Entry:  E102 Name:  Dan Age:  Adult Champion: My Mum "As Daniel began to read he began to rock - an indication of how anxious he h...

My Red Letter 2017 - E102 - Dan

16:47:00 Dyslexia Australia 0 Comments

Entry: E102
Name: Dan
Age: Adult
Champion: My Mum

"As Daniel began to read he began to rock - an indication of how anxious he has become." This is an extract from an Educational Psychologist report about me as a child and a small part of my dyslexia story. My Dyslexic Champion is my mum because in my early years she was there with me every step of the way! She was an amazing advocate for me all through school dealing with my teachers. She took me to an educational psychologist when I was nine and together we heard the news that I was dyslexic and not “dumb” as I had often told her. Mum took me to every speech pathology session, every tutoring session for reading, writing and maths, every occupational therapy session and every other specialist appointment I went to. My mum was determined to find something or someone to help me overcome my dyslexia. She read with me every single night as a child and worked with me at home which I am sure at times was very challenging. Mum was my counsellor, consoler and motivator. She read everything she could find about dyslexia and left no stone unturned. Later in life it was my mum who inspired me to become a teacher and help other children including dyslexic children with their learning. 

My Dyslexia story
I remember my first day of Kindergarten walking into the classroom eyes wide open full of joy and excitement to be at school. I sat down on the floor and the teacher had drawn a picture of Humpty Dumpty siting on a wall on the blackboard. I told the boy next to me that that was Humpty Dumpty and he agreed. We sang the nursery rhyme and I think that was the highlight of primary school for me. From that point on it seems like it all went downhill. Each day went by and I wasn't able to read, write, spell or do mathematics and I worked out pretty quickly that I couldn't.  My parents raised concerns at the end of Kindergarten when I couldn't read or write but they were told everything was fine. They were told "we all develop differently, we all get there in our own time, you can't compare him to his brother"(not dyslexic) They raised concerns again when I was in Year 1 and were told similar things. 

 Struggling with reading, writing and spelling can have a profoundly negative impact on a person's self esteem and self worth. For dyslexics school can be a miserable, lonely place that causes anxiety. "Daniel has severe specific learning disabilities....He feels inferior to others."(Educational Psychologist report aged 9)   I can vividly remember being in Year 2 at school sitting on the floor during a whole class lesson looking out of the window watching some birds flying around and thinking how lucky those birds were because they didn't have to go to school. My mum would pick up the pieces of my shattered self esteem whenever I had a bad day at school. 

On top of my learning problems I had difficulties with all sequencing skills - fine motor, gross motor, auditory and visual. I was cross dominate which led to coordination problems (right eye dominate, left handed for some things, right handed for other, I jumped off my left leg but kicked a ball with my right leg.) Life at school was very difficult. I know I got tired of hearing about all the things "I should be able to do by now at my age." And that I "wasn't trying today." No child goes to school not wanting to be able to learn and yet at times I was told to try harder or you could do this yesterday so you must not be concentrating today. That's the funny thing about dyslexia and working memory you never know when it's going to work. I was miserable at school and I just wanted to be normal. 

At the age of 9 years and 2 months my life changed forever I went to an educational psychologist and was diagnosed as dyslexic. The psychologist found that my verbal intelligence, vocabulary and listening comprehension skill were far greater than my reading and spelling ability. (My reading comprehension and spelling were 4 years below my potential level.) The reason for this was that I couldn't decode the words on the page. I would now say I had poor orthographic mapping skills which impacted adversely on my reading comprehension. According to the psychologist's report I was trying to use my intelligence to work out the words based on the context due to the fact that I couldn't read the words which undermined my comprehension of the text. A later educational psychologist report from high school noted that I had very strong oral language and vocabulary skills as well as excellent listening comprehension. However I had problems with decoding particularly with multi syllable words and these inaccuracies undermined my reading comprehension. "Daniel has a decoding problem not a comprehension problem." The psychologist also found that I had severe fine motor coordination problems. So things like holding a pencil, writing and tying shoe laces were difficult. I had severe problems with auditory sequencing and auditory processing. Overall there was a "Very wide differential between verbal and performance scales."

At the end of the report the psychologist concluded "Daniel will also need a very great deal of sympathetic support and encouragement from home and from school to help re-build his rather battered self-image, and also to maintain his motivation to continue the struggle to learn against the odds." This comment sums up how I felt about myself in year 4 and beyond. Unfortunately the school said they didn't hold to IQ tests and I suspect they didn't know much about dyslexia or how to help me. However it was a great relief for me to know that I wasn't "dumb" and It was a starting point. My parents were able to get some intervention from specialists outside of school based on the report in the form of tutoring, occupational therapy and speech pathology. It was the beginning of a long hard journey to overcome my learning difficulties/ differences. A journey that I am still on today and will be for the rest of my life. Thanks to my mum and dad I was very lucky to be identified and to get some intervention for my dyslexia not every dyslexic is so lucky.

What's it like being dyslexic?
My own personal experience of being dyslexic is one of extremes and not much in between. At times it is wonderful. I have a vivid imagination, I am creative, I am good at problem solving and can think outside the box, I enjoy drawing, animating and photography as well as playing and writing music. I have a good sense of humour and I am good at seeing the big picture.   At other times it's incredibly frustrating and demoralizing.  I have to work hard on my organisational and planning skills, my short term memory can fail me. (So I have to take notes...I just have to remember where I put them.) I get anxious about things and at times still feel like that 9 year old boy who felt inferior to everyone else. As much as I have a creative side I have difficult expressing my ideas as precisely as I want. Dyslexia has made me determined and resilient but at times dyslexia has made me anxious, insecure and full of self-doubt. Like I said my experience of dyslexia is one of extremes and contradictions. 

I've been fortunate enough to have had lots of support and I thank my family for that. As a mature age student I decided to become a teacher and my parents were very supportive of this as they always have been of everything I have done. My parents have always tried to help me find my place in world. There is no way I would have considered stepping back into a school after I finished it. I was so glad to get out. I've been fortunate to win multiple awards for my educational music YouTube channel (education and music two things I really struggled with as a child!) I am now studying Multisensory Structured Language with MSL Australia and helping my son with his dyslexia and hopefully I can help many more dyslexic children in the years ahead.  There is no way I would have been able to achieve all the things I have without my parent’s support and advocacy. 

If I wasn't dyslexic and my brain didn't work differently then there would be no Rocking Dan Teaching Man. When people ask me, "How to write your songs?" I can only answer with "I don't really know!" Because I don't really know the songs just come to me. It is amazing how the dyslexic brain works sometimes it's like magic! I can also say that there would be no Rocking Dan Teaching Man without the support of my mum. She encouraged me to learn the guitar after I left school despite the many failed attempts I had growing up to learn musical instruments. 

My Advice
My advice to other dyslexics is: don't give up! I know things are hard but you are intelligent, you are capable, you are resilient and you will find your place in the world.  Thanks to my parents for all that you have done for me.  A special thanks to my mum for sitting through every intervention session, every parent teacher meeting and for the hours you put into my learning at home. Thank you for inspiring me to become a teacher and an educational YouTube musician.  You have always being my number one advocate and my dyslexia champion.  
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