BY NIGEL GORDON
In Lewisham 45,000 people out of a population of more than 301,000 are affected by dyslexia, a learning disorder that roughly affects 15 percent of people in the UK.
Dyslexia derives from Greek and means difficulty in processing language.
Reading and spelling are often areas of huge problem areas facing dyslexics. The disorder can affect children and adults from different backgrounds.
The life-long disability can’t be cured and this can lead to children and adults feeling inadequate and stigmatised by labelling which often starts at school.
However, early intervention can go some way in helping people to better deal with dyslexia.
Amy Firth, a 24-year-old from Lewisham who was diagnosed with dyslexia while at Stillness Primary School in Brockley Rise, Brockley.
She said: “I was diagnosed when I was six years old. When everyone was making friends in primary school I felt like I was seen as different.
“Being taken out of certain classes to go to Special Educational Needs (SEN) lessons made me feel more noticeably different and a few kids bullied me because of it, calling me stupid and similar names.”
Amy and organisations such as the Dyslexia Association of Bexley, Bromley, Greenwich and Lewisham which help dyslexic people of all ages and is run entirely by volunteers, is supporting Dyslexia Awareness Week which runs until Sunday.
The theme for the week is 21st Century Dyslexia with a focus on technology which can assist people with the condition known as assistive technology.
In 2016, Jo Johnson, the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, announced the Government would be cutting the Disability Student Allowance (DSA).
The DSA is a non-repayable grant to help cover the cost of non-medical support such as assistive technologies.
Sharon Hodgson MP, Shadow Minister for Public Health and Chairwoman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Dyslexia and Other Specific Learning Difficulties, is an ardent supporter of assistive technologies.
The MP said: “As a parent of a child who is severely dyslexic, I know what a difference technology can make to children’s learning.
“It might be one small thing – as simple as a dictaphone to record lessons, or software such as Dragon to translate speech to text and vice versa, or more sophisticated kit such as ‘eye gaze’ or augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) – but that bit of technology can allow a child to show their true potential.”
Ignacio Estrada, director for grants administration at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, said:
“If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.”
Through dogged determination and learning with assistive technologies Amy learned to process information in a different way.
From primary school, she went to Haberdashers’ Aske’s Hatch College in New Cross before going onto higher education.
Amy recently graduated from the University of East Anglia where she studied the history of art.
Assistive technologies such as Dragon speech recognition software helped Amy with her undergraduate assignments.
By levelling the playing field, this technology boosted Amy’s confidence. On successfully completing her degree course, she landed a job at a museum.
She attributes her academic and professional achievements, despite her dyslexia, to the fact that she was able to access these assistive technologies.
With such a high premium now placed on inclusivity and diversity in the workplace, Amy’s success proves that dyslexia need no longer be an obstacle when seeking employment.
Helen Boden, chief executive of the British Dyslexia Association, said: “This year’s theme is 21st Century Dyslexia.
“The focus being not only on assistive technology but also on a positive view of moving the dyslexia agenda forward both in education and employment.
“By stepping away from stigma and prejudice enables embracing both modern technology, approaches and thinking associated with neuro-diversity that values the diversity of talent that individuals bring to the world.”