Dyslexia can be a debilitating condition for children and adults alike but, as Leona O'Neill points out, no one need be defined by this one single difficulty THREE years ago we were told our oldest boy had dyslexia. For almost a year he was struggling with his reading and having real trouble with his writing and spelling. I knew something was wrong when he would constantly reverse his letters and get really frustrated and annoyed when trying to comprehend his homework.
For those not familiar with the term, dyslexia is an inherited condition that makes it extremely difficult to read, write, and spell in your native language - despite obvious intelligence.
An educational psychologist came to the school and told us that he had the condition. That, because of this, he would need to work doubly hard and have lots of extra help to keep up with his classmates.
I admit I was devastated for him when I found out. Being a journalist and an author, I naturally place a lot of emphasis on the written word. I find writing very therapeutic and I devour several books a week. The ability to escape into a different world inside a book has kept me sane when the real world wasn't so great. To have some kind of condition that would deny my boy this magic was difficult to accept.
My heart broke for the boy who would have to work twice as hard as the non-dyslexic boy next to him to reach the same goals. It broke for the boy who might find his dreams in life might not come true due to dyslexia. Would he be able to be the doctor who invented a pill to cancel out death, as he wanted? Would his dyslexia stop him from writing books chronicling his own space-travel adventures, as he wanted?
When I was at school dyslexia was not a word we were familiar with. People who struggled with their work were often overlooked or put into remedial classes. They were often ridiculed by their peers. I know several people my age with undiagnosed dyslexia who wouldn't let a soul look at their shopping lists, who genuinely struggle to write birthday cards or Facebook status' and then face a barrage of jokes if people can't comprehend what they wanted to say.
Can you imagine the frustration of thinking out a response in your mind and when you write it down it bears no resemblance to what you wanted to communicate?
My son is an extremely intelligent boy. It makes me so mad to hear or read jokes about dyslexia.
I'll tell you something, watching a child struggling in the classroom, losing his confidence, thinking he is not good enough, dreading school and worrying about his future when he is seven years old is not even remotely funny to me.
Speaking to professionals and other parents about dyslexia, I was constantly told to forget about my son being academic, to concentrate on his practical side. I was told to forget about him doing the transfer test - just place him in a local school.
Everyone seemed to say "hope for the best".
All these suggestions smacked of defeat to me. I felt they were resigning my son to a school life of misery. Of course I encourage his practical side - he is absolutely amazing at art, a whiz on the computer, he could build a fully functioning rocket ship from used toilet-roll holders - but I could not condemn my son to dreading and struggling through English and maths and other written subjects until he was 18.
My boy is getting good support at school, we work together at home and he gets extra tuition. All this just to keep up. I have tried every trick in the book, from coloured film over the page when reading to specialist programmes to increase brainpower. I know it's going to be a long road but my boy and I are a team and we'll make it work.
My goal is not to fix him and make his dyslexia disappear. I don't know if that's an impossible task. My goal is to arm him with the tools to cope in school so that he doesn't hate his time there and come home utterly exhausted from the effort. I wish for him is that he continues to excel in his many, many accomplishments, thrive at school and realise that he is one of the most amazing people I will ever have the pleasure of meeting.
I am so very proud of him, of his determination that this will not define him. I am so very proud of his consistent hard work and all he has achieved.
We will not just hope for the best. My boy will shine.