Borders mums put word out to aid dyslexia sufferers

Aileen Orr with her letter that she has written regarding the Lockerbie disaster and Al Megrahi being freed on compassionate grounds.
Aileen Orr with her letter that she has written regarding the Lockerbie disaster and Al Megrahi being freed on compassionate grounds.
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BORDERS mothers and teachers are getting together to help people with dyslexia.

Dyslexia Scotland Borders holds its first meeting next month when the guest speaker will be Walkerburn inventor and plumber Ross Dickinson who has the condition.

The push to form the local volunteer-led branch of the national charity comes from Berwickshire mum-of-two Aileen Orr, whose son Alexander was diagnosed five years ago.

“We would like to be a starting-off point for people. We don’t want any other parents to go through what many of us have gone through.

“We want to have a very positive approach to working with the local authority and teachers, and we are keen for anyone who thinks they might be affected, young or old, to come to our informal meetings.

“We can have a bit of fun too. If you have dyslexia it’s not the end of the world, we just try a few things and make things easier.”

The former advisor to education cabinet secretary Mike Russell MSP has been involved with Dyslexia Scotland since Alexander’s diagnosis.

She said: “I said to them the frustration is there is nothing in the Borders. I had been working with other parents and forming a group seemed a logical step.

“We don’t know how many people are affected locally, this is what we intend to find out, by highlighting the issue and hoping people will come forward.”

People with dyslexia can have problems writing, reading, concentrating, difficulty in carrying out more than one instruction at a time or in sequencing things like the days of the week.

Mrs Orr said of Alexander, now 16: “We knew there was something seriously wrong, he was being disruptive at school. He kept telling me it was because he couldn’t read the board. All the writing on the board was walking about the board but nobody believed him and the authority refused to test him, they just thought he was being disruptive.”

A further revelation came. Mrs Orr said: “My husband was 54 when he discovered he was dyslexic. It was only because my son was being tested. He was watching the testing and said ‘I can’t do that’. He had always known he was different but he just didn’t want to talk about it.”

Then aged 11, Alexander got help from a specialist, and now, five years later, is studying engineering.

Mrs Orr said: “He was getting nowhere at school and he was miserable. He absolutely loves college. His notes are printed on green paper which seems to be the colour he is able to read from quite easily. He has huge difficulty in reading black written on white paper,” said Mrs Orr, adding: “I could never quite understand how my husband, a Borders farmer who is not a great reader of newspapers, would read the Financial Times from cover to cover. It took me a long time to figure out that it is because it’s on pink paper.”

She says people with dyslexia take things in aurally citing the example of Alexander, a Border Ecosse Car Club member, becoming navigator to fellow dyslexic Des Campbell at 15 and learning the job by Des telling him how to do it.

Tinted glasses can help, different typefaces can make reading easier and acetate sheets placed on top of pages can mean the difference between being able to read a page or not, said Mrs Orr.

But people are continuing to fall through the cracks locally.

She added: “A considerable amount of children are being missed. The frustration builds and, put very simplistically, a child goes either of two ways: they become destructive, disruptive, aggressive – and that’s almost better – or they become withdrawn and begin to hate school and won’t want to go, they don’t participate. The key is to find these children and have them mentored, even if it’s only by a buddy within the school.

“There’s a fear if employers find out it will be an excuse to get rid of you. And there’s just coping with words: you don’t want to admit to people that you can’t read, that you can’t understand what the words mean, you look at words but you don’t get it - you don’t want to say to anybody. Especially children, they don’t want to be different.

“Being different is not good, most children want to be mainstream. There’s a shame factor, a ‘what-do-you-mean-you-can’t-read, you’re-stupid’. And that’s not true.

“For my husband and my son the minute they knew they were dyslexic, it became normal, almost a comfort blanket: you know that somebody else has got what you have got and you’re not different or crazy or something.”

Dyslexia Scotland Borders’ inaugural meeting, open to all interested, takes place in the Salmon Room at the Buccleuch Arms Hotel in St Boswells on Thursday, November 10, from 7-9pm where there will also be trade stands with products and devices to help.