I’m not stupid, mummy, I just can’t read.

My best friend and I decided to work on a story revolving around a child with learning difficulties. The idea was spawned by a conversation about his childhood and early schooling with dyslexia which extended to a discussion about my baby brother’s difficulties growing up, and surviving school with dyslexia, dyscalculia and dysgraphia.

We are still in the research phase of our project, but already we have had time to think really hard and reflect. My friend has managed to get right through to college in spite of dyslexia. It is still tough for him, and as his friend I have to be extra careful not to be insensitive to the effort he has to make to get a 3.8 GPA.

The way he describes his feelings as a child reflect almost identically my brother’s reactions as a child. He was always on the defensive because he always made mistakes in his school work. It must have felt like the whole world was against him. He was ridiculed by his schoolmates, and his teachers too. As a result, he developed trouble controlling his anger. The learning difficulties were accompanied by ADHD, which only elicited harshness and punishment from the teachers.

Both my friend and my brother found one person who understood that there was a problem. For my friend, it was a teacher. For my brother, it was my mother. Both of them got specialized attention. My friend has developed into a fine young man, who has the potential to be the very best in his field. Children love him because of the understanding and sensitive care he displays, obviously coming from the fact that he understands that it is not always easy to be a child.

My brother still suffers from ADHD, even as an adult, compounded by Severe Bipolar disorder.

It can be tough loving a child with learning difficulties. Those kids grow up to be adults with baggage which they must learn to carry efficiently,  or else become social rejects.

This weekend I met a young man, probably about 12 years old. He has the brightest smile, which faltered just a bit when we started working on a writing exercise. I smiled and told him, “Don’t be afraid when you make a mistake, that is how we learn to get better. If you keep working on it, you will get better and better.”

It sounded a lot like my mother used to tell my baby brother when he was 11 years old and still learning how to read.

My brother reads voraciously now. In spite of the learning troubles, the ADHD, and the Bipolar, he will yet be a great fashion designer. I hate skirts, but I love the one he made for me. 🙂

© Juliet Maruru 2009 http://www.jmaruru.wordpress.com

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