Do you ‘fake it’?

The Evening Standard’s campaign on literacy states “One in four children leaves the capital’s state primaries unable to read properly. Why are they unable to read? Who is to blame? Teachers? Parents? Social demographics? What if a high percent of those who can’t read… just don’t know how?

The Evening Standard revealed the heart breaking story of a mum trying to change the system regarding the curriculum and dyslexia. She reveals that, “her son is now so far behind his peers that he will never catch up”. One in five people have dyslexia, the majority of who go undiagnosed. I have learnt a lot about dyslexia from my dad, who was only ‘officially’ told he had dyslexia 10 years ago. He grew up in the 70’s. Not only did he have to face racial prejudices, but being called black and ‘dumb’ made the situation a lot worse. Many of his teachers would ‘tell him to draw a picture’ as ‘not everyone is good at reading or writing’. My dad was extremely talented in a whole spectrum of subjects from Science to English. However, what held him back was the written assessments .He knew what he wanted to say, but once forced to translate that into writing-words failed him.

My dad finds it hard to associate sounds with letters. To him, they are just images and the added ‘sound’ is just more of a complication. He did not understand the concept of what ‘language’ was until he was in secondary school and started to formulate sentences and make links with words. Most of the words that he learnt how to write were through association with objects. There had to be a connection for him to make sense of the written form.

Noam Chomsky on how we acquire language.

So, how did he manage to succeed? How did he overcome the challenges? Well, like many people with dyslexia they have to learn to overcompensate certain skills that they have, so that their reading and writing skills does not take centre stage. My dad said he had to ‘fake it’ during school. His friends would read out the comprehension passages or short stories and he would memorise the key points. His extensive vocabulary/memory helped him during public speeches and acting roles. Many people with dyslexia have an amazing long term memory but a not soo good short term memory, hence why reading and writing is quite confusing for some to grasp.

This did not deter my dad; he continued to persevere and discovered that ‘drawing pictures’ was something he was extremely good at. His creativity has enabled him to be successful in various work environments, from being head chef, achieve a 1st class degree, being a teacher and now a senior manager and now a part time sculpture artist.

Noam Chomsky on language and behaviour

Controversy in labeling dyslexia as a learning disability has raised a lot of debate. If dyslexia was not recognised as a ‘disability’, then how would people know what they had? Dyslexia does ‘disable’ the person in certain areas of their life. However, this is all context specific. What about those children learning to read in other countries? Japanese and Chinese languages are a lot more image focused, thus those with dyslexia would probably learn to read a lot faster.

Society seems to have mixed feelings in regards to what dyslexia is and how to integrate those who have it into society. There is still confusion surrounding the subject and many who reveal they have it are met with sympathetic ‘ahhhhs’ or ‘oooohs’. Schools and education facilitators play a crucial role in removing the stigma attached to having dyslexia. There are now a lot of resources and help for those living with dyslexia. Society is a lot more open and has discovered /discovering new ways to help those with dyslexia. Many universities provide special laptops with voice recognition software to help make essay writing more accessible. Examination boards allow those with dyslexia more time during exams.

What if those one in four children who left school unable to read properly merely had difficulty understanding the concept of English Language? What if English Language was the problem…


A mind once stretched by a new

idea never regains its original



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