posted by Megan Wadsworth on Jan 11

I have had many people, teachers and other well-meaning folks, warn me about labelling my son. I’ve taken this to heart. I have been careful up until now. But that’s over. The time has come to let him in this life changing information. We have a detailed report from an Educational Psychologist explaining Joseph’s dyslexia, dyscalculia (maths) and dyspraxia (motor skills). (Rather than talk about all of these things separately I will lump it all under the same ‘Dyslexic’ umbrella.)  This is where some people get really uncomfortable. To label my child as all of these horrible things! What I find upon further investigation is that the label is generally only a problem for people who don’t have the same issues. This concern comes out of a good place and I appreciate it. However, what isn’t understood is, that far from being a reason to not do something, the label ‘Dyslexia’ is the ticket to freedom. It offers the individual a reason to abandon prior ways of going about something and try it differently. This isn’t a bad thing. The relief that comes with the supposedly limiting label is limitless. I know because I am Dyslexic myself. I didn’t figure it out until my senior year in high school. At which point no one was listening. I was already written off as a lost cause. The Dyslexic label could have saved me a lot of grief. My teenage years were hell. If I was labelled dyslexic I would have been protected from the more damaging labels like ‘hopeless, stupid and lazy’, of which I was called all of. Mostly by teachers. Things have improved some but not enough. As you might imagine my grades were terrible. In maths in particular. I learned some but most of what I leaned came much later after my school years were over. I had one wonderful English Literature teacher named Mrs. Hunt, with an unfortunate nick name, who recognised that I was the only person in class who actually read the book. My hand written papers were a total mess but she saw past that and taught me that ultimately it wouldn’t matter. I had a grasp for the content and I should persue it. And I did. English soon became the only thing I was interested in and as soon as I was able I learned how to use a keyboard. That changed everything. For that one positive experience I have dozens of stories that went a very different way. Most of it wasn’t that dramatic. I spent much of my youth sitting in classrooms trying to concentrate but had no clue what the teacher was talking about. They always sounded a little like the adults in the Peanuts cartoons. I was in one magical history class about the Catholic/Protestant Reformation. I sat up and listened in that hour every day. I think it helped that the room was in techno colour. The teacher seemed to understand the need for visual stimulation. I loved that class and I came out of it knowing more about the subject then most of my peers but barely passed because I was unable to memorize the exact dates on a time line. I can now recognize that the information is what is important but as a kid in the state school system, where making the grade is the only measure of success, the whole thing felt pointless. As a result the most useful thing I learned in high school was how to make a bong out of Coke can. A God send for a dyspraxic whom rolling a joint was just far too fiddly. Just one more clever example of finding a different way of going about something.

The more we talk about Dyslexia the less stigma it has. It really shouldn’t be that big a deal. No one has ever died from a misspelt word. The issue is in the handling of the problem. This is what leads to depression, low self-esteem, and much worse. Back in age of evil school masters, left handed children were treated as freaks. They were physically forced to learn how to write with their right hand. We look back on that now as totally insane. Left handed children are catered for in the schools with correct scissors and seat placement. It costs very little to allow a child to be who they are. My wish is that this was also the attitude to dyslexia. It wouldn’t cost much to leave colour overlays on tables for children to pick up if they think it would help. It costs nothing to explain the end goal at the beginning of the lesson rather than the end. Dyslexics need the full picture before they can break it down into details. This is probably an over simplified view of what needs to occur but it’s a decent starting place. The smallest bit of education in this area could change the course of schooling for a child.

The decision to pull my child out of school has felt pretty radical at times but ultimately right. I have been questioned by people who worry that I am putting my issues onto my son. I’m not. He’s got them. Yes, I gave them to him, but by birth, not mind control. I’ve watched Joseph change over the last few years and don’t see any good from letting him continue the way he’s been going. The very fact that I am like him makes me the best person for the job of getting him through it. Joseph and I have a more colourful way of learning that often involves big complicated theories, intuition and resourcefulness. I want him to treasure these things about himself. They are amazing skills. In the one week we’ve been at home he is a different child. I have my happy, confident, inquisitive boy back. Makes it all worth it. Watch this space…

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7 Comments to “The ‘D’ Word”

  1. Mark Says:

    Megan! This is wonderful – direct, honest, and important. I never knew how dyslexics think – only that they reverse letters. Speaking about this both conceptually and in plain language is really eye opening. Trust me writing about this as you go will be interesting for us all. Have no fear you’ll bore us.


  2. Jackie Says:

    Gosh Megan, you really are an inspiration! Good for you for making the tough choices which will no doubt be right for you and your family, and best of luck in your home schooling journey.

  3. Louise Says:

    I’m dyslexic and I’m proud of it. As soon as I knew, lots of “stuff” made sense. I applaud you Megan.

  4. Becky Kerr Says:

    I really enjoyed reading this I could really relate to the peanuts adults, so true. Enjoy your journey with Joseph I think you are doing an amazing job.

  5. Anne Says:

    So much to understand about all this stuff. I’m so glad that Joseph is getting this opportunity to find his own way. I’ve known for a long time that there is often an element of dyspraxia associated with dyslexia. A friend of mine has a daughter with these issues – and the thing we saw most often was that she always had her shoes on the wrong feet – almost without fail! It was one of those interesting quirky things that you remember about people! I wish we had realised sooner for Christopher that he has an element of dyslexia, but it was only when he was in year 12 that it really came to light, and by that time he didn’t want to be labelled and managed to struggle on by himself, He had a lot of teachers saying he was lazy, but at least some of them realised there was a big mis-match with what he contributed to discussions and what he was able to put onto a piece of paper. I think that’s why he ended up being good at physics, maths and art – non of them need lots of words! We all laughed with incredulity at his degree presentation – he got a first and awarded the ‘Writing’ prize for his final piece. He had achieved this because no-one else had thought to present their work as he did – he had put a framework on it that allowed him to break it down into achievable parts so he knew exactly what each page would contain and in such a way that ‘minimal’ was called for. I think with dyslexia you become creative to get through/round the obstacles.

    The way you explain that you need to see what the big picture should look like before you can set about the task speaks lots to me. Perhaps I have an element of this as well. I always found that I had to keep asking ‘Why?’ before I could get a grip on the smaller parts in order to understand where we were supposed to be going with the learning!
    What I haven’t come across before is dyscalculia. I can’t understand how to start with that. Is that about recognising written numbers of understanding the concept? Or both?

    I wish you both well with this journey of discovery. I believe that it is people who look at things in different ways that can come up with some of the most interesting ways of looking at the world and dealing with problems. It’s a hard gift, but I’m sure, with your help, Joseph will find his way. xx

  6. Pete Smith Says:

    This is a remarkable testimony. I did not know of your own hx, but it has obviously furnished you with a valuable insight. Love that Joseph. I’m sure you will be a great steward of his development. 🙂

  7. Patty Says:

    So amazing and so proud of you and Joseph. Love you!

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