Overcoming the Giant of Dyslexia

Ten things about overcoming giants

I. I believe in everyone’s life there are giants of different shapes and sizes. All these giants have one thing in common – they put us down and prevent our growth.  At the age of five I met my giant, he was called Learning Difficulties, oh and boy did he make me cower.  He towered over my life like a black rain cloud that never moved, but constantly soaked me with self-doubt and a longing to hide from the world, which I saw as bright, colorful and smart, and to which I obviously didn’t belong.  At the time I didn’t realize that I had Dyslexia I just thought I was stupid.  I learned that I needed a fighting spirit to overcome giants, to not give in, but fight my way through life and be an over-comer.

2. When I started high school I was told that as my English was so bad I couldn’t have French lessons, instead I would have to attend an extra-English class (the one where all the stupid children were I thought to myself). It’s hard to put into words the feelings that become ingrained in your spirit when you constantly tell yourself that you are stupid.  Reading Disorder – otherwise known as Dyslexia, was never a label given to me so what else was I think except that I was useless and stupid? Recognize your strengths.  Forget about the giant, concentrate on the great things in your life – they are there you just have to recognize them.

My little sister Sam, my mum and me

3. I am a great typist! Fastest typist in Plymouth High school so good they had to send me to Exeter to do my stage 3 RSA because only two other people were doing it that year (the rest of my class were still learning stage 2).  Great, I’m moving away from the shadow of my giant right?    I went to an interview for a PA job and when I got there I remembered I was stupid, my fingers tightened and I froze and couldn’t type.  Needless to say, someone from my class, who wasn’t as good as me, got that job.  My first job after leaving school was washing up dishes in a restaurant on Plymouth Hoe.  For the time being the giant Dyslexia was winning the battle. Sometimes you think you have overcome your giant and then out of the blue they can raise their ugly heads again.  So persevere a knockback is not a knockout.

4. My first son arrived in my life when I was only twenty-two years old, at the time I thought I was grown up, now looking back I realize I was still just a child. Within seven years I had four precious sons, who became my world.  I tried my hardest to give them the best possible life I could with what I had.  I sometimes messed up but I certainly tried.  When your children hurt you hurt and so when giants came into their life it tore me up inside because no matter what I said I seemed unable to help them.  My eldest son became the butt of bullying when he started high school.  We had lived for several years in Africa and he had a funny accent (according to the kids) and he was overweight.  He hid it from me for years because he didn’t want to worry me.  There didn’t seem to be anything I could do, I was crushed, I knew how he was feeling.  He is a grown man now with a child of his own, and the bullying giant is still crippling his life consuming his soul with negativity.  When my third son started school I already knew he had a problem and I knew what it was.  The giant Dyslexia had jumped from me to him and increased in strength.  For three years I battled with the school for help with him, in the end, I had to hint at suing the school for them to listen to me.  Giants can be heredity.  I learned to be positive and monitor my speech.  Children are sponges that soak up every single word you say in front of them.

5. Toe to Toe is a brilliant book for children with Dyslexia. I spent ten minutes a day with Ben going through the book, no more than that, and every single day – including birthdays and Christmas.  Within weeks he was beginning to read at last at the age of eight, tears are falling now as I write, he believed he was stupid.  It didn’t matter how much I told him that he was clever and smart he didn’t believe me.  If only I had got the school to act when he was five and we had help then, maybe then Ben wouldn’t have thought he was stupid.  A fact about Dyslexia is that the earlier you diagnose a child with it the better chance they have of overcoming it quickly.  Another person’s giant might appear tiny and insignificant to you, but to the person who is under the shadow of it that giant appears to them to be the tallest thing on earth.

6. At the age of forty and a single Mum and with four sons to provide for, I decided to go back to college to learn a trade to support us all. Living in Cheshire I attended Stockport College, free of charge because I was a single Mum, (my heartfelt thanks to our wonderful country that encourages singles, Mums, back to work) and I completed my AAT course with flying colors (wait, but aren’t I stupid? – Apparently not).  I went into a job straight away where over the next eight years I got promoted three times and I am now the Finance Manager.  Ben, who suffers from reading disorder far greater than me, is now a farm manager in Australia – the top guy, after several promotions.   Giants only hold us back if we let them.

7. I always thought that I never received help in school because it was the 60’s and they hadn’t heard of it. I was, therefore, quite shocked to discover that actually Dyslexia was first identified by Oswald Berkhan in 1881!  This angers me, why then in 1984 was I still struggling to get help for my son?  But worst still, in 2016 why on earth are parents still battling with the schools to help their children with this reading disorder?  We live in a progressive society, don’t we?  Yes of course we do, but unfortunately, money dictates what help can be offered to these children who struggle.  Dyslexia is defined as ‘A difficulty in reading despite normal intelligence.’  I knew my son was intelligent, fabulous memory and smart, but he couldn’t read and everything in life swings around being able to read and write.  Between 3-7% of the population may have some degree of symptoms and learning difficulties due to Dyslexia.  This giant may seem too big to tackle, but we can defeat it by helping one child at a time learn to read and build their self-confidence.

It turns out I never was stupid, just found reading hard

8. I like to look at the list of famous people who have Dyslexia but never let it hold them back. Agatha Christie (my heroine), then Lynda La Plante, Tom Cruise and Jennifer Aniston to name only a few.  People who can’t see letters like other people do, learning scripts and writing books, it’s inspirational and motivates me.  Dyslexic people see letters upside down.  If you think you have a child who is struggling look out for them swapping d with p and g with b, this is the clearest indication that they are Dyslexic.  My son also used to cross his hands over his plate to pick up his knife and fork, another tell-tale sign.  Whatever a person’s giant is, it makes them see the world in a different way.

9. Why giants? Because I am a storyteller and I see things in my mind’s eye, and in stories of old giants were always the huge baddies that needed to be killed so everyone could live happily ever after.  Whatever form they take, Giants need to be slain in our own life so that we can live as happy healthy people.  Depression, anger, bullying, disabilities, poverty – the list (unfortunately) is very long.  Whatever giant affects us we need to recognize it, quantify it and then dispel it.  Dyslexia was my giant that I have finally crushed, I wonder if you have a giant you need to slay to live a fulfilled life?

10. I have poured my heart into the main character of my book, a young orphan boy called Idi. He starts his life being called names and bullied, the villagers know him as the idiot and as he grows the name is shortened to Idi.  There will be three books and each one will see him learning to like himself and begin to overcome his own giant.   Giants don’t like positive words.  I began to turn around the way I saw myself by declaring out loud good things about myself, sounds crazy right?  There is magic in words, we use them to build up “Oh well done” or to knock down “you stupid ….” Don’t believe me?  Watch children especially, but adults do the same, their persona’s swell with praise and deflate with knockbacks.  Even the Bible begins by telling us that God spoke and the world was created.