Letter from Brian's wife Sue Horne
Through all the years Brian and I have together, I have watched him struggle with the problems of being learning disabled without really ever understanding what it really can be like to carry the burden and frustration of being limited in the basic skills so many of us just take for granted.
When we first met, Brian was twenty and working with his father in the family automotive repair business. It wasn’t very long after we first dated, Brian told me he was dyslexic and this was because his father also had the same problem.
My understanding of this condition was probably, as most people,
was ‘word blindness’ and really there wasn’t much that could be done.
I suggested maybe it might help if Brian read more. So we embarked on a print less exercise whereby Brain would read and write and I would grade him rather like a teacher!!
I adore reading and enjoy writing poetry and stories and really couldn’t understand Brain’s unwillingness and lack of confidence in carrying out simple tasks such as: writing cheques in the supermarket, and his always guarded manner in any situation which might involve writing.
It wasn’t that Brian couldn’t write but it became apparent that when put in a situation where he felt under pressure he would misspell and get himself into all sorts of problems.
Wherever we went it was always me who did the writing and in a way this was a power trip for me! I could be better than Brain and help him!
For Brian the situation was very frustrating. He longed to be able to write fluently. In desperation he signed up at the local college for basic writing skill/grammar improvement classes but they proved to be unhelpful. The classes were aimed at slow learns or people who had slipped through the net of education. Brian needed some other form of help.
I found myself just wishing we could find a miracle cure. Brain was so academic in other areas: his ability to master all things technical - he had a wonderful aptitude with anything mechanical, digital etc. We were like complete opposites – I could just about set the video recorder –and yet could enjoy all the wonders of literature and Brian could have been a rocket scientist and yet struggled to survive everyday faced with the awful monster of ‘dyslexia or what we thought was dyslexia.
In 1991 we moved to Canada to live and although this was a wonderful experience it also provided some real challenges for Brian and a real test of both our staying power!
Brian was a journeyman- automotive body repair, by trade. He & his father had successfully run their own business for 12 years.
It became obvious in a short space of time that Brian would need to change his career. It was hard to find steady work and we had a mortgage to pay like everyone
The local college here in Victoria offered a diploma course in electronics but the prerequisites meant Brian would need to revisit math, English & physics as the credits held from school in England taken 17 yrs. ago were not valid.
I phoned Camosun College to see if they could recommend anyone qualified to work with dyslexics and they gave me the name of Barb Pringle.
I remember feeling the first glimmer of hope after speaking to Barb on the phone. Her methods seemed to have a purpose. Brian and I went to see Barb together and so the stage was set for what was to be a very challenging and rewarding time.
As an outsider all I could do was watch Brian as the weeks went by and he became more confident and began to really understand Barb’s methods. I could see at least Brain was beginning to feel he had a chance to at last overcome what had been such an obstacle for him all his life.
Brian re-sat his exams for college and passed! The feeling of achievement was enormous and for me a relief. I could feel so much of the tension and anger subsiding – there was hope now for Brian to change his career.
I guess that now looking back much of the frustration could have been avoided if only a program such as A.W.A.R.E. had been available in England and Brian had been present with the learning option earlier in life.
However, at least now the tools are available to continue improving. Brian enjoys his new career and for me – I just take so much pleasure in seeing him, be so confident and happy that he has been given a chance to beat his disability.
I realize though, that there are many, many less fortunate individuals who are facing the same problems and who do not have access to or maybe aren’t even aware of a program such as A.W.A.R.E. For them, their lives will be a struggle- especially in todays’ increasingly technical world where a degree or diploma can mean the difference between securing a job or not!
The program A.W.A.R.E. has to be made accessible to more people. Schools and colleges should be able to set up the program and offer real help to those students who need it. I can fully understand the need for urgency. Far too many young people are leaving school without the basics in academic skills. They will never – reach their full potential without being given the gift of learning the alternative way. Our school systems are ill equipped to cope with this at the moment.
I hope my story and this journal brings a little more awareness to anyone who takes the time to read it.