Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Word association

Geoff Brooks

Dyslexia. There really are no words to describe it. In a very literal sense, that is exactly what dyslexia can mean, a world without words or sentences.

As a child I envied my friends' ability to laugh out loud at joke books, to revel in the latest action novel. Imagine a child not able to immerse themselves in the latest Harry Potter episode, not through lack of interest, but through a lack of capability.

It is a world in which reading the most simple sentence is akin to cracking the Enigma code. Until recently, sufferers of dyslexia were forced to 'cope' with their disability, for dyslexia was not recognised for the neurological condition that it is now known to be.

I was incredibly lucky that my coping strategy was to excel in other areas.

It seems incredible to me now, as an adult with children of my own, that I read and write for pleasure. As a child, the thought of having to read filled me with a sense of dread. Reading was like a game that I could never understand the rules to and as such was never able to participate.

I am at last enjoying the real success in my battle against dyslexia through a six-week programme called BrightStar, a teaching tool designed to accelerate the learning process.

The programme uses a visual light display to stimulate the brain's visual and language pathways. It uses a sequence of 'interventions' with BrightStar's software technology for 20 minutes twice a week, along with a series of weekly 60-minute multi-sensory teaching lessons.

BrightStar has removed much of the fog. My processing of information has improved and my short-term memory skills are far greater. I can see and think more clearly and can read with greater clarity. I feel so much calmer.

With the exam season fast approaching, many students have the additional pressure of dealing with dyslexia as they prepare for their GCSEs or A levels. Why should they, just because they are dyslexic?

As we all know it's a stressful enough time as it is. If you're dyslexic, it's a nightmare. What is the government doing to give dyslexic children the same chance?

The government is funding millions to enable children to eat more healthily. What about funding to help our children learn? What nourishment do we really seek from our schools - anatomical or academic? I'll leave you to decide.

At present in the UK, over ten per cent of the population are known to suffer from dyslexia. Up to six per cent of the children have been diagnosed in some shape or form. Of these only 11 per cent receive any form of specialised remedial teaching.

This means that around 90 per cent of children who suffer from dyslexia receive no specialised education whatsoever, and yet government policy and legislation indicates that all children disabled with dyslexia have a right to specific educational support. Candidly, this is just not happening; but it needs to.

There is a common myth that smart people cannot be dyslexic. Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, Richard Branson, Agatha Christie, Sarah Miles to name but a few all excelled. Yes, they are all dyslexic, but not stupid.

My mission with BrightStar is to distribute their technology to as many schools, colleges and educational establishments, both public and private, as we are able.

Like many other organisations trying to assist the dyslexic community, we need the support and mandate of the government to do something about the plight of those suffering from dyslexia.

My plea is for commercial, governmental and charitable organisations to work together to craft a plan to disseminate tools, best practices, processes and funds that will enable educators to unlock childrens' true abilities.

I will leave you with one final thought from the mother of a student recently graduated from the BrightStar programme. "Tyler's progress has been so dramatic that for the first time in his life he was able to read the messages in his birthday cards on Friday.

"He is making good progress at school and is now starting to enjoy his studies."

You are one of the few empowered to make the changes necessary. Dyslexic children need your help.

By Duncan Goodhew, lifelong dyslexic, Olympic gold medallist, MBE

More information

For more information on Brightstar visit www.brightstarlearning.com

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