Reprinted from:

Otago Daily Times

Gift grows from humiliating experiences

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Turning 3D into 2D . . . Dunedin woman and Davis dyslexia correction programme facilitator, Shelley McMeeken.

KAREN Jenkins (46) vividly remembers the pain and humiliation of being struck across her palms with a metal ruler for her supposed naughtiness in not reading her school journals aloud.

Her education in Cape Town, South Africa, was a continual nightmare of punishment and rebellion against reading - something she physically could not do because of her then undetected dyslexia.

"All my life I've been classed as special needs, or handicapped almost, because I wasn't able to read simple things."

Like many other dyslexics, Mrs Jenkins, of Glenorchy, thought everyone experienced the same difficulties but still managed to make sense of what was only confusion to her. Full stops, as well as the dots on "i's" and "j's", constantly move around on the page, making reading a tiring, frustrating experience.

Until she completed the Davis programme as a "guinea pig" recently, a sixth of a page of text vanished in a visual grey area. Her co-ordination was so bad she did not learn to drive until she was 32 and she had never attempted a parallel park.

Mrs Jenkins was diagnosed as dyslexic when she was about 18 and began to experiment with alternative therapies.

When her friend Shelley McMeeken asked her to try a dyslexia programme in which she had been trained, Mrs Jenkins was only too happy oblige.

Her emotion in describing the difference it has made to her life is palpable: "For the first time in 40 years, I have the confidence to fill out application forms". Where she had previously taken three or four forms to allow for the inevitable mistakes, she now requires only one.

She also has mental "tools" to stop the print "jumping around" on the pages and through repeated cognitive exercises, the grey patch has disappeared from text.

As her confidence grows, Mrs Jenkins is starting to see dyslexia as a positive, rather than negative condition.

"When I look at a plan [of a house] I am able to visualise it in 3D. . . I realise more and more that it can be a gift."

Reading has become a pleasure and not a chore, although she still has to work hard at it.

The frustration of not having total control over her life has disappeared and her husband often remarks on how her confidence has grown, she says.

"There isn't anything to hold me back now. I have an equal opportunity to learn or to communicate."

Saturday, 11-October 2003