When my second daughter left year 3 at Primary School, aged 8, she was absolutely flying!
Something went wrong in year 4 and she made no progress. Her teachers were not concerned; children do not progress at a consistent speed, and she was still well ahead.
Nothing got better in year 5, nor in year 6. I couldn’t understand why my bright child could not learn her spellings and why she could not fluently read aloud. I was frustrated and she was discouraged.
It was only after her SATS, aged 11 when we got our first clue. The class was assigned personal reading time. “Oh Evie,” my daughter sighed to her friend, “Isn’t it difficult to read when the words won’t stay still!”
Her friend suggested that my daughter might have dyslexia and she was duly tested. No – it wasn’t dyslexia. It was something, though, and we were recommended to visit a specialist optician.
That something is Irlen’s Syndrome, a perceptual processing disorder. It affects the brain’s ability to process visual information. There are other symptoms too, but that’s the main one.
My poor daughter: she thought she was stupid because she couldn’t keep up with the rest of the class when she wasn’t stupid at all.
We were incredibly lucky; the specialist optician we were recommended uses a radically different treatment and basically “rewired” her brain, using physical and visual exercises. She still reads very slowly, her spelling is beyond appalling, but she managed to get decent GCSEs, is now studying for A levels and doing very well. She knows she needs to work harder and smarter to get the same results as the other kids, but she’s doing just that. I am so proud of her.
Going back six years, however, both she and I were in a place of frustration and despair. Dyslexia had never crossed my mind (surely the school would have picked that up) and I had never heard of Irlen’s Syndrome.
We don’t know what we don’t know.
Sometimes a chance remark can provide a key to a lock we didn’t see in the door against which we were beating our fists; sometimes the answer is in a book or on the TV, and sometimes there is no answer because we never realised there was a question.
When I look back, I never asked why I had periods of depression – I just accepted it. When asked why I was depressed, I had no answer. Even when I met somebody who confided to me that they had bipolar disorder, it never occurred to me that could explain my own condition. It was my GP, who is also a mental health specialist, who suggested it.
Her suggestion was my lightbulb moment.
If you think back over your life, do you feel there are unanswered questions? More importantly, perhaps, do you feel there are unasked questions?
If you could be granted a lightbulb moment, what would it be?
Or is that an unanswerable question?
A Moodscope member.