United effort made to tackle problem of dyslexia in farming

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Years ago I was stopped in a city street by a man who thrust a newspaper at me and demanded to know what odds a particular horse was running at.

He would have been pushed to pick someone who knew less about betting, but I found the name of the horse and told him it was 8-2. As he rightly snorted “No such bet!” because I’d given him the jockey’s weight, or something like that. I managed to find the correct odds and left him wondering whether to bet and how much he might win; I left wondering at someone who knew about figures and accumulator bets, but couldn’t read.

Many years on in spite of educational advances it’s still true that more people than we think have trouble reading. As someone who was lucky enough to have encouraging parents and books available I grew to love reading for pleasure and knowledge. What is life like for those who can’t because of, for example, dyslexia?

We know there is a hard-core of those who can, but boast that they have never read a book. Others have proved on national and global scales that being able to do the sums doesn’t need an ability to read. But for more people dyslexia is the stumbling block. The difficulty this causes with reading and writing affects a higher percentage of rural families, including farmers and staff, than many other sectors of the population for no obvious reason. When the paperwork/computer side of farm businesses is vital to income, outgoings and success, suffering from dyslexia – a disorder of many definitions, but one that prevents fluent reading and makes writing difficult – is a big handicap.

Nor is it just an older generation, some of whom were treated as stupid or lazy at school for suffering from what is now recognised as a disorder. About one quarter of Scotland’s Rural University College students get dyslexia support and a united effort to tackle the problem is being made with formation of the Farming with Dyslexia Working Group.

Being able to do the sums is still vital to farm management and recording. But helping those with dyslexia and taking away an outdated stigma associated with it – felt among sufferers as well – is a valuable and worthwhile move. Good luck to it.

As noted before I took no sides in the Scottish referendum debate and still don’t. But it should be noted that Alex Salmond was not the only sore and ungracious loser. A letter in the Scottish Farmer – which was a main and useful forum for letter writers during the countdown, none of whom seemed to suffer from dyslexia or an ability to be succinct – claimed the traditional media was biased and used scare stories against the Yes campaign.

Older voters believed that. By contrast, said the writer, younger Yes voters made extensive use of social media for a broader and fairer view of the issues. You have to laugh.