I was brought up in rural Surrey and went to school at Ockham Primary.
I, at the age of five had never heard of dyslexia, but worse still neither had the head mistress or the one other teacher there.
I was up against it from the beginning, yes I had problems and “tellings off “ for being slow, for not remembering how to spell words like “dog” or “god”. Yes there is a joke there, “for years I believed in dog”
The Surrey Education Authority did not at that time “recognise” dyslexia at all, it just didn’t exist. Therefore you could be a bright student, an average student or just plain slow. Guess which one I was?
I still remember my primary headteacher Miss Wilby, calling me a dunce and then chalking it up on the classroom blackboard, “D u n s e”.
No i haven’t misspelled it, that is exactly how she put it on the board for all to see. I remember it was there on the top left hand side of the blackboard all day.
Another huge problem I had was that I could already read when I went to school, I devoured books, they were my escape from being the stupid kid at school.
I could read pretty much perfectly, so if i could read, then why could I not spell?
None of my two teachers at primary ever thought about there being a problem somewhere.
Well the Eleven Plus, that was pitiful, my school had a 99% failure rate. We as kids never spoke about going to grammar school, it was as natural as breathing then we would go to secondary modern.
So on to the secondary school, same there too, same education authority, the same failure to recognize my dyslexia or anyone else’s for that matter.
In my first year I was picked to read the bible in front of the entire school, why because I was the best at reading in my first year.
So how could this eleven year old be able to read but not be able to spell, and by now it was apparent that I would never be a note taker either. I just couldn’t keep up with writing stuff down, thus reinforcing in myself, my slowness and lack of intelligence.
This was going to be the pathway for my life, I didn’t feel stupid, I felt “normal” but my teachers were always there to help reinforce my stupidity.
I can’t blame my teachers entirely, it was the system, the way things worked back then.
Mrs Newton, my english teacher always loved my writing, always marking my essays at 7/10 or 8/10 and I always lost marks for my atrocious spelling. She never once picked up that I might be articulate but could not ever spell it.
So I left school without any GSE’s and took jobs that didn’t need intelligence. It was in my early fifties that I took evening classes in writing that I met Gary Meptead, he was the writing tutor. After the classes he and I would go to the pub and chat about this and that.
It was one of those evenings that Gary convinced me to apply to the University of Brighton to study Art History.
Much to my surprise I was accepted, and it was there that I was tested for dyslexia.
Thank goodness for that. I’m not stupid, I have dyslexia.
I see things differently and I learn differently that’s all.
Blog written by James Wright, Sarah’s partner
Jan 28, 2020
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