Entry: 001 Name: Sarah Age: Adult Champion: Mum My mum is my champion. Always in my corner from day one. To give some back ground, ...

My Red Letter 2017 - E001 - Sarah

18:03:00 Dyslexia Australia 0 Comments

Entry: 001
Name: Sarah
Age: Adult
Champion: Mum

My mum is my champion. Always in my corner from day one. To give some back ground, my mum born in England in the 1950’s had a tough start in life. She was raised by a single mother and had to help her often unwell mum care for her 3 younger siblings. She found school confusing and difficult, recalling to me how she would sit there wondering what was going on. She could count and remembers being good at counting but the rest of the time she felt dumb. She was in the dumb class and would hope to just go unnoticed in the classroom. Such is the experience of many children with dyslexia. Her mother and grandmother were illiterate and it is unknown if they had dyslexia as well.

But my mum had something special about her, she had drive and determination that no one was going to stop. She left school at about year 9 having not attended most of the time anyway. She then worked as a beautician to help support her mum and siblings. When older she met my dad who had also left school early. So neither of my parents had any further education. But they had each other. Mum often recalls that I had a book called “Bell and the Baker” I loved the book and always wanted it read to me, being unable to read mum would make up the story based on the pictures. After my brother was born we emigrated to Australia, with two kids, four suitcases and no real qualifications my parents decided we were going to have a better life. They put all they could into buying an old house next door to a petrol station. They got to work renovating that house, my parents are both extremely creative and would gather tile samples to make mosaics in the bathrooms. They did all the renovating they could by themselves and saved every penny. I can remember painting on weekends, it was fun, like a family project. We moved a lot as there was no capital gains tax if it was your primary residence and not an investment property.

From their small start my parents were able to slowly make their way. Both holding down ‘day jobs’ to pay the bills, sometimes multiple jobs at a time, dad worked in a biscuit factory in the day and ran a milk run in the early morning hours. Mum cleaned houses, took in ironing, catered for events and waitressed. At times it was like one parent walked in the door and the next walked out. They always had time for us and it was a happy home. Mum made some of our clothes to save money, we ate left over food, had overseas students stay in the spare bedrooms. Mum and dad were strategic, knowing they would only ever get so far in their minimum wage jobs they would look at real estate on weekends. A typical weekend included getting the paper, making a schedule of open houses, packing a lunch and off we went. Slowly but surely mum and dad were able to make some wise choices and get ahead. They would always say, worst house in the best street, we would buy the place and in no time they had transformed it into something spectacular.

They worked hard, sent us to private school, hired tutors to help us. Always telling us that if we could become qualified in something we would not have to work as hard as them. That their goal was for us to be able to read and write unlike them. Mum would tell me how embarrassing it was to not be able to read, to always make excuses about forgetting her glasses. Then mum started demonstrating in shopping centres, you know giving out the little samples, she started selling so much of the products she was demonstrating it attracted the attention of a certain company. They hired her as a demonstrator for their products and in a matter of years mum had topped the sales records and worked her way up to being the Queensland Territory Manager. Everyone she worked with held degrees and was highly educated. I would sit with mum when I was in primary school and help her create power point presentations for work. She would always get nervous and at times felt inadequate because someone may find out she could not read and write.

At one point the teacher called mum to school to tell her that I kept confusing “there” and “their” and showed her some of my work when mum replied “what’s wrong with that?” The teacher advised she not help me with my homework. Mum got us tutors, they would come after school to help with homework as she could not. Having worked in the beauty industry she would give manicures and  pedicures as payment for tutoring. My brother and I struggled academically in primary school. Often being in put in small groups a having assistance. But mum would never let us give up. If there was a will there was a way. We would learn to read and write and not have to suffer like she did.

I watched my mum work so hard, never stopping. She had something special about her, she could visualise how to turn a dilapidated house into something spectacular. Mum and dad would imagine how a place could look and go about creating it. They still wore clothes they had brought over when we emigrated and we had been in Australia 10 years. They never wasted a cent, being careful but never ever depriving their children of anything. We would have a one day holiday each year where we would travel to the Gold Coast and get a Copenhagen waffle ice cream cone each and that was our lunch. It was such a treat. We looked forward to it all year. Our childhood was happy, playing in the dirt, creating cubby houses, playing imaginary games. We did not have much but what we had we treasured. Mum and dad were so imaginative, in one house they created a hidden cinema room behind a fake bookcase wall. You pushed on the middle book case and it went into the secret room that was set up with projector and screen. They taught us the value of hard work. That when you put your mind to something you can achieve it.

My brother and I both struggled in school, in different ways but we were certainly not the academic type. My mum would call herself illiterate and it was not until some years into our schooling did one of the ladies that was tutoring us offered to tutor mum. It was suggested then that maybe she was dyslexic, she attended tutoring and had little flash cards and spelling words. Mum tried so hard but it seemed to get very little result, if only she could have received the appropriate intervention. My brother and I both inheriting the unique and creative dyslexic brain would compensate for our difficulties, spelling and grammar checks on the computer were a god send. We both completed Year 12 and can read and write. While never being officially diagnosed with Dyslexia while at school we both now know we have dyslexia and ADHD. Both of us have benefited from treatments and have qualifications that allow us to have just one job that provides well.

Mum was such a role model. She would always find a way and instilled in us that it is not the size of the dog in the fight it is the size of the fight in the dog. So my parents, uneducated, unqualified, with two young children in a foreign country now live in a house worth more than 2 million dollars. They have a boat, their own business and several investment properties. To say I am proud is an understatement!! Mum is truly my champion. Without her I would not be a qualified psychologist now working specifically with individuals with learning difficulties, attention deficit disorders and autism spectrum disorders. My mum walked her talk and showed me that just because reading and writing are hard it does not mean you are dumb. The creativeness and out of the box thinking that

comes from a dyslexic mind is something to be valued. Sure we write the wrong letter, we mix up words, we skip words, can’t get our thoughts onto paper well but we have something else, something unique, a gift that other minds do not have. My mum is my champion!!!!

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