THE BLOG

A Quiet Word...

27/02/2014 11:55 GMT | Updated 28/04/2014 10:59 BST

Durham University's Julian Elliot says the definition of dyslexia is 'so broad it's impossible to make a separation between a child with the condition and a poor reader.'

Let me help you, Mr Elliot, as the mother of one child who is a poor reader and another who is dyslexic. I can tell you that the differences are easy to spot.

My youngest son by the age of two, could converse happily on just about any subject. I would stand blushing with mock humility while the parents of his peers, told me how 'advanced' he was and asked 'where did he learn to talk like that?' I took all the credit, being a lover of words, I had made it my mission to read and chat to him whenever we were together. We didn't (and still don't) own a television, I know weirdo's... but instead, lived in a house full of books with the radio burbling away in the background.

At three, keen to feed his academic promise, I bundled him off to nursery. I vividly remember collecting him one afternoon and asking him what he had done, he replied, proudly.

'I wrote my news!'

'Well, hey!' I replied, 'what did you write about?'

'I said that I went on granddad's boat and we put the spinnaker up and went zooming in the water!'

I was positively glowing and couldn't wait to pin this little written beauty up on the cupboard door. He pulled the sheet from his Buzz Lightyear rucksack and I stared at it, bemused. It said simply 'bot,' each letter was approximately five inches in height.

'What does that say, mate?' I asked.

'Boat.' He answered.

And so it began. There was evidently some form of disconnect between my son's verbal acuity and his ability to write things down. His math's skills soared and he remained bright and questioning with a fascination for the world around him, but reading and writing were still huge hurdles. I wasn't overly worried, figuring that he would learn at his own pace, advanced in some areas and lagging in others, just like every other child on the planet.

Primary school was when things changed. My happy, chatty child turned into a little boy who was withdrawn, sullen and tearful. I desperately tried to get to the bottom of it, no longer caring a fig about his academic achievements, but wanting my son to be happy. Endless meetings with his teacher and the 'special needs' teaching assistant, revealed that he had been given a desk in the corner, facing a wall, alone. The reason being 'he asks so many questions that is is easier for him if there are no distractions.'

I cried all the way home, and even now, over a decade later, feel quite tearful at the image of my little boy sitting with his back to the rest of the class. For him, it was isolating and confusing. The antiquated teacher retired shortly afterwards, but the damage had been done.

A diagnosis of dyslexia, dyspraxia and all the usual associated traits, were heaped upon my child. I had no knowledge of the condition and felt panicked about what to do next. I decided, in my wisdom, to do absolutely nothing. I figured that if this diagnosis were correct, then that would be his 'normal' and considered it vital that he find coping mechanisms to help him overcome this disorder.

My husband and I have spent countless hours watching our son struggle to complete essays, write notes, address envelopes and fill out forms. Homework that might take his brother an hour to complete would take our youngest four times as long. To witness his frustration has been heartbreaking.

My oldest boy has not been bitten by the book bug, preferring gaming, music and girl chasing. He is an average reader, and is happy that way. He is hoping to become a pilot. But it was always clear that with my youngest, it wasn't a lack of interest, or a lack of effort, that prevented him from reading well.

It does have its lighter moments. At the age of 18, he still occasionally mis-spells his surname. I watch him studying the word until he says, 'I know it's not right, but I don't know why!' And when French Connection released their FCUK range, he chuckled for years at the audacity of printing a perfectly spelt expletive on a T-shirt.

Now, he has excelled in science, has a fat clutch of A* GCSE's and is planning on studying medicine, with a view to going into medical research. Who knows, he may even end up becoming an expert on dyslexia and if he does, I'll be sure to put him in touch with Julian Elliot...