Affirmative view of dyslexia

Tv Review

"It was such a relief to find our son was dyslexic," said Oliver Passmore's mother, "rather than this educationally subnormal child." Such is the delivery dyslexia offers - not "lazy" or "stupid" or "naughty" but badly-wired, a blameless neurological accident, deserving of sympathy, not condemnation. The casual old slur - that dyslexia is merely a middle- class euphemism - would seem to be untrue, but QED's (BBC1) report on the disability revealed that it touches on another truth. It may well be that only the middle-class can afford to pursue that consoling diagnosis, let alone the specialist schooling that allows dyslexic children to return to mainstream education. How many poor children, you wonder, are consigned to the bin because no one has the time or money to call them the proper name?

Once identified, though, the case isn't hopeless - quite the contrary if this cheer-leading film is to be believed. At the Old Rectory School in Suffolk, pupils man an amateur fire-brigade, learning skills of teamwork and sequential operations - both difficult for dyslexic children. When not quenching burning caravans they concentrate almost entirely on literacy and numeracy. The results appear to be good, though you soon got the feeling that the film wasn't exactly eager to deliver bad news - it took a doggedly affirmative view of dyslexia, even ending up with that peculiar modern piety, the privilege of disability.

Dyslexics, it seems, are not only not stupid, they're positively blessed. A benign fellow from America advanced the theory that the spatial skills of dyslexics will equip them perfectly for cyberspace, a new world based on visual perception rather than literacy. I'm not sure I believe that, any more than I believe that it's possible to confidently assert that Leonardo da Vinci was a dyslexic, but if it cheers people up in difficult times it seems harmless enough.

There was a similar air of special pleading about "Better Dead Than Gay", a Witness (C4) film about the death of Simon Harvey, a young Christian unable to come to terms with his homosexuality. Christopher O'Hare's film used Simon's agonised diaries, his suicide letters and the memories of friends and family to mount an arraignment of the church's attitudes to gay believers. The resulting film was partly theological debate (does sin lie in thought or deed alone), partly a well-crafted addition to the martyrology - with testimony to Simon's integrity and faith alongside an account of the forces that finally did for him. "Why?" asked the programme, deciding to locate the answer in social attitudes rather than the unfathomable psychology of an individual.

But the film did provide a fascinating portrait of Simon's father - who had responded to his son's death by setting up U-Turn Anglia, an organisation dedicated to the "cure" of homosexuals. "There's no freedom in homosexuality," he said resolutely. "It's like being in chains, it's like having your soul in a steel clamp." This level of denial is a startling thing to see, and suggests that Simon's hopelessness had its roots at home, not in church. Unlike the parents of dyslexic children, Simon's father appeared to have decided that his son was sinful, not simply different. His pious complacency (he was confident that both God and Simon had forgiven him for paternal shortcomings) made you long for a fierce Christian contradiction. I found it, by pure coincidence, a few hours later in a letter by William Blake. "No discipline," he wrote, "will turn one Man into another, even in the least particle, & such discipline I call Presumption & Folly. I have tried it too much not to know this, & am very sorry for all such who may be led to such ostentatious Exertion against their Eternal Existence itself, because it is Mental Rebellion against the Holy Spirit, & fit only for a Soldier of Satan to perform."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent