Both my husband and I struggled at school more so my husband whom at 15 was kicked out of school after years of being bullied by teachers an...

Melinda's Red Letter

21:04:00 Dyslexia Australia 0 Comments

Both my husband and I struggled at school more so my husband whom at 15 was kicked out of school after years of being bullied by teachers and being called stupid lazy and a no good idiot, he was happy to leave and was in the workforce within a week. I left High school in year 11 as I feared SACE and could never cope in a test like situation, I too was in the workforce within a week. 

This is not what we wanted for our 3 children we hoped their educations would be a much different experience for them. 

Below are 3 very different stories told from me the mother of 3 children under 13 all Dyslexic, and has dysgraphia or Dyscalculia. 

Gypsy aged 13 year 8. Dyslexia and Dyscalculia 

Gypsy struggled in year reception but we weren’t told anything until the end of the year even though in Kindy I was told she was most likely Dyslexic. I was told beginning of year 1 she was immature and being left handed, it would take her longer and this was why she was behind. Term 1, year 1 we moved to a bigger school as our little school was closing down I felt this might be better for her as she was a real socialite and very competitive. Gypsy continued to struggled every year at school but was very happy, loved school and was a well- behaved popular student. 

Year 4 her literacy and numeracy was so poor I was embarrassed and ashamed but also really quite angry. So I felt she would benefit from being in a smaller class so we moved her to a smaller school. Gypsy had 3 DECD Physic assessments between Reception and year 5 all saying she was immature and lacked motivation and organisational skills. 

Being in a class with only 18 students year 5 was a turning point for Gypsy her reader level was 12 but by the end of year 5 it was around 24 she still struggled but with the compassion and care of her new teacher whom was fresh out of Uni and keen to understand and support Gypsy the impact was amazing. 

Gypsy is now in year 8 at high school and still a lover of school with decent grades and a fabulous attitude. The high school has been amazing in supporting Gypsy especially with her Dyscalculia and comprehension issues. Gypsy is allowed extra time in tests and the communication with teachers is fabulous. I do however fear for her when SACE becomes a part of her education as she currently does all her work on a computer SACE is all done in paper format with strict time allocation. 

Imogen aged 12 year 6. Severe Dyslexia and Dysgraphia 

Imogen was very disruptive and never wanted to go to school, or kindy for that matter. She got through Reception at which point I was told Imogen was a very bright kid but didn’t apply herself. 
When Imogen was in year 1 I asked the school why Imogen couldn’t read and write like others I asked for a Dyslexia test to be done as I knew Craig and myself where dyslexic, the principal said ‘Dyslexia is not recognised and isn’t a real thing’. 

Half way through 2011 I was called into a meeting where I was told that I don’t try hard enough to support my child’s education. Imogen hated school she would scream and cry every day. Imogen started to lose friends and was called lazy and silly many times by her year 1 class teacher. I begged the principal to move her to another class but was told it wasn’t possible. 

November 2011 I was asked by the school Principal if I had exposed my children to Marijuana as this was the only reason left as to why my children couldn’t read. I was beyond offended and upset. I kinda just gave up for a while. 

2012 Imogen was in year 2 we had teachers that really seemed to want to help and support Imogen I was super happy and excited because I really felt that this was the change we needed good strong experienced teachers. Imogen’s Teachers was a real hand on teacher and Imogen worked best like this so I was excited. 

Within months things got even worse than I could have ever imagined for Imogen, she begins wetting herself, biting her nails and has limited friendships. She wouldn’t bath and was lying and even stealing. I was called into a meeting again at which point the class teacher said to Imogen ‘you are destined for a life in prison’ she told me I was an over top over baring parent that doesn’t bath her child. She was not doing well at school and this was a reflection on my parenting and not doing enough at home to help her. Imogen’s reading level was 6 she was beyond behind her peers. 

We never returned to that school. 

Imogen along with her sister moved to LP Primary where the rest of 2012 was a bit of a blur and my life became tears every day for hours while my kids where at school I would often have to leave work for a while to get a grip as I just couldn’t understand why a teacher would abuse a child in such a way. I started writing a letter which took me over a year to write to the minister of education, formally complaining about our treatment. 

2013 saw the some change for Imogen. 

We had a new principal at LP she was breathe of fresh air, she organised another DECD Physic test for Imogen at which point the same information came through she was just immature. I was advised to seek a private assessment because the DECD Physic will not assess for Dyslexia as the DECD don’t recognise, support or have the funds for such a thing. 

We met with a private Physic recommended by our school Principal and she did an assessment and 34 pages later we had formal diagnoses that Imogen had severe Dyslexia and Dysgraphia. Our school has taken on all the recommendations from the Physic and I have attended varies information session put on by Dyslexia SA. 

The school doesn’t have the funding to implement everything needed to support Imogen but have accepted her Diagnoses and Imogen has a ILP. I believe as it is a small school it is easier for them to do this and it also has a lot to do with their passion to teach and all the staff seems genuinely interested in supporting Imogen. 

Imogen sees her Physiologist regularly as she has severe anxiety and rarely sleeps her behaviour is a daily struggle at school and home. This is at a cost to us and it is not cheap. There is no funding or support for Imogen as the Government and DECD do not recognise her Dyslexia. 

Heath aged 7 year 2. Severe Dyslexia and Dysgraphia 

2014 our son starts year reception, we know within the first term he too is dyslexic and possibly dysgraphic. The teacher is all over it asking questions and supporting our child. Heath is put on the list for DECD assessment at which point I was very doubtful as the previous DECD reports for my girls were just useless. In 2015 Heath is in year 1 and formally diagnosed with Dyslexia and Dysgraphia by a DECD Physicologist. But bad news is there is still no funding for him as the DECD does not recognise it as a real disability. The school however have been amazing and Heath too as an ILP, and this is only due to the compassion of a small school as I am positive no other school will support us. Heath is in year 2 but in the year R-1 class as he was overwhelmed and was more comfortable in a class of 8. Heath gets embarrassed and angry easily so he sees an Occupational Therapist regularly to help deal with his frustrations around his inability to understand like others. This is at a cost to us and it is not cheap. There is no funding or support for Heath as the Government and DECD do not recognise his Dyslexia. 

Both Heath and Imogen knew they learnt different to others by the time they were in Kindy. Imogen and Gypsy’s DECD Kindy Director saying that they were most likely Dyslexic, yet the school just said I exposed them to drugs, which of course I hadn’t and when I did get a small apology from the principal after writing to the minister of education she still continued to say that if it wasn’t me exposing them it must have been someone else. I can confirm my children have never been exposed to drugs in my care or the care of family. 

I lie awake at night with worry and stress for my children but more so wonder why it is not supported with in the DECD system and the difference from one DECD school to another. And why my daughter Imogen had to be treated so badly by a teacher no differently to my husband 30 years ago, I thought times had changed but appentaly not.. I love my children and don’t want them to grow up to quickly but I pray for the day school finishes for them especially Imogen and Heath. Thankfully I have been blessed to become connected to a group of wonderful dyslexia advocates who have paved the way for my family and support me when I need to vent or get some guidance. 

What is needed now, 

• undergraduate education of teachers in the explicit instruction of systematic synthetic phonic 
• early identification of strugglers with phonics screening in the first year of school 
• early intervention for those strugglers 
• use of truly evidence based intervention in schools 
• professional development around learning difficulties 
• recognition and maintenance of long held accommodations when students sit year 11 and 12 exams 
• DECD staff need to be made accountable for their actions and behaviour 
• evidence based support programs only used in schools 
• use of truly evidence based intervention in schools 
• professional development around learning difficulties for SSO as well as teachers 

This letter has only some of the details around our experience both negative and positive. Not once has Gypsy or Heath been belittled by a teacher, or bullied by students. They have had kind, well-meaning teachers, Unfortunately for Imogen it has been a nightmare form the start and still there is issues, Imogen has been bullied, and belittled by staff, students, pastrol care workers, School support staff and parents. Some whom just don’t know yet that there is a better way to teach reading. A better way that will significantly benefit dyslexic learners but also benefit all students. A better way that will free up learning support for the smaller percentage of students who will need it. 

I could fill the Murray River with the tears I have shed just because of the ignorance around Dyslexia. I am tired and exhausted I shouldn’t have to fight this hard for my children’s Right to learn in such a privileged country. 

Kindest Regards