Overcoming dyslexia- Florence Beastall
I am only four years older than my brother, so when it was first recognised that he was dyslexic I was still quite young myself. From my childish point of view, I just thought that he was a bit slower at writing than I had been. I knew that he was actually a very clever boy, and if you had a conversation with him, he was very engaging and knowledgeable, but if you’d have asked him to write anything down you’d have found it strange that it was entirely beyond him to transfer his thoughts to paper. There was one day after school that it hit home to me how serious and important recognising dyslexia is for a child. My Mum and brother in were in the living room, and aged 14 or so, he was crying because he found school too hard. It broke my heart. I had never had a problem with any of the work at school, being reasonably bright; the only thing I had needed to worry about was your usual teenage girl things like spots and not letting anyone know you fancied someone a bit weird. Going to school, having to deal with your usual teenage boy things AND not be able to do the work you’re asked to must have been horrendous. I can’t imagine it.
He got through it though. He had a scribe with him for his GCSE’s and did well. At college he had a scribe with him and got better A Level results than I did. And I couldn’t have been prouder of him. He’s now at university, studying Politics, planning to go and study in Norway for a couple of months at the end of the year, I believe the universities are in negotiation about what extra support he will be needing while he’s out there, which is fabulous. Entirely different from the struggle it was for him to get support when he was in primary school. I know my Mum worked very hard to get it recognised that he was dyslexic, and not just a lazy little boy. He got a statement in Year 4, and from then I think things were a little better for him. My advice would be that if you think your child is dyslexic and needs extra support, fight for it, because it can make a lot of difference.
Now he’s at university, I know that the support hasn’t stopped there. He has a special program on his laptop called “Dragon naturally speaking”, which types whatever it is that he says into the microphone, meaning he is able to dictate his essays to his laptop and it does the spelling and writing for him; therefore taking the problematic “getting the ideas to paper” bit of essay writing. It does mean that he gets some wild mistakes in his writing, when he mumbles something and you get a random, nonsensical word in among the argument, but that’s what sending your work to your sister to proof read is all about. For the planning of his essays he uses “inspiration” software, which helps him make mind-maps and set out his thoughts clearly so that he can get straight into writing the essay without having to physically write a plan himself.
Having dyslexia doesn’t mean that you’re not intelligent, and that you can’t get a degree in something as rooted in reading and writing as politics. I have a politics degree myself and I know that there is so much reading to do, and essays are very complicated to plan, but if my brother can do it, there is no reason that someone else as determined couldn’t too. It’s all about having the right support.
I think it is so important to get the right provision as early as you can. My brother is an example of how something as simple as having a scribe with you for your exams can make the difference between getting A Level results that will see you safely into university, and not.