Dunce To Degree


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175 in stock


By Louise McVety

ISBN: 978-1-78382-043-6
Published: 2013
Pages: 159
Key Themes: Mental Health, Dyslexia

About the Author

Louise McVety was born on 6th August 1947 in Cheetom Hill Salford. Her first 4 years were spent with her parents and Garand parents in her Grand parent’s house.

When she was 4 and ½ her parents moved into a brand new counsel house at Woodhouse Park in Wythenshawe. She is the eldest of four girls.

At the age of 5 she was diagnosed with Tuberculoses (TB) and was sent to Higher Carley sanatorium near Ulverston. She was to remain there for 6 months, her parents only being able to visit her once a month.

After 6 months Louise was pronounced cured and sent home, however, her time at home was short lived; far from being cured of the TB, it was laying dormant only to resurface a few months later in the form of TB meningitis. She was rushed into hospital and given Last Rights by the hospital priest; being a fighter she overcame the second life threatening disease in her short life and returned home 11 months and 2 weeks after being rushed into hospital.

Life returned to normal, and Louise returned to school having been away for nearly 3 years, however, there was one thing that marred her schooling: a sea of red pen that underlined the innumerable spelling mistakes in all her work. No matter how hard she and her mother tried, her spelling never got any better. Today we know this as Dyslexia, but then her parents were told she was; lazy, not trying hard enough and thick.

Louise was not allowed to take ‘O’ levels at school because of her spelling so left school with out qualifications. However, at the age of 18 she fulfilled her dream to become a nurse at Withington Hospital; however, as she entered her final year as a nurse, an injury to her wrist prevented her completing her training.

Louise got married on her 21st birthday and had 3 lovely children by her husband. During her marriage she brought up her 3 children Danny, Zoe and Cassie; she also reared 3 fox cubes and a kestrel and worked as an outworker on less than minimum wage for many years.

When she was 34 years old Louise plucked up the courage to go to college and signed on to take 4 ‘O’ levels at Accrington and Rossendale College; although she did not start the course until half way through the year, she passed: Human Biology, English Language, English Literature and Sociology in the June.

Following her success in her ‘O’ levels’ Louise went on to study ‘A’ level English Literature and Sociology, but was constantly marked down because of her spelling. It was her English Literature tutor who suggested that she obtain a certificate to say she was dyslexic, which she did with great difficulty.

Louise went on to get 3 ‘A’ levels and went to Salford University, it was after the first year that she proved to the only person she needed prove too that she was not thick; that was herself. She went on to teacher training while deciding what she wanted to do with the rest of her life and found that she loved being a teacher. Just after finishing teacher training Louise had her fourth child Saffron. When Saffron was 10 months old, Louise got a position at Blackpool and the Fylde College teaching Biology.

Louise who was labelled ‘thick’ at school went on to get 2 more degrees with the Open University a master’s degree in Educational Management and completed the BSc she started with the OU before going to Salford University. It was just after getting her MSc that the OU asked her to do an interview with the Lancashire Evening Telegraph. The headline in the paper read ‘Dunce to Degree.’
Louise is now 66 years old and is Area Manager for Community Learning and Functional Skills in Salford; the girl the school wrote off as a dunce, thick and un-education-able. Louise likes to champion learners who like herself left school without qualifications for whatever reason, learners with Dyslexia and other disabilities and learners who have had various addictions’.

For her Dyslexia has not been a disability; a challenge maybe but certainly not a disability. In her book Louise hopes to show just this, she has also looked at the humours side of being Dyslexic

Book Extract

Have you ever wondered why a word to describe people who cannot spell is so hard to spell?

If you have ever seen the film The Young Frankenstein, there is a very funny line, which I often use when talking about the physical structure of my brain:
The young Frankenstein, having made his monster, sends his henchman Igor, to the local hospital to get a pickled brain.

On his return Frankenstein, asks Igor whose brain he had brought, to which Igor relies: “Abby someone, Abby Normal”

I loved the humour of this and so now I use this quote when I explained the anatomical (physical) differences of the brain of someone with dyslexia in comparison to some one who is not dyslexic, I use myself as an example and say some one like me with an ‘Abby Normal’ brain as apposed to some one who is not dyslexic with a ‘normal’ brain.

Dyslexia has been described as a hidden disability because there are no outward signs to show why some people have difficulty learning to read, spell etc. For a long time individuals who were otherwise bright but had difficulty learning to read were often told they were not trying hard enough or were lazy or even thick as I was.

If you recognise this from either your own experience or from you child then read on and I will try explain why some people are dyslexic and find learning to read so hard and to provide you with the much needed evidence to prove that far from being lazy, or not trying enough, there is scientific evidence to show physical differences in the brain of someone with dyslexia.

The official joint definition for dyslexia is:

“Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterised by difficulties with accurate and / or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities.”

(National Institute for Child and Human Development (NICHD) and the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) 2002.

In fact originally the condition was called ‘ Word Blindness’ which I think is a more appropriate name, because that’s just what it feels like to me. I lose words I want to say, cannot think how to start a word when I am writing it.

Research into dyslexia began even before scientist knew of the condition, scientists have been mapping the brain and what function each part of the brain carried out for a long time, dyslexia was first recognised over a hundred years ago and since then, research has shown that for a child to learn to read s/he must develop an awareness that a word is broken down into much smaller unit = letters, each of which has a unique sound. People with dyslexia have problems braking down words they are not familiar with into letter-sounds which results in learning to read being a slow process for someone with dyslexia.


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