Rage against the Dimming of the Light
Sam Wilson rails against teachers who put children in boxes they don’t fit in.
(Tammy Gardner)
Last year, I started noticing my son Benj’s light dimming.
You know the light I mean... his sparky, shiny confidence. He’d always been such a bundle of it, but he was becoming gradually more distracted and hesitant.

It was also around the time he was learning to read at school, but obviously we missed that connection completely. (You know when you can’t see something because your nose is actually IN it?  Yup. One of those.)

Because Benj just wasn’t getting the whole reading thing. We’d write B-E-N in tomato sauce on his food and he’d go ‘K-T-F... can I eat now?’ with a disarming smile. He told us that he ‘preferred not to write things down.’ His OT was perplexed by how the fine motor skills he was working on with her weren’t translating into the classroom. He was 7 but couldn’t read his name off a flash card.

‘Mom! I found out what I’m good at!’

I didn’t realise just how much his light had dimmed, until I went to fetch him from a two-hour educational psychology assessment, and he was back on bright. Big time. With his little eyes shining, he couldn’t wait to tell us which bits of the tests he had ‘aced’ and which were ‘not his best.’ The psychologist then tried to explain to us how Ben doesn’t think in words, but rather concepts... and it all came together.

Readers, that was one of the best days of my life. All of a sudden, we could talk honestly and excitedly with Benj on why he sucked so badly at learning to read and write and celebrate his phenomenal non-verbal skills. Also, we could start finding ways of teaching Benj that suited the way his brain was wired, rather than trying to force his mind down paths which it didn’t have.

(Anyone in CT need an educational psychologist? Write in. I have a great one to recommend. You can also ask Jhb-based Greg Crighton)

Our whole family was washed with a happy relief – so THIS is the problem! This we can handle! How interesting is the way Benj thinks? Hurrah!

‘You poor dear...’

And then a few weeks later, I had the most dreadful surprise. I was excitedly explaining this revelation to a primary school teacher (not at our school) who tutted, brushed my arm as and said:

“As parents, we get dealt the disabilities we are strong enough to handle,” she said, dripping with sympathy.

I am SORRY? DISABILITY? Since when did not thinking like the majority become a disability? Do we really alienate our more interestingly-minded children that young?

I was gobsmacked. Tell me you are too. And I’d love to hear how your kid is non-textbook but still super terrific. Please let me know, below.

Find out more about dyslexia or suggest parenting topics for Parent24 features.
-    The ABCs of Dyslexia
-    How to spot pre-dyslexia
-    Dyslexic child? She’s in good company.
-    ‘Help! My child’s dyslexic!’

Read more by Sam Wilson

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