To the Hon Simon Birmingham, Hon Susan Close, Jay Weatherill Premier of South Australia and School Principal “She’s a lovely girl, I hope ...

Jacinta's Red Letter

22:42:00 My Red Letter Dyslexia Awareness 0 Comments

To the Hon Simon Birmingham, Hon Susan Close, Jay Weatherill Premier of South Australia and School Principal

“She’s a lovely girl, I hope she marries a millionaire” Year 1 teacher.   

My name is Jacinta and I have four gorgeous children each with their unique personalities ……My ten-year-old daughter Ruby who is in year 4 has dyslexia.  She was tested by DECS in the fourth term of Reception because she couldn’t sound the alphabet therefore she couldn’t sound out words. She had very poor working memory and would read the word “I” in one sentence but wouldn’t be able to recognise it in the next.  A DECS psychologist came and assessed her and without using the term “Dyslexia” said that she needed explicit teaching with a phonics based program etc etc.  Ruby did get help but she didn’t improve and that was the only time I saw the DECS psychologist even though I was told she would reassess Ruby every term!   

In year one Ruby had a teacher who either couldn’t be bothered reading her DECS report or couldn’t be bothered implementing any of it.  I often asked her what else we could do and she threw her hands up in the air and said “Nothing” and then told me “She’s a lovely girl. I hope she marries a millionaire”!!!!!  REALLY …. REALLY…. how can a teacher say that about any student let alone one that had a learning disability. I was furious and so disappointed. I didn’t know what else to do.

Needless to say, Ruby was a long way behind all of her peers by the time she started Year 2.   She was lucky that in this year she had a proactive teacher who was passionate about her students learning, but by this stage there were already changes in Ruby’s personality and her behaviour at home.  At school Ruby was the perfect student, she was very conscientious and attentive and never gave up, but at home she was more and more angry and frustrated to the point that nearly every night she would have a melt down over the smallest thing. It was frightening: she would be pulling her hair, hitting her head with her hands, scratching, hitting and biting her siblings. Ruby would be in tears and so would I, I didn’t understand it and neither did she.   

To cut a long story short, after talking to a friend who works with dyslexic children, he did some tests to see if Ruby had the warning signs of dyslexia. Low and behold, she did, so we went to have a formal assessment with an educational psychologist at Fullarton House.  This cost alone was $800 and from what I hear that is on the cheap end of the scale. My husband and I have four young children and believe me, the $800 cost was very significant for us, but we would do anything to help our children.  

It turned out that Ruby is dyslexic. The relief of this diagnosis for myself and for Ruby were immense. Finally we could try to understand this dyslexia and get the appropriate help. Ruby felt relief in many ways because she now knew that she wasn’t dumb, it was just her brain that works in a different way. 

So my next thoughts were hopeful – at least now with a diagnosis we’ll get the right help from the school. Ummmm – NO! Unfortunately state schools are not funded for dyslexic children … That’s crazy!  These kids have a neurological disorder and are considered to have a disability according to the Disability Act, but schools do not receive funding!!!  How can this be?  

We are lucky in a way that our school did and still does try to help Ruby, but they didn’t and still don’t have a program specifically designed to help dyslexic learning, so she is still being taught the way her brain doesn’t work.  This year Ruby has a fantastic teacher who understands dyslexia. This is purely because he has a brother with dyslexia and he’s seen first-hand the devastating consequences it can have when not properly addressed. We also now have an amazing tutor for Ruby who is teaching her the way her brain needs to be taught and we pay every week for this.  

In actual fact isn’t it a no brainer that all schools and teachers should be educated in this (Dyslexia) and other learning disabilities? Shouldn’t programs and teaching be implemented that are evidence based and success based for all students including the 1 in 5 with dyslexic type difficulties?  

Now, due to lack of appropriate help, support and teaching, my Ruby’s self-esteem is in tatters, she has huge anxiety and she sees a psychologist to give her tools to help her combat the negative thoughts and feelings she has about herself. This is not OK!!  Children with dyslexia are being let down by the system that promises to educate them and the process of change is happening too slowly for the children that are currently in the school system.    

Ruby is very talented at sports, visual arts, drawing and singing but even now she doesn’t believe she’s good at these things! All we can do it keep building her up in the hope that one day (hopefully very soon) she can see how totally amazing she is. 

Ruby is a fighter and dyslexia has made her so very resilient but there are times when my heart breaks for her…how resilient do these children have to be?  She will succeed in her life but not because of the education system, she’ll succeed because she has two parents that love her very much and will make sure she gets the best possible help. Unfortunately there are many children out there who do not have this level of support, where will they end up?? 

My hope is that my letter and others will bring to your attention the need for a change in programs and teaching in our schools.  My hope is that teachers will be given access and training in the areas of learning disabilities and that others will not go through what Ruby and our family have had to endure.

Kinds Regards,  
Jacinta  

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