It is a pleasure to be here talking to ULRs and activists interested in learning issues. Education, both how it affects us and how we gain from it, is key to us all as individuals but also to us as a Union.
Language can be a social barrier to all of us. The way we speak, our accent, our use of grammar can all be used to judge, include or exclude us. You just have to think of educational or medical speak for example.
Many of us struggle with Grammar.
Dyslexics have difficulties with learning how to decode at the word level, to spell, and to read accurately and fluently. It is not a lack of intellectual ability, indeed Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell were all famous Dyslexics.
Dyslexia affects about 1 in 10 people. For many it is an undiagnosed condition. Generations have grown up labelled as slow, stupid or inattentive due to a lack of public and professional awareness.
Dyslexia was first identified in the 1880’s but it was not until the 1940’s that specific teaching methods were considered and it took until the 1970’s for it to be recognised in the UK education system.
Although there is a better understanding of the condition in schools even today there is still no mandatory training about dyslexia for people training to be teachers.
Dyslexia that is unrecognised at school isolates a child and can often lead to name-calling and bullying. It can affect the child’s ability to learn and develop, not just educationally but socially.
This is why it is so important that Dyslexia is identified as early as possible so that actions can be taken to overcome the barriers that they face.
Dyslexia is not a straightforward condition in that you either have it or do not.
One child may display problems when they first encounter their alphabet whereas for others it might not become an issue until they move on to more complex use of written language.
Dyslexia not only has a profound effect on the child’s educational experience but also socially and emotionally. The adverse reactions they can attract from teachers, parents and peers can also lead tolack of self-esteem as well as social and behavioural difficulties in class, and/or at home.
Children who do not receive help with Dyslexia become adults with Dyslexia. Many struggle to find work; particularly in a world where more jobs need qualifications and applications are paper or web based.
Although research has shown that dyslexic people make up almost 20% of the entrepreneurial population in the UK, many will end up in low paid employment.
Dyslexia is not a bar to success in life but it is an obstacle. Many Dyslexics find coping mechanisms or excel in creative or visual talents such as Pablo Picasso, Whoopi Goldberg or Noel Gallagher.
Agatha Christie dictated her books because on her dyslexia whereas Tom Cruise explained “I had to train myself to focus my attention. I became very visual and learned how to create mental images in order to comprehend what I read.”
Raising awareness of Dyslexia as a Union and as ULRs can have a life changing effect on our members. We can’t say that as a Union we have all the answers but we are listening and learning.
At Alvescot we have a range of facilities and resources to assist learners and have external educational resources which we can access.
This year Education and Training worked with the British Dyslexia Association to deliver a specialist course to ULRs from across all the regions of the Union, a course that I myself attended.
These ULRs should go back to their regions to pass on that learning and knowledge to their fellow ULRs and the wider union.
The Equal Opportunities and Education and Training Departments promote the fact that Dyslexia is identified under the DDA and that, if informed, employers have legal obligations to those employees.
We also offer contacts for the British Dyslexia Association and the Dyslexia Assessment Consultancy have been trialling dyslexia screening software to assist with identification – opening the door to the support that our members need. (NOTE: Dyslexia Assessment Consultancy Screening costs £75 for initial consultation)
There is common ground for our Equality and IR reps to protect our members whilst our ULRs can provide assistance to overcome the barriers that Dyslexia can cause and gain more skills and education.
We also have to work to overcome the negative attitude there is to Dyslexia in society.
Some see Dyslexia as a fad, something that does not exist or as an excuse rather than as a recognisable condition. Until we can change that perception then the discrimination that Dyslexics suffer will not be overcome.
For many the assessment of Dyslexia can be a benefit. Jackie Stewart, the Formula One Champion attested “For a dyslexic who does not yet know they are dyslexic, life is like a big high wall you never think you will be able to climb or get over.
The moment you understand there is something called dyslexia, and there are ways of getting around the problem, the whole world opens up.”
It is the business of unions to help their members overcome the barriers placed in front of them. In supporting our members with dyslexia, we are doing just that