I loved school, and I love reading. Reading for me was effortless and magical, I collect children's literature and love reading stories ...

Meet The Team - Julie Mavlian

12:05:00 Dyslexia Australia 1 Comments

I loved school, and I love reading. Reading for me was effortless and magical, I collect children's literature and love reading stories to children, it was no wonder I became a teacher. I have always been a teacher since I left school, I have known nothing else, and I love my job. 

When I had my own children I was excited, I read to my son Ben, everyday, and he loved stories, he loved learning and couldn't wait to go to "big school". He was going to fly, but instead he got slammed! His enthusiasm was very short lived, and he struggled to keep up. He was bright, intelligent, and could build the most amazing things in LEGO with no instructions, so the teachers said he "wasn't trying hard enough", "he's a boy, they take a little longer", "it will click", "wait and see", "he's lazy" and even, "he just has to practice reading more". I knew in my heart this wasn't right. We were advised to try coloured lenses and behavioural optometry, which we did, but it didn't help. 

I was a teacher so I used what I learned in uni to teach my son. It didn't help. I now know why. More intensity of what doesn't work still will not work! The National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy in Australia reported that teachers in Australia, are underprepared to teach literacy, and especially those with dyslexia. This inquiry should be read by EVERY teacher in Australia and it helped me to see the research to practice gap that exists in our schools. 

In my quest to understand dyslexia I found the Australian Dyslexia Association, they set us on the right path. I became an Associate Member of the ADA (AMADA) and taught my son to read. I joined a small Facebook group with less than 100 people in it called, Dyslexia Support Australia. I wanted to share what I had learned and to help other parents to understand reading research and to avoid wasting valuable instructional time on non-evidence based methods. 

Over the years the Facebook group has grown to almost 6000 members, and I was joined by two more administrators. We are now affiliated with other state and regional Facebook groups around the country with combined memberships in excess of 10,000. During this time I have met the most passionate and supportive advocates, many of whom are now dear friends. 

Ben is now 15 and although his reading is accurate, it is still slow. He requires accommodations in school if he is to keep up with his peers. He was identified late because many teachers, including myself, are not aware of what dyslexia looks like, nor are they trained to identify it early. Ben developed severe anxiety around school, something else that we now have to battle. Reading research clearly states that early identification with effective, evidence based literacy instruction can prevent most cases of reading failure, and protect children from low self-esteem, anxiety and other mental health issues. It's far more effective when delivered in the first few years of schooling. This is now what we both passionately advocate for. 

My son is the bravest person I know. He has had years of struggling at school, feeling misunderstood by teachers and calling himself dumb and stupid, yet getting up again everyday to face the struggle all over again. How many of us would endure such a struggle? I cannot imagine the misery, his schooling experience is such a stark contrast to my own, yet somehow he keeps going. 

Ben is proud of his dyslexia and has initiated advocacy in TV, newspapers and appeared in Outside the Square documentary series, and even met the Federal Education Minister. Reading is still laborious, and school still a struggle, but he understands his dyslexia well now has tools to help him. His message to kids is clear, if you're struggling to keep up, go get help from an adult, and never, never, never give up!


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