True grit overcomes problems of dyslexia

01:43, Jan 31 2009

Dyslexia slowed Jared Gurrey's learning, setting him back years at primary school, frustrating him and many of his teachers.

But the year 12 pupil has overcome his learning difficulties and was top scholar in three subjects last year. He is now head boy at Whitby's Samuel Marsden Collegiate School.

This week is Dyslexia Awareness Week. Dyslexia is a set of learning disabilities thought to affect 10 per cent of the population, including about 70,000 school pupils.

It affects people's literacy, balance and self-esteem, and was officially recognised as a disability by the Government last year.

But Jared, 16, whose sister is also dyslexic, refuses to see dyslexia as a disability, saying it gives him a unique outlook on problem-solving.

"You think of things that no one else has thought of."

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His biggest problems have been in writing, especially his "atrocious" spelling, and maths. He is still uncomfortable reading aloud. "I think a lot faster than I read. I miss out words and stuff it up.

"I tried to read into things too deeply and make things more complicated than they were ... You just get bewildered."

Jared's dyslexia was diagnosed when he was at kindergarten but says he only overcame his learning problems at high school. He credits his academic success to the support and patience of teachers and countless hours of his own study.

"I have some quite high aspirations. If you want something, nothing's out of your reach. You can work towards it and eventually you'll get there."

Viv Gurrey, Jared's mother and Parents Centre chief executive, says dyslexic children need strong family support, skilled and understanding teachers and dogged determination.

"But if there's any of those three elements missing, then it's just not going to happen for these kids." 

The Dominion Post