Andrew has five children; two of his sons have been diagnosed with dyslexia.
He and his wife realised that both boys needed assessment as they were falling behind at school, specifically in reading and writing.
Four years ago, his then nine-year-old son Jude, already diagnosed with ADHD, found out he also had dyslexia.
His seven-year-old brother Kevin was likewise identified with dyslexia a year ago.
Dyslexia is not a disease; it is a brain-based condition often inherited.
Children with the disorder have trouble reading, converting letter symbols to their correct sound (decode) and spelling, converting sounds to their valid written character (spell).
Australia Dyslexia Association’s president Jodi Clements said she wants the general non-dyslexia population to know that people with dyslexia are incredibly divergent thinkers.
“When they are understood and supported, they can excel in their chosen areas of interest,” she said.
Andrew said when Jude was ten; his teachers remarked they felt they were speaking with a 16-year-old.
“It was clear to every teacher when they talked to him, they were talking to someone years older, yet his literacy was as if he was someone much younger,” Andrew said.
“His WISC (Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children) cognitive test came out with verbal skills of a 16-year-old, but his recognition of two-dimensional shapes and symbols was noticeably lower than his age.”
“The discrepancy between verbal and written was more distinct with Jude than Kevin, and yet both of them have a level of maths way beyond their ages.”
Jude’s teachers, who spent extra time doing special activities with him, were well-meaning but not qualified.
“They were unskilled devoted teachers, but none of them was talking about decoding,” Andrew added.
“They organised occupational therapists and psychologists, everyone but a speech therapist for Jude.”
The second time around with Kevin, one of his teachers undertook Multi-sensory Structured Language (MSL) training to help him with decoding.
Ms Clements said ADA provides free information and links to valuable resources.
“Support starts with a basic understanding of dyslexia and then requires a case-by-case approach as people with the condition can vary in their challenges,” she said.
“For example, some will have incredibly high verbal skills with significant challenges in reading, spelling and writing.
“We need to find ways to circumnavigate the challenges whilst also considering how to navigate their strengths and regain or retain self-efficacy.”
Kevin, now eight years old, is in year 2.
The best thing he likes about school is maths “because I am great at it.”
“I don’t like sport because I’m not good at it,” he said.
His dad said Kevin is embarrassed about being dyslexic, which manifests as anger.
“He just denies it, and there is a certain level of why do bad things happen to good people?”
Thirteen-year-old Jude, now in year 7, said music is his favourite subject.
“It doesn’t have a goal you have to hit; you can do it at your speed,” he said.
“I don’t like English because I’m dyslexic, and it is tough [to read and write].”
His dad said Jude wears his disabilities as a badge of pride, using them as an excuse to try to get out of anything he doesn’t want to do.
Jude thinks Sir Richard Branson is cool as he has dyslexia and talks about it openly all the time.
Ms Clements attended Sir Richard’s Branson’s Made by Dyslexia Global Summit 2018 in London.
“The experience was brilliant, listening to talented people with dyslexia share their challenges and successes,” she said.
The Australia Dyslexia Association estimates dyslexia affects 10 per cent of Australia’s population.
October is Dyslexia Awareness Month.
Carol Saffer is an award-winning journalist enthusiastic about creating copy that engages audiences. She is curious by nature, possesses a growth mindset and thrives on new and unusual challenges.
Carol has experience as a reporter for various regional Victorian newspapers and writing for Business Day in The Age. Her previous career was in the fashion industry, and she holds post-graduate degrees in business and journalism.