Dyslexic boy fights council for grant to study at Cambridge

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The Independent Online
A SEVERELY dyslexic boy aged 15 who has won a place at Cambridge University went to the High Court yesterday to overturn a council's refusal to give him financial help.

Alexander Faludy became the youngest person this century to be offered a place at Cambridge this century when he was 14, after dictating essays on the rationalist argument for the existence of God and the influence of classicism on the sixteenth-century Italian architect, Palladio.

He has an IQ "off the normal scale" but can write only two illegible words a minute and also suffers from dyspraxia, sometimes called "clumsy child syndrome".

Portsmouth City Council has refused him money for special equipment to read books and write essays, which he needs for his degree in history of art and theology. He has to learn from taped books and dictate work which is typed out by his father, Andrew.

Philip Engelman, Alexander's counsel, told the court that Alexander was a special case because of the unusually wide gap between his IQ and the low performance caused by his dyslexia.

Mr Engelman argued that the council should use money from its fund for pupils with special educational needs to top up his university grant. It had refused because it only provides money for pupils from local authority schools. Alexander, who is due to start at Peterhouse in October, has attended Milton Abbey, a fee-paying boys' boarding school in Dorset. Mr Engelman described him as "very clever indeed". At the age of three he could recite Thomas the Tank Engine stories verbatim and by the age of eight had dictated an analysis of Othello. At nine he became the youngest person to pass a GCSE English literature exam (with a B grade) and passed English A-level (with another B grade) when he was 11.

His parents then took him away from school because he was being bullied and he began an Open University arts course. He has been at Milton Abbey for three years.

Mr Justice Tucker lifted the ban on identifying Alexander yesterday after he heard that he had written a book about his experiences. He would give judgment in the case at 4pm today.

Earlier this year, Alexander, who was once ranked 20th out of 22 in his primary class, said that he had decided to apply to Peterhouse after listening to tapes of Porterhouse Blue by Tom Sharpe when he was 10. Neither parent will accompany him when he goes up to Cambridge.

Mrs Faludy said that she believed his gifts were related to his dyslexic brain, which made different connections from a normal brain.His parents, both English teachers, discovered he was a prodigy because of his impressive response to Tolkien when he was five.