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Saturday 27 June 2009
Letters: The side-effects of dyslexia
Dyslexia's disastrous psychological side-effects
As the parent of a son who has been suffering difficulties caused by severe dyslexia for almost all of his 28 years, I can't emphasise enough the importance of the proposed measures to increase the training of teachers to recognise and deal with the condition (report, 22 June).
In severe cases such as our son's, however, even individual attention using the correct teaching approach may only allow a pupil to leave school with a basic ability in literacy and numeracy. Furthermore, the problems of dyslexia can often extend far beyond difficulties with reading, writing and arithmetic, and the psychological side-effects of the condition can be far-reaching.
Our son has bitter memories of being kept in at primary school during break times to do his spellings, of being made to feel foolish by an unsympathetic teacher, and, predictably, of being teased unmercifully by his peers. And although he was later fortunate enough to attend a secondary school that was ahead of its time, with a Special Learning Difficulties Unit headed by a brilliant teacher, the continued feeling of being singled out from his peers still stung.
Dyslexia commonly causes extreme frustration due to the disparity between low ability in literacy and numeracy and an otherwise normal level of intelligence. Our son's experiences have left him with extremely low self-esteem and with deep suspicion and resentment against all forms of authority, along with chronic anxiety and depression. This combination of characteristics has not only prevented him from accepting the therapy he undoubtedly needs, but has also resulted in a very sparse employment history and a tendency to fits of rage, the latter no doubt exacerbated by his habitual use of illegal drugs to blot out his problems.
In training teachers to combat dyslexia, it will therefore be important not only to address methodological issues to do with skills development, but also to raise awareness of the likely psychological problems that pupils may suffer, and to develop techniques to mitigate them.
Name and address supplied
Medieval attitudes to mental health
The Christine Laird case ("Defeat for council that sued boss for lying about illness", 16 June) exposes a thorny issue faced every day by employers and people seeking employment; that of disclosure of a mental-health condition.
The council has said that had Laird disclosed her mental-health history she would not have been appointed, yet this could have exposed them to a claim of discrimination.
In reality, at that time, the council could not have forecast with any certainty the impact of her past condition on her future performance.
Many of the 3,000 people a year we support into work have a mental-health issue, and they all know, often from recalling their own misconceptions, that if they disclose an issue they won't get the job. In fact, the employment rate for people with mental-health issues is below 20 per cent, against 75 per cent for the wider population, and 51 per cent for all disabled people.
Yet this appallingly low rate is simply not justified. Almost 30 per cent of all employees will have a mental-health problem each year, but we are stuck with medieval attitudes which assume such people should not be employed. That logic would require most employers to lose 30 per cent of their workforce.
We at the Papworth Trust will celebrate the day when people can disclose their mental-health history without fear that a potential employer will assume the worst.
Director of Operations,
The Papworth Trust,
Give armed forces our true support
Today, 27 June, is national Armed Forces day: a brazen attempt by the British government to shore up support for its unpopular war in Afghanistan by rallying the British public behind a meaningless "support" for the armed forces.
The government justified the creation of Armed Forces day on the bogus grounds that these forces are not properly appreciated – when it knows full well from polls that they already command a near-universal respect among the British public. At the same time, while it talks about using the day to show "support" for the Armed Forces, the reality is that it continues to treat many suffering veterans disgracefully.
The British public is also united in its admiration of nonviolent people-power movements like the Iranian democracy movement – that's what we should be celebrating on an official Unarmed Forces day that remembers Martin Luther King and M K Gandhi and other non-violent heroes.
Gabriel Carlyle, Maya Evans, Milan Rai
A warm welcome at the border
Following the correspondence about unwelcoming British immigration officials, my wife and I have some good news to report: a very pleasant reception in the USA. Our holiday in May was our first visit since 2004 and we were apprehensive about the new requirements: the electronic pre-flight authorisation and the need to be fingerprinted on arrival.
We flew into Newark, knowing it to be generally friendly to "aliens" such as ourselves. We were on a smallish plane and joined a very short queue at the immigration desks. The officials took a couple of minutes to appear and take up their places but we had completed the whole procedure and were off to collect our bags less than 10 minutes later, having been fingerprinted, photographed and wished a good holiday by a very pleasant gentleman.
I suspect that the procedure and the time it took might not have been quite so pleasant or quick for the Americans in the long queue we saw at Heathrow on our return.
H ROBERT MANN
Officer McBride of the Border Agency asks readers to tell of positive dealings with his employer. Don't all rush at once now. He also misses the point about "please" and "thank you". It's not those words' absence from the admonishing posters that annoys people, but from the mouths of his colleagues.
Well, that's me flagged up next time I come through Gatwick.
Leadership needed on climate change
The latest Hadley Centre climate predictions confirm what we have known for some time: Britain will be hotter and drier in summer and have much wetter winters (report, 19 June). Worse still, unless we cut greenhouse-gas emissions and invest in adaptation measures, globally, we face a fight for survival that will herald the end of many species and of life as we know it. Unless the government's response to the threat is proportionate and urgent, and unless it ditches policies on airport expansion, the public will have every right to mistrust the seriousness of its endeavour and wonder whether it is capable of showing real leadership at the upcoming climate- change talks in Copenhagen.
Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management,
David King wrote about the cost of tackling climate change in 25 June but did not address the larger issue.
Man is obsessed with controlling nature instead of working with it. We do not need to drain all of the rainwater into the sewer system. In the past it simply flowed out into the land and was naturally absorbed.
We need more trees and more scrubland and less concrete plastered all over everything. We are so over-managed by people who think that they know what they are doing.
We see this attitude in the financial sector and nuclear industries, and from government advisers. There are plenty of brains and precious little common sense, which is why we suffer so many catastrophes.
Netanyahu's words offer no hope
I cannot fathom how you can describe Benjamin Netanyahu's speech as "significant", and claim that it represents "progress" that we should "welcome" (leading article, 15 June).
His conditions, if fulfilled, would result in a patchwork of economically non-viable, disconnected territories unable to defend themselves, with no control over their borders, airspace and foreign relations, without East Jerusalem as its capital, and with no justice for Palestinian refugees.
Netanyahu knows that his conditions are unacceptable, which is why his supposed acceptance of a Palestinian "state" rings hollow.
To find anything positive in this is an affront to the inalienable human rights and legitimate aspirations of an occupied, dispossessed, colonised people.
Chairman, Arab Media Watch,
Trial without a jury is just outcome
Manjit Singh Gill QC (Letters, 23 June) seems to have completely missed the point regarding trial without jury. Someone attempted to "tamper" with the jury in the first trial and as a result the defendants are now being tried without a jury. This was the proper response, as it would be unfair on the public to have to pay a large amount of money to attempt to protect the jury and their families, and not trying these men would send out the message to criminals that jury tampering was the best way to avoid being punished.
Manjit's concerns that trials without juries are somehow unjust is baseless, as 98 per cent of criminal trials in the UK are heard by a magistrate without a jury and crimes against humanity, too, are tried without a jury.
We now have the first trial by a judge without a jury. But the fact is that district judges already regularly conduct trials on their own.
There has been a steady recruitment of these district judges, and their deputies, to sit daily in magistrates' courts, replacing the traditional lay magistrates who hear trials as a bench of three and who are drawn from the local communities they serve.
There are many examples of ways that access to due process has been reduced by the present government, but this one appears to have happened without debate anywhere.
Conall Boyle (letter, 26 June) says that thanks to a shortage of £50 notes "we are forced by the cash machines to carry thick wads of £20s and £10s". I wish.
Sharks at risk
I read your report on the biggest fish ever caught off the British Isles – a 480kg six gill shark – with considerable sadness (25 June). I wonder how the headlines would have looked if the angler responsible for killing the shark had been looking so proudly at the hanging corpse of an orang-utan or polar bear?
Sharks are one of the species we need to protect, as currently we are killing about 100 million of them a year, a rate of attrition they will not be able to take without soon joining the dodo.
Dr Colin Bannon
Why all the current fuss – and surprise – in the media over the revelations about public-sector and other senior-executive pay and expenses? The attitude and actions of such people are surely no more than a natural consequence of the continuation by New Labour of the selfish and divisive Thatcherite philosophy that those who can and want to enrich themselves should be praised and rewarded, while those who cannot (or can but chose not to avail themselves of the "right") are derided and written off as incompetent.
Haywards Heath, West Sussex
Julie Holland (letter, 25 June) is correct to remind readers of the availability of contributory jobseekers' allowance. However it lasts for only six months whereas contributory unemployment benefit, which it replaced, lasted for 12 months. This loss of contributory benefit penalises not only unemployed professionals but anyone with a partner whose earnings disqualify them. Women in couples have been among the main losers, just as more women had paid the necessary contributions to qualify for benefit in the first place.
Professor of Social Policy
Liz Finlay's letter (26 June) about "showbiz" luminaries "farewelling" Danny la Rue reminds me of the occasion many years ago when our two-year-old ran to the window to wave to a departing caller, declaring "I bye-bye him". Baby-talk or innovation?
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