Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Saturday, January 17, 2009

There's four left in the box

Some people's brains are just connected up oddly. Both my wife and I fall into that category: she haa trouble telling her left from her right, while I have a few obsessive/compulsive tendencies (I like knives in size order on knife racks, for example) and have been accused in the past of having trouble expressing my emotions (hmmm....hands up if any blog readers picked up on that.....)

No great surprise then that one of our children was diagnosed with (extremely mild) Asperger's Syndrome. I can see a kind of amplified version of some of my tendencies in him, certainly. Unlike either of his parents (Hilary was a model student throughout; I had the common male adolescent dip in performance, and then at university decided sex, drugs and rock & roll - with priorities 2, 3, and 1 respectively - were more interesting than lectures: Hilary got a 2/2 in Music, I got a 3rd in Chemistry and a vast record collection - go figure) Ruairidh obtains learning support: his handwriting being even worse than my own, he gets a laptop, and extra time for the more writing-intensive exams. With which he does just fine: he isn't stupid, but his writing is poor and he flounders when required to perform multiple tasks in parallel. If he can sequence and prioritise them, he's fine. (And my own life is driven by diaries, Post-Its and To-Do lists to what seems to be a greater than normal extent. We all find our ways to cope.)

All of which is a preamble to this jerk, who should know better but clearly doesn't. Dyslexia is one of those "autistic spectrum disorders" like Asperger's, or indeed my own below-the-radar weirdnesses (and certainly like Hilary's: problems with left and right are very common with dyslexics). I therefore take considerable exception to the suggestion that dyslexics (and by extension the rest of the autistic spectrum zoo) have merely been badly taught. I am pretty certain that there are standard tests that would show me up as not quite the entire Monty: nevertheless, the last IQ test I took put me in the 160+ range, I seem to have managed OK in life, and I will happily submit to any comparison of my reading skills, spelling, etc. with anyone on the planet. You see, there are people who are dumb. There are people who aren't dumb but can'tt read, or can read but can't write. And there are people who aren't dumb, and can read and write, but just not in quite the same way as you or I. There is a whole spectrum of not-quite-correctly-wired people, from my wife with her L-R problem to Kim Peek (Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man). If Graham Stringer can accept that someone who retreats into Abbott & Costello routines when life gets tough (but can count a pile of toothpicks at sight) isn't a product of bad teaching, perhaps in time he can learn that those of us further back along the spectrum are the products of God's crappy quality control as well.


At 21 January, 2009 15:00, Blogger Lisa Rullsenberg said...

I'm not sure I'd quite agree that dyslexia is on the autistic disorder spectrum, but certain autistism is part of a broader family of difficulties which does include dyslexia and other Specific Learning Difficulties. ADHD may be another in the same broad area. (BTW am sorry for the late arrival on this: I have been steaming with my colleagues about the jerk since it came up though).

Anyway, IQ has almost nothing to do with having an SpLD or autism: you can be incredibly smart or very average. What dyslexia etc potentially help explain is why there is a gap between where your level of smarts would suggest you would be in terms of academic achievement and where you actually are. If there is a difference, the proposal is that an SpLD may be the explanation.

Like you say, it's more about different wiring, and whilst some people find phonics very helpful to overcome the practical impact of dyslexia on their reading development etc, those with poor phonic recognition would always struggle with this supposed miracle method of teaching.

As you say, the coping strategies are everything. In some cases these will include some level of practical and/or technological support. Ruairidh isn't getting an ADvantage, he's merely not being put at a DISadvantage by not being able to access the extra time and technology support etc.

I just wish that dorks like Stringer didn't get airtime every year or so and that more of the broader population understood what the nature of ASDs and SpLDs actually were and how they affect people. A student may have a voracious reading habit and extensive vocabulary skills, but can't translate these into coherant thoughts for an essay without using mind-mapping software and technology to help with word selection and proof-reading. It is no where near as simplistic as the dork made it out to be in his column...


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