelled "uneducatably mentally retarded".

From his corner, he saw a banner displaying the letters of the alphabet, and when he went home he began to copy the letters using the red dirt in his backyard. "I played for hours on end with the clay letters," says Davis, now aged 62. "That is how I finally learned their names."

But although his emotional and psychological development was delayed by 11 years, when his intelligence was tested, at 17, he was found to have an IQ of 137. He had speech therapy, which worked, and reading training, which didn't. At 18 he was told he would never read properly because his brain had been damaged during his birth.

It wasn't until his twenties that he was diagnosed as dyslexic. Despite his "learning disability" he became a mechanical engineer and a successful businessman. When he "retired" he took up sculpture and found that when he was at his "artistic best" he was at his "dyslexic worst". He says: "As an engineer, this didn't make sense. I began to suspect that dyslexia was not a structural problem at all, but a functional one."

He started researching his own condition, and began to understand disorientation and how to control it. "At that time I still couldn't read a road sign without stopping the car," he says. "But 36 hours later I went to a library and read a whole book, cover to cover. It was Treasure Island.

That was the first day in my life that I felt I could be who I am and not feel ashamed."

That was in 1980. By 1982 he had expanded his understanding and developed the Davis Correction Programme - clay letters and all.

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