The Masters of Disguise

Our oldest son has Dyslexia. 

We didn’t realise until he started school and even then he managed to mask it for a long time.

Apart from often being wonderfully  creative they are also masters of Disguise… They are chameleons. 

They can adapt, copy and imitate. 

Genius really. Often, they have adapted to our way of reading and writing, of learning and processing data so well that their learning disability goes unnoticed for many years. 

I saw a clip recently of actress Keira Knightly, retelling the story of when her parents realised she had Dyslexia.  It was like hearing myself talking about our oldest.  

She would ask mum or dad to read the book and she would listen carefully, memorising each bit and when it was her turn to “read” she relied on her memory. Extraordinary. (And a good memory is certainly a good trait to have if you’re an actor!) 

This is how we started suspecting Jackson might be dyslexic.  The memorising bit.

Jackson never seemed interested in reading or writing and struggled with B, P, S, 5 and the other usual suspects. He could just about manage to write his name.  I wasn’t too worried initially.  I mean, he was a baby in my eyes and it could just be his age.

Still… I had that feeling in my stomach. I just knew. Jackson is different.

We voiced our concerns but the teachers kept reiterating that it was too soon to tell. 

Once he started getting reading home work he’d always ask me to read a page out loud before reading it himself.  Initially, I didn’t think so much of it.  I figured he just needed an extra boost and I was happy to oblige. One day though I was watching him read and I saw that he wasn’t actually reading the text. His eyes weren’t moving.

So the next time I changed the text from the original and that’s when I realised Jackson had memorised every word and was retelling the story from memory only.

Word for word. 

Incredibly impressive but I was heartbroken. 

I wasn’t heartbroken that he had Dyslexia.  I was so sad that he’d been so worried about being different, and not being able to read, that he’d memorised it all in order to disguise it. He wanted to hide it and not tell us.

I recently saw a thread on Twitter whether we should have home work or not. This is a whole other post in itself but let’s just say, I’m not a fan.

Home work time in this house is pure torture. 

Our son is miserable, we despair and I just don’t see the point. 

Our son is now in year 5. 

We have good days and bad days. 

His reading and writing has improved. He’s still incredibly fast at learning and memorising text. His stories are incredible; he’s so creative and imaginative. 

Often, you can play him a tune once and he’ll remember most, if not all, lyrics. 

He seems at peace with his Dyslexia and tries to keep up. His peers are so supportive and he’s never been bullied for being different. 

Our school system just isn’t set up to support children with dyslexia and we need more awareness. Keira actually briefly talks about it herself; we need to educate and support our teachers so that they can adapt their teaching plans and learning environment accordingly. 

We encourage our son to try and explore all aspects of his personality.  

Being good at reading and writing is useful, but it’s isn’t everything. 

For example, he is incredibly astute and sensitive. He’s devoted, caring and loving. He can spot patterns incredibly fast and he can see the whole picture. 

He doesn’t seem to be worried about his Dyslexia. He just says that his brain is “wired differently”. 

I’ve spoken to a few adult friends with Dyslexia. They all have different coping mechanisms and we are lucky to have technology on our side. Like spell check, and Siri/Alexa. 

Having Dyslexia won’t stop you from achieving in life. But don’t take my word for it. Just ask these following people instead: 

Albert Einstein

Richard Branson

Darcey Bussell

Keira Knightly

Steven Spielberg

Pablo Picasso

Jamie Oliver

John Lennon

Steve Jobs

Ingvar Kamprad 

Useful links:

British Dyslexia Awareness Week

Sweden Day

It’s Sweden day today. Since moving away 17 years ago it’s become a day when I reflect on what it means to me living abroad, away from my friends and family.

For me Sweden is home. It’s family. It’s memories and childhood. It’s running through fields barefoot. It’s going for bike rides with my friends. It’s swimming in lakes on hot summer days. It’s singing in church wearing my best summer dress. It’s picking flowers in meadows. It’s picking mushrooms. It’s going on a boat to the island. It’s Astrid Lindgren and ABBA. It’s Swedish humour and Fika.

Living abroad almost makes you more Swedish. Our traditions become so more important, particularly our holidays. Lucia and Christmas, Midsommar and Crayfish parties. Heck, even Eurovision!

Most memories of Sweden and my childhood are covered with a rosy pink hue. The longer I stay away, the more my memories alter themselves, adding a suitable photo filter.

I know it’s not the reality, but it’s what my brain likes to think is true. Or maybe it’s my heart?

The UK is my home and where I’ve decided to live and raise my children. I’m so happy here and couldn’t ever imagine not living here.

I’m a member of a few “Swedes abroad” groups on Facebook and the conversations are always the same – regardless of what new country we have adopted.

We miss the Swedish summers, we miss being outdoors. We miss how family oriented Sweden is as a country, not only in terms of equal childcare rights, but how everything is child friendly, putting the kids in focus.

We miss the food. Gosh, do we miss the food.

I had a food delivery the other day of foods I love and I could have cried. Unless you’ve lived abroad yourself it’s a hard one to explain fully.

On the whole, I’ve become British. I say sorry when someone bumps into me, I love a queue and will always happily talk about the weather. I cook a pretty mean roast and I drink a lot of tea. I’m polite and open minded – something that’s a bit of oxymoron having lived in London for most of my adult years!

But my core is still Swedish and I miss it sometimes.

Below is a list of very Swedish things:

  1. Swedes love their coffee. 6 cups a day is standard. (Preferably had with nice pastries and/or cinnamon buns.) I love my coffee too, and a proper coffee maker was one of the first things I bought when I moved to London.

  1. You always take your shoes off inside. You wouldn’t wear your coat inside so why your shoes? I don’t get it.

  2. Be bad at small talk. I’m quite good at this actually, but says more about my personality than anything else. I like to talk. A lot. To anyone.

  3. Be direct. The Swedish language is direct and to the point. I struggle with this now as I want to add a “thank you, thanks, please, cheers, ta!” to most sentences.

  4. Only eating sweets (candy) on a Saturday. I used to follow this rule religiously but can’t say that I do anymore. I may revisit it as we eat far too many sweet things generally.

  5. The Swedes love the outdoors and will head out whatever the weather. There’s no bad weather, just bad clothing. I use this quote ALL THE TIME. Just dress according to the weather you’ll be okay.

  1. We love candles. We love them. A lot. Why? Well, you never know when there’ll be a powercut or thunder and lightening. Are you going to IKEA in the near future? Check out their candle department and you’ll see what I mean.

  1. Smörgåstårta is a thing. We serve this at family events; christenings, birthdays and the like. It’s basically a massive club sandwich and it’s beautiful and the best thing ever. The first time I made this for my husband he thought I’d made it as a joke.

So there you have it. Happy Sweden Day everyone. Hope you’re celebrating with a lovely smörgåstårta and a cup of coffee somewhere.

Kram Jessica