I qualified as a general nurse at University College Hospital London, where I continued to work as a staff nurse on a male medical ward and in Accident and Emergency (Casualty as it was in those days). I was very interested in the emotional aspects of disease and care and so as to increase my effectiveness in this area I did my psychiatric training at Mapperley Hospital in Nottingham. I then returned to general nursing at to St Mary’s Paddington as a Relief Sister; which meant I moved around the hospital on both day and night duty, covering holidays and sickness. I thoroughly enjoyed this time, it got me back into general nursing all right, but it was as you can imagine very wearing and I finally settled as a Sister on a gynaecological ward.
Having qualified as a Teacher of Nurses at South Bank University I spent 4 years back at University College Hospital and 4 years at The Royal London Hospital. The last 4 years were in many ways the most enjoyable of my working life, especially as I was teaching both general and psychiatric nursing on an unique integrated 4 year course.
In 1980 I hung up my uniform to concentrate on being a mother to first one and then two sons. It didn’t take very long to realise that all was not quite usual. My eldest hated lying down, hated to be pushed in his pram, wasn’t absorbed in mobiles, woke with a start and had frequent night terrors. Things didn’t improve when he went to school. The teacher appreciated his intelligence but couldn’t fathom why he didn’t learn; neither did he excel at games and as we discovered he even needing to be taught how to climb over a stile. The younger one was a very determined baby, but spent months of very unhappy nights. He writhed and screamed obviously in pain. His nappies were foul, but no reason could be determined. How stupid could I have been. It’s easy now to realise he was allergic to the cows milk formula he was fed as I was unable to breast feed having had breast surgery several years before. The older one had incidentally been fed on a Soya milk product, very new at the time. I was reliant on advice and, having moved, the new hospital midwives and doctors were not keen to recommend the Soya product. The nights got worse as he was weaned and craved for the orange juice that we eventually discovered he was also allergic to. Looking back now I can’t believe how slow I was to learn, but there wasn’t the knowledge then and I have to give myself the advice that I always give the parents of the kids I see; don’t feel guilt. It’s a pointless emotion, it achieves nothing but hurt, heartache and eventually more hurt. Eventually we did accept that both boys had a specific learning difficulty. They were actually diagnosed as having dyslexia. Though there are certain similarities on the whole they are so very different. One has little energy, the other bursting with it. One loves his own company and a quiet peaceful time; the other one hates both. One could sit and watch television all day and night (given the opportunity that is) the other couldn’t sit still for five minutes, couldn’t comprehend the flow of dialogue. One is articulate, the other didn’t speak till he was 5. I realised that the diagnosis of dyslexia was so varied that if teachers weren’t prepared they couldn’t possibly know what to expect. The same is true for parents, but they have a gradual appreciation of the uniqueness of their children, but it is no less distressing for that.
It was the helplessness I felt as a mother that was the hardest. Whatever I did didn’t seem to help and when they were teased and bullied I still didn’t seem to be able to help. In the end all I could do was listen to their experiences. I had been banned from telling teacher as they had found it didn’t help and frequently they felt betrayed. Teachers, special needs teachers, were sympathetic on the whole, but I think felt as helpless as I did. Technique after different technique, specially developed for the under achieving learner, left them still decidedly under achieving. They and the teachers began to feel the hopelessness of their school life. The problem was that each technique worked from the same principle, lets just give them more tuition in reading, writing, spelling, instead of looking at what the basic problem was. The eyes didn’t work, the ears didn’t work; they weren’t deaf or blind, teachers could have understood that. I don’t blame the teachers. Their training just did not equip them.
They were both treated by INPP, Peter Blythe being the first person to hear and understand what we were experiencing and offering concrete help. Mid way through treatment my youngest aged 11 had a booster vaccine for measles, 10 days later he completely lost his cool. For months he was desperate, unable to tolerate any frustration, unable to even go to school. To be quite honest his behaviour was diabolical but something told me that it wasn’t his fault, that he could not control it. Finally, after several suicide attempts we found The Biolab in London, who were surprised that he was still actually walking around, having never seen such a low level of zinc. I know how important zinc is, as I saw my son come back to us day by day as his zinc levels were restored. But I was a nurse. Surely I knew how to feed my kids, surely they should get these vital minerals from a healthy diet, for it wasn’t just zinc that they were deficient in, and it wasn’t just them it was me too. That meant that I didn’t have the right nutrients to give them in the first place as they developed inside me. The first one getting what there was, leaving even less for me and the next son. We then discovered we were all deficient in DHA (essential fatty acid) this is caused by an enzyme deficiency and indirectly the cause of the water soluble mineral deficiencies. That made so much sense of the family history. My breast disease, the widespread eczema, the asthma, the high blood pressure, the high cholesterol, the cancer, the irritable bowel, the varicose veins, the Alzheimer’s. Don’t worry, no one individual has the lot and on the whole we are a long lived family, we just suffer a lot.
My boys are no longer boys; at 26 and 23 they are both working in careers of their choice, That ability to have a choice is for me our greatest achievement. Theirs because they persevered, they kept ambition high. Ours, because we sought the help and enabled them to keep the semblance of confidence to retain ambition.
The oldest one is a trainee manager in a prestigious group of hotels having obtained a degree in hotel management. If you’d told me when he was 11, with a reading age of about 7, that he’d even contemplate uni, well you could have knocked me down with a feather.
The youngest is a Prison Officer working with young offenders. He appreciates that many of these youngsters are dyslexic but probably didn’t get the help that he did. Its taken time for him to find out what he wanted, having qualified as a mechanic, and then worked in sales, he finally found this opportunity to work with young people. Its tough work, they don’t always appreciate the care they get and they show it. But, for me, the best recommendation is one of the senior officers criticisms, “You chat too much with them, your too friendly”.
They have undergone all the treatments described on this website and others. Some have been more effective than others, but each has added to the whole. Both of them would agree that the most important has been the changes in body and brain chemistry achieved through food supplements. The oldest has more energy, he is no longer a couch potato, and rarely ill now. With a reading age still of only 8 at aged 17 we discovered, eventually, that the youngest was not breaking down a naturally occurring nerve chemical fast enough. The high levels of this chemical was over stimulating all of the sensory nerves, so that his eyes were working too fast to take in the written word, his ears were not able to separate the spoken words, no wonder he couldn’t learn, no wonder he exploded with pain and frustration. Once we knew what the problem was then the resolution was easy. He now reads and writes, though his spelling remains somewhat unique. The important thing is that he as achieved, is still achieving, and in an area of his choice, so that he goes home with job satisfaction.
Life has been tough, often I’ve wondered why, but I hope from this short extraction of our life that you can see that there is light at the end of the tunnel. With the right help, as early as possible, there is life after a diagnosis of specific learning difficulty. One thing I’ve learned is that we have a whole lifetime to learn, who cares if it takes a little longer, the secret is never to give up.
Seven years ago I did my Neuro-developmental Therapy training in Chester, followed by the Johansen and TLP sound therapy trainings a few years later. I am continuously doing courses on nutrition, methods of measuring for allergies and deficiencies. I also do follow up courses on different aspects of neurodevelopment to keep up to date, to discover new techniques, to find out what is going on around the world. I have just returned from a conference where their were professionals from 14 different countries, and the speakers included such experts as Paul Madaule, Sally Goddard Blythe, Kjeld Johansen, Harold Levinsen, Orlando Schrager. These names may not mean anything to many, but I can assure you they are some of the leaders in the field. Having said that, one of the most useful things that I brought back to add to my kit bag was a simple method of improving visual memory, developed by a special needs teacher from Crewe. Above all I want to pass on the hope, the methods I have learned to overcome, side step and simply accept neuro-developmental delay. By the way, I am dyslexic too.