Dyslexia – What is it?

By Peter Corlett
September 2011

 After school on the 22nd September  around 60 teachers from local schools attended a seminar entitled “NOW I KNOW I’M NOT DUMB!”  In the seminar teachers explored questions such as “Dyslexia: What is it?  What is school like for Dyslexic Children?  How can we make our schools more ‘user friendly’ for dyslexic kids?”

What was unusual was that the session was largely led by a group of dyslexic students from Kapiti College and Kenakena School, explaining what being dyslexic meant for them in the school setting.

The teachers found these stories which were told by the students from their own personal experiences, direct, compelling, and honest.

They gave moving accounts of not been understood or catered for in regular classroom programmes, of treatment such as bullying by other students, , being treated as ‘dumb’, ‘slow’ or ‘stupid’ , and the lack of understanding from teachers and the school system.  They also told of the resulting devastating effects on their self-esteem and the strategies they used to survive daily life in the classroom.

The students confidently read or shared poetry about their experiences. (Used with permission.)


Dyslexia by Luka  (Luka attends Paekakariki School)

 It’s like trying to fix a door but you don’t have the right screws and screwdriver.

It’s like feeding the cat but the box is empty.

It’s like Saturn without it’s rings.

It’s like opening a musical box but the music doesn’t play because it’s broken.

My Classroom

I sit in my classroom

I hope it will end

The bell is yet to ring but I can hear it in my head

I can tell that I will stay in

My page is not quite full

Why must I write every day I’m at this school?

The bell has finally rung

I feel tears in my eyes

All my friends leave

But they’re leaving me behind

It’s been ten minutes since the bell rang

All but me have gone

I’m finally finished copying

I wish it didn’t take so long!

By Briar-Rose Gawn

The students went on to share what it meant for them to finally encounter teachers who actually understood them, helped them to understand what the problem was, believed in them, and gave them the strategies and support to begin to engage in their learning again.

The teacher participants attempted to complete a number of tasks such as copying a text in Greek or where words on the page were overlapped or moving, and these were used to illustrate difficulties encountered by children with dyslexia and dyspraxia. Liam spoke of the phenomena of “rivers of white between the words” and others told of words “dancing on the page or sliding off the page altogether”.

As well as giving a list of indicators for recognising children with dyslexia and highlighting the relatively common occurrence of dyslexia and related conditions in our classrooms the students gave the teachers useful, practical classroom tips for teacher children with dyslexia.

Article and photos by Peter Corlett   Waikanae Primary School  04 9026544  027-2977946

Further Information available from  sarah.sharpe@kc.school.nz