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When life goes wrong for a dyslexic at school, it has a knock-on affect to life after school, thus the influence of school is profound (Scott 2004, p. 53). At school there are two curriculums: academic and social, failure in either or both will have lifelong effect on the individual and their success, and can be powerful predictors of later outcomes as intelligence is commonly correlated to academic achievement (Sylva, 1994). Whether you choose to or not in the UK, children must legally attend school for at least ten years and parents are legally required to send them to a recognised institution, whilst home-study is an alternative, it is not encouraged and difficult to gain formal approval for such a choice. Each year at school can be unpredictable and is highly complex for both parents and children e.g. homework, class time tables etc. Integration with others (teachers and peers) can be fraught with danger with bad/good experiences and friendships having lasting impressions.
Several commentators (Fawcett, 1995; Edwards, 1994; Riddick, 1996, Saunders, 1995) view schools as legalised abusive institutions, where children are kept against their will and subjected to the will of teachers. Whilst in the majority of cases children and parents are accepting of such a regime, it does not suit all children and all parents, so many choose to transfer out their child’s education to the private sector. However, in the private sector more abuse may exist to motivate pupils, with some private schools requiring parents to sign forms to permit caning and other forms of corporal punishment, in the name of school ethos and learning.
Scott (2004, p. 54) notes ‘all dyslexic children – and this is not a loose phrase – experience some form of damage from school’. Like all children, some thrive and excel in the school environment and others do not. In the case of dyslexics, larger proportions do not thrive or excel, resulting in high levels of stress and anxiety. Dyslexics find school an unpredictable battleground in which they are unskilled to exist, and Scott (2004, p. 55) notes that ‘for the vast majority of dyslexic children and adults, school has been a place of psychological and often physical torture…School for them was destructive and humiliating, nasty, degrading experience, sometimes of raw brutality, of which modern society should be deeply ashamed [of]’, comments that others echo (Fawcett, 1995; Edwards, 1994, Riddick, 1996; Alexander-Passe, 2004a, b, 2006, 2008a).
Dyslexics fail at school in numerous ways: failure to make friends, failure in literacy, failure to be attractive (to their peers as friends and teachers as receptive to help) and failure to be normal. As school promotes both a social and academic curriculum, failing to make friends and failure to gain literacy are two basic stepping stones needed for development. Due to their learning difficulties they do not come across to others as normal e.g. clumsy and not knowing their left and right which affects play with others.
At school, failure in literacy has huge knock-on effects for the whole academic curriculum and with all subjects. Failing to read and write is a very public failure (Scott, 2004) and begins to propagate the idea that dyslexics are abnormal. This sets off a chain reaction that puts the child in a defensive state of mind and makes them fearful of all learning situations (Alexander-Passe, 2004a, b, 2006). School becomes a dangerous place and sticking out in class continues to the playground where teasing begins and can lead to unhealthy bullying. Children are very quick to pick-up who is the brightest and dumbest in the class and until a dyslexia diagnosis is made, the child begins to self-doubt and believe they are stupid, thinking ‘if everyone says I’m slow/stupid I must be’ (Alexander-Passe, 2004a, 2009, 2010) . Lastly, teachers prefer easy children, children who do not create problems for them, as this confirms their effectiveness as teachers
Congdon (1995, p. 91) notes the reactions to failure at school ‘can vary. Some children lose interest and adopt negative and avoidance attitudes. Others may try harder, spurred on by their teacher and parents, only to discover that the greater effort does not produce the longed for results’. Feelings of disillusionment and mystification sets in, as up to this point the child may have been told he was clever by his parents which he believed until now, thus he is now confused and develops self-doubts.
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