Recently, in my private practice, I had the huge privilege of meeting and assessing one of the most inspirational and resilient people that I have ever met. Paul is a man in his forties and it was the first time that he had been formally assessed for literacy—reading and spelling—difficulties. As it turned out, he had been dealing with the negative impact arising from having literacy difficulties all his life.
Paul didn’t come from an academic background and education was not a priority in his family. He struggled from the outset at school and was an early school leaver: leaving school without any qualifications whatsoever to take up a menial job. As good fortune would have it, he was taken ‘under the wing’ of a professional co-worker in the place he was employed. This person recognised that he did have potential and encouraged him to go back to school as a mature student and sit his leaving certificate. This he did (studying in the evening and working during the day) and the outcome was that he obtained a good leaving certificate result. Paul didn’t stop there, over the next ten years he applied for and successfully completed third level university diploma, degree and master’s courses (in his chosen career) obtaining no less than a 1.1 or distinction in each. He is now in full time employment.
Unfortunately, the fairytale ends there. Paul has struggled with the literacy demands and the social aspects of his work and feels marginalised. In reality, it has been his ‘presenting’ difficulties that have led to him being misunderstood. Paul is a very bright, private man, preferring to stay ‘under the radar’ and, where possible, keep a low profile. Because of his language and auditory processing difficulties (which means despite having normal hearing there is a difficulty accurately perceiving or remembering what is heard), when he is in groups or noisy places, he retreats and engages in quiet or solitary pursuits thus avoiding normal socialising activities. With his visual perceptual difficulties (which means despite having normal sight, there are difficulties accurately perceiving what is seen), it takes him much longer to visually process information and as a result this means that work tasks become difficult and onerous.
From clinical experience, I was able to assess very quickly that Paul had significant specific difficulties with language, learning, auditory and visual processing, none of which had ever been identified or treated. Since my initial meeting with Paul and following onward referrals for further multidisciplinary assessments, ‘Paul’ now has a diagnosis of a specific learning difficulty / dyslexia, auditory processing disorder and a visual processing disorder and is now undergoing corrective treatment for all of those symptoms. The good news is, rather than being overwhelmed by these multiple clinical findings, Paul is quite relieved and he is looking forward to the potential life changes expected from these courses of action. He is looking forward to having a more balanced and integrated perspective of the world.
Paul’s tenacity is exceptional but his difficulties are not unique. His quest for answers makes him ask the right questions that others don’t know to ask. The answers to his questions give him the information needed to take on the recommended therapies that others don’t know to access.
All the way through Paul’s developmental, medical, educational and social history, there were obvious signs or alerts to indicate that there were difficulties—if only someone on his journey had the knowledge or skill to recognise them.
Working with people like Paul is ‘why I do what I do’ and it’s the reason I wrote my book entitled Dyslexia Unravelled – an Irish guide to a global problem. My ambition is to begin the process of equipping parents, teachers and other professionals with the knowledge to observe, recognise and act on the overt and sometimes covert signs indicating a problem and in so doing prevent people from a lifetime of unnecessary misery and exclusion.
Consulting Speech & Language Therapist & Dyslexia Specialist
Director: WordsWorth Learning Limited
Tel: 00353 (0) 1 2780886
Mobile: 00353 (0) 86 6010144
Email: [email protected]
*In order to maintain anonymity, the persons identity has been fully protected.