Mari Carmen Postigo recently established the Waterford Dyslexia Group and is striving to raise awareness of the condition and obtain greater services for local children.
DYSLEXIA is a specific learning difficulty which makes it hard for some people to learn to read, write and spell correctly.
It’s estimated that around one in ten Irish people have a form of dyslexia.
Many people involved in dyslexia advocacy believe there is still a huge lack of awareness surrounding the condition and a need for greater services for children in schools.
Mari Carmen Postigo, who resides in Tramore, has embarked on a campaign to highlight the need for improved services for children with dyslexia in Waterford.
Originally from Spain, she has lived in Waterford since 2001.
Her daughter, who Mari Carmen describes as highly intelligent and very capable in every other aspect of her development, was diagnosed as being dyslexia in November 2016 aged seven.
She says her daughter’s school, Tramore Educate Together, is very supportive but can only do so much.
“Children with dyslexia learn differently but the system is not providing what they need. They require extra time and resources,” she said.
Mari Carmen explains that whenever her daughter’s fellow students are practicing certain writing techniques, she can only draw which is “very distressing” for her.
“She says she needs someone with her to write what she wants to say,” said Mari Carmen.
“She needs a scribe, which is provided for exams in secondary school but is not provided for primary school.”
Her daughter qualified for a place at a special reading school which are full-time national schools, provided by the Department of Education and Skills and so are free of charge.
The regular school curriculum is followed, with the exception of Irish.
Children usually attend for one to two years and then return to their own school.
However, there are only a limited number of reading schools and reading units within national schools in operation including in Dublin, Cork and Enniscorthy.
No such service is currently available in Waterford.
As a result, Mari Carmen sourced a tutor privately.
She has already seen the difference which one-to-one tutoring has made, especially with her daughter’s confidence.
She is also exploring alternative therapy involving primary movement which she says is proving very beneficial.
However, Mari Carmen is disappointed that the resources, which are available in some other locations with smaller populations, are currently not available in Waterford.
She has written to the Minister for Education Richard Bruton to highlight the issue.
“It’s not fair that Waterford children should be discriminated against,” she said.
“The Minister said he didn’t have time to meet me and that his secretary would write to me in relation to the issues I have raised,” said Mari Carmen, who is still awaiting an adequate reply.
Technological devices such as tablets and smartphones can now be extremely useful tools for people with dyslexia.
Many tablets and smartphones come with in-built screen reading and voice recognition features, and there is a vast range of apps available to assist with reading, writing, spelling, organisation, study skills and numeracy.
However, Mari Carmen says she has been waiting eight months for an iPad from the Department of Education which was promised for her daughter.
Spurred on by her frustration and a quest to obtain more knowledge about dyslexia, Mari Carmen formed the Waterford Dyslexia Group earlier this year.
“I decided I had to do something,” she explained.
The group’s first event was a talk in Tramore Library last September which featured a first-hand account of living with dyslexia and proved very successful.
Prior to this meeting, Mari Carmen visited local schools and the Waterford Teachers Centre to promote the talk.
She says it’s important to equip teachers with the necessary knowledge for dealing with students who are dyslexic.
Two teachers and a principal were in attendance at the last talk, with the rest of the group comprised of concerned parents.
She says it’s also very helpful for parents to share their experiences.
“It’s very distressing to see your child is not keeping up so it’s important to be reassured and know that you have someone to talk to,” she said.
“With dyslexia you could take two steps forward one week, and three steps back the following week. It can be quite stressful and does create anxiety. We are all individuals, everyone is different and dyslexia is very individualised.”
The next talk will take place at the Edmund Rice Centre on January 10th and will feature guest speakers from the Dyslexia Association of Ireland.
Along with hoping to see more teachers involved, Mari Carmen also hopes that workshops which are held elsewhere in the country can begin here in Waterford if there is sufficient interest.
The workshops, which would be conducted by the Dyslexia Association of Ireland, will run for two hours over 12 weeks at a cost of €360 at a suitable venue locally.
The Waterford group is not yet affiliated with the Association as, in order to do this, the group must have 25 children committed to the workshops.
As a result of holding the first talk in Tramore, around 13 children are now committed to attending the workshops.
Mari Carmen hopes the workshops will support families and children and build self-esteem.
She says the workshops will also serve an important purpose in terms of social interaction.
The group have also held a number of coffee mornings and plan on holding others in the future as well as staging fun activities.
She says it’s important to remove the stigma of dyslexia (which she believes still exists) and to remove the misconceptions which she says are caused by a lack of knowledge.
Mari Carmen’s two daughters also have dyscalculia which is a difficulty in learning or comprehending arithmetic.
She says there is very little support available for children with this condition.
“It’s not a term which is widely used,” she explained.
“Dyscalculia is probably where dyslexia was 50 years ago.”
Mari Carmen points out that Pablo Picasso was dyslexic, while Steven Spielberg has often spoken about his battle with dyslexia and how he struggled through school.
Others on the long list of luminaries who are dyslexic include Whoopi Goldberg and Keira Knightley.
“The advantage of dyslexia is that my brain puts information in my head in a different way,” Whoopi Goldberg famously once said.
This is a sentiment which Mari Carmen agrees with.
“Nature is wise, and it compensates in a lot of ways,” she said.
“Children with dyslexia might be more creative or more physically orientated.”
Mari Carmen has expressed her gratitude to Tramore and Arkdeen Libraries for their support as well as Cantec and the Dyslexia Association of Ireland.
She added: “A strong committee is important behind this project and all of this is possible thanks to a joint effort between committed parents and friends.”
With the enthusiasm and motivation of Mari Carmen and fellow parents, the Waterford Dyslexia Group is sure to go from strength to strength and hopefully, in 2018, there will be improved services for children with dyslexia in Waterford.
For more information on the Waterford Dyslexia Group visit their Facebook page, email email@example.com or call 089-4596614.