In early 2015 I joined the administration team of the Facebook based support group ‘Dyslexia Support Australia’ .  Every day I read post...

Meet The Team - Julie Hermansen

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Julie Hermansen at Light it Red 2015
In early 2015 I joined the administration team of the Facebook based support group ‘Dyslexia Support Australia’

Every day I read posts from families that could bring you to tears. Children all over the country are being put through needless shame and anxiety. Parents are at breaking point and posting pleas for help and not knowing where to turn. The effect of this needless shame has repercussions that last a lifetime. 

I then began to learn about the ‘statistics’ that are the results of this one size fits all education system. The effects on mental health, the links to drug and alcohol abuse, the links to juvenile detention and adult inmates in jails. 

Being ‘disregarded’ from age 5 has huge impacts on lives. 

These stories don’t apply to all people with dyslexia of course, many have risen above and beyond, whether it be by their own strengths, a parent who fought for them, or a teacher who believed in them. But every one of them at one stage or another has felt the shame and anxiety that dyslexia brings in our modern society and in our classrooms.

This has to change. Why should a learning difference that comes with its own set of amazing abilities make a person feel less worthy?

Last year I heard a story of a young adult, not quite 18, he had left high school early, unable to read or write, he had developed anxiety early in his school years, then became depressed by early high school, the medical practitioner who had been working with this young man said these words, which I won’t easily forget, ‘imagine being thrown on the scrapheap of life before you even reach 18’.

To me this is a national shame. The powers that be deserve the shame and not the kids or the adults who have been failed by the system.

And so during the year of 2015 a group of 17 passionate mums joined forces, all of us have links to various Facebook based Dyslexia support groups and all have a fire in our bellies. We come with a wide range of backgrounds, abilities and qualifications. But we were joined together by the need to see change happen.

I can safely say that each of these women have made a big difference in many lives. Every spare moment of our lives is spent voluntarily assisting families, sharing information and experiences, writing letters and submissions, sharing documents and studies to help families find the right path. Even when things are falling apart in the background these amazing women keep it together for the people they help.

I’m not going to mention their names here in this blog, but I hope that over the coming weeks that each will submit their own blog and tell their own stories.

In September 2015 it was suggested by one of the group that we could look at lighting up buildings or structures in red on International Dyslexia Day (October 15) to raise awareness for dyslexia. 

Things spiralled from there.  

Within 5 weeks we had buildings and structures in every major city of Australia committed to lighting up in red for Dyslexia. The excitement buzzed and soon there were children all over the country, so happy and proud that these iconic structures were lighting up for them! 

On October 15, 2015 (& having had no budget to work with) we got these buildings and structures to light red. Children and families met up at venues around the country, dressed in red, with red balloons, red ribbons in hair and some with hair coloured red. Those that couldn’t attend the venues had their own events, lighting red candles or convincing their schools to participate by having ‘Light it Red’ Days at school. There were red cupcakes, red nails and red streamers. And in my case red eyes. I was overwhelmed to see these kids and families so proud and feeling empowered. 

And we had done it, in just a few weeks. 

We are now close to October 15, 2016. We are once again planning a national event, but not content with one awareness campaign, we decided to do two. So in 2016 we will create ‘Light it Red for Dyslexia’ on October 15, as well as the ‘Make it a Red Letter Day’ Campaign.

We encourage all families touched by dyslexia to please join our campaigns. Write a Red Letter to someone you feel could influence change (and remember to enter into the competition for a chance to win some amazing prizes) and please join us in organising events for October 15. 

It’s important that we don’t rest until we know that our children and the generations to come receive the education that they deserve, and that we have done everything we can to prevent our precious, creative, out of the box thinkers from becoming a statistic. 

We need the strengths of those with dyslexia to be recognised for what they really are, a learning difference that comes with many unique abilities.

Please join us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest and use the hashtags #myredletter #lightitredfordyslexia

Julie Hermansen

(Postscript. I also want to mention the amazing work from the creator of this webpage, who also voluntarily runs her own local support group. Thank you Maree for rising to my call for help, like a true dyslexia advocate mum, you have gone above and beyond.)