Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Dyslexia Blog - Shane Lynch - My Secret Past

Tonight there was a documentary on Channel Five called Shane Lynch - My Secret Past, discussing the issues of Boyzone star Shane Lynch and his dyslexia. I had been looking forward to the program for two reasons. One is because I'm dyslexic and the other is because I produce documentary films. I was interested to see how the issue was portrayed and hoped to receive some insight into the subject.

I am sorry to say that I feel highly let down by the program makers. They had an hour of our time, a decent subject to feature and a fair few interesting people in the backup cast of characters. I have often thought about making a film on the subject, what I'd want to say and how I'd want to say it.. As I watched I felt a rising sense of anger. I don't think they could have got it more wrong if the tried. The big story was the build up to Shane's dyslexia test. Why on earth they chose this as the narrative and the story, God only knows. There were all manner of interesting facts which were skimmed on. 40% of the prison population are dyslexic. Children with dyslexia often are angry and disruptive. Young people with dyslexia hide from help. Some dyslexic people are very successful. Reading in public is stressful.

If you've read my series of blogs on dyslexia, none of this would have been news to you. What made me want to hurl a rock at the TV was just how little time was given to explore this. It was all part of the build up to Shane, who can't read very well, being given an assessment and being told he's dyslexic.

This could have been a really important piece of TV, yet we were left with something as satisfying as a cold shower. Take the interview with the young man in the young offenders institution. There were four people in the interview, yet we heard nothing from the lady who was helping him and we heard nothing from his mentor (who I assumed was another prisoner). We heard nothing from anyone who talked about dyslexia and the coping strategies we develop. We heard nothing of the spectrum of dyslexia. We heard nothing about the differences in how the dyslexic brain processes information. We saw a bit of Shanes sister saying how she didn't really realise he had problems, but nothing of how this affected his behaviour. Did he not want us to know how much of a bastard he could be? There was a small moment where I saw a vague reflection of myself. When he was driving to his assessment, he got irrationally and extremely angry. It was the stress of being tested. I recognised the anger. I am a very calm person 99% of the time. I do however have an extremely bad reaction to people in authority lying.

A recent case of this was in the Friern Barnet Library Court case. A Barnet Council official took the stand and started telling porkies. Rosie Canning, from the Save Friern Barnet Library campaign noticed a strange physical change in me. I'd turned bright red. I think Rosie thought I was about to have a heart attack. She asked if I was OK. I responded that I was fine, I just couldn't stand liars. She was a bit perturbed, I suspect. This reaction dates back to incidents at school. I was not a star pupil and I was deemed disruptive. On one occasion, I was nearly expelled, but for the intervention of a teacher I got on well with. When it came down to it, the Headmaster of the school was telling bare faced lies and getting away with it. Up until that point, I'd assumed such people were honest and decent. As I was fourteen at the time, I knew no one would believe what I had to say. I was overcome by feelings of impotence and paranoia. The Headmaster sent me out of his office, whist he made a few phonecalls. At that moment, our physics teacher walked past, who I got on well with. He asked me what was wrong, I explained the situation, and he intervened. I was amazed that he cared enough to bother. I really didn't think I deserved it. I had been set up by a couple of other boys, in a silly prank. It was obvious to any fair minded individual what had happened. The physics teacher spoke to the boys and got them to own up to the headmaster. He personally guaranteed that they would not be punished if they did, as it was clearly a joke which had gone badly wrong. I had agreed to let him help me and told him the names of the other boys on the condition that if he couldn't persuade them to own up, he would not intervene further. Strangely enough, having nearly been expelled, I was then given a lecture on what fine young men they were to tell the truth and  come forward and save me. The physics teacher later told me that he was flabbergasted at the headmasters attitude to the whole incident. He also said that he admired the fact that I would only tell him the names of the boys on condition that he wouldn't dob them in if they didn't cooperate.

The incident made me very wary of people in positions of authority. As it was I was expelled not long after for a very trivial incident. The Headmaster of the school told me I'd never be anything. Fortunately, I transferred to another school and to some degree wiped the slate clean. I wondered if there were any such incidents in Shane's past. He didn't really seem to want to open up. He had a schoolfriend in the film, but we got no incite at all as to the real Shane. We found out that he likes to be in the countryside and have walks with his daughter. We found that he'd never been in a library. What we didn't find was how he really felt about his demons. There were all sorts of things which were glossed over. There is a horrible tendency in documentaries to want to give us a happy ending. The girl doing a degree gets her laptop, the lad in prison wants to get on the straight and narrow. I don't think this helps us at all. What we need to do is get across to people just how horrible and terrifying it can be to be dyslexic. The best moment in the film was when a young girl talked about her problems. Sadly, like much of the film, just when she opened up it, we cut to something else.

There's all sorts of things I'd have liked to have seen in the film. I'd have like to have seen what the dyslexic lads mentor had to say about him. I'd like to have heard more from the lady teaching the prisoners as to how they help the prisoners get their lives on track. I'd have liked to have heard more from the children in the special unit talking about how the issues affect them. Instead we had Shane walking in the woods waffling on interminably about nothing. I felt the makers didn't trust the viewers to "get it". They wanted to focus on Shane because he was the star. I felt he was simply the keyholder opening the door to some interesting rooms. I'd also have liked to have heard how Shane got into Boyzone, what inspired him to take that road. Was he a talented musician as a youngster? All we had was a very unhappy dyslexic fourteen year old, who suddenly became a superstar. Was singing a release from a difficult life? Would he have still been a singer if the band didn't make it. Strangely there were a few parallels between myself and Shane. Bot our parents owned garages. I wanted to work at my fathers garage, but as a teenager, I fought constantly with everyone, so it wouldn't have worked. I got into music. Whilst I didn't become a superstar, it did give me a focus and something which I didn't have to worry about dyslexia. Being in a band has always given me a gang and a bit of security. This was something I never really felt I had at school, although I had some great friends. For all my school years, I was always terrified of being exposed as a fraud, humiliated, downtrodden and victimised. Luckily for me, I was able to hold my own and the fears were internal rather than a response to external problems. I had hoped for insights into all of this. Sadly all I got was a feeling I'd been cheated.

My wife, who is not dyslexic and doesn't really understand the condition at all (despite suffering me for 27 years on and off), said "how come you can read if you are dyslexic" near the end. I replied "there is a spectrum, he's more dyslexic than I am". I had hoped that maybe the program would help her understand a bit better, but no, she just thinks I'm not even much good at being dyslexic now.

I'd love to make a film about dyslexia. I've no idea if the non dyslexics amongst us would find it very interesting, but the one in ten who are, would finally have something which they might be able to get. The sad thing about these blogs is that the people who might enjoy them most, won't ever be able to read them properly. 


d said...

i thought you were writing about my youngest son, akthough both my boys have dyslexia. my youngests has a percentile of 2% (only cores on test the same as 2% of peers) his reading age is single figures despite being 15, although the last test he had was the first time he actually scored a reading age at all. the part in blog were you wrote I was nearly expelled, but for the intervention of a teacher I got on well with. When it came down to it, the Headmaster of the school was telling bare faced lies and getting away with it. Up until that point, I'd assumed such people were honest and decent. As I was fourteen at the time, I knew no one would believe what I had to say. I was overcome by feelings of impotence and paranoia. The Headmaster sent me out of his office, whist he made a few phonecalls. At that moment, our physics teacher walked past, who I got on well with. He asked me what was wrong, I explained the situation, and he intervened. in my sons case he was punished for retaliating when a student physically attacked him for being thick. he was not expelled after a number of meetings but was punished. The intervention did no good in long run. the other students consider him thick the teachers useless. idont know where it will end for my son as he has given up

Rog T said...


Encourage him and support him. I'm 50, I run a successful studio (A dream Job), I write a blog thats had over three quarters of a million hits. That's more people looking than some of the countrys best selling authors. Tell him it will work out, he just has to stop caring about what idiots say. I built my studio from nothing. Bring him down if you want and I'll show him what you can do - checkout www.millhillmusiccomplex.co.uk -
You must not give up and you must help him through. I was a very angry teenager. I got through it with love from my wife and my friends (the real friends). It comes. The best thing I did was change school at 15, so consider it.

james Appleton said...

Hi I was just reading your blog, and I must say its a good blog. I liked the way he came across with the anger and stress of being in school as I went through all that also I think he could make a follow up program getting inside dyslexia which would be great as I have always wanted to make a show that shows what happens to dyslexic kids from school age to there mid 30's as dyslexia has ruined my life and I am still so angry at it now, the way I was treated at school being stood on a desk and told I was stupid by my teacher as she informed the rest of the class I could not read or write, it was not the best thing for a 6 year old to go through, I got blamed for everything as well, and it carried on until my mum hid outside my class and waited for the teacher to start on me, and she did I got hit on the back of the hand with a ruler and made to stand up and show my writing to the class and then got called stupid, my mum burst in to the class room and walked straight up to the teacher and said if you ever speak to my son like that again I will pull you through the key hole and she took me home, they moved me to another class but nothing changed I was the stupid kid who was good at sport, anyway I got tested for dyslexia at 9 and was told I was acutely Dyslexic but had an IQ of 130 Iv never felt so happy in my life I was not stupid.
I moved to a really small mainstream school with 26 students I loved it my head teacher helped me all the way it was amazing I even took my 11+ I failed but my head said for 1 year at that school I had done so well, as I was as close to passing i should appeal, but I did not want to.
I went to secondary school and it all started again after 1 year of real joy I was in Remedial class, being told yet again I was stupid I explained to the teacher I was dyslexic and she replied that is just an excuse for lazy people, so you can see how that was going to turn out anyway I left that school had a year of home education went back to another school loved it but left without a GCSE as I was not allowed any help reading my exam papers If some one had asked me all the questions I could have given them the answer as I have found out from later exam I have taken.
So the reason I say it has ruined my life is I have had jobs working in media and the spelling thing has always cost me a job and have been told by an employer it does not matter how good you are at doing the job you must have the qualifications to do it, so as of now I can not get a job that I want I have taught myself so much just to prove I can do it, I took a TEFL coarse to teach English as a 2ND language not because I wanted to teach just to prove I could pass the exam also taught myself to build PC's again to prove I could.

So at 35 i feel finished there are so many things you do being dyslexic you create a version of yourself to hide the real you, you feel like cr+p a lot of the time you shy away from writing in public.

Sorry its so long have a great day.


Peter Irons said...

The blog echoes what I hear from the many dyslexic adults I work with. My own blog http://pete-toreadornottoread.blogspot.co.uk/ deals with the technical issues around assisting/working with adults who have survived this sort of experience

laura dyslexic jackson-cavalleri said...

Dyslexia -The Business,

I would like to Propose our current usage and Commodity of Dyslexics and Dyslexia.

In higher education the study of dyslexia and dyslexics has provided it own Unique field of study for over fifty years now and is still growing strongly. The business and usage of grants funding to continue studying this difference in brain usage has those in the field jobs for life, (I don't mind them studying dyslexics just let those study's really help the whole population of dyslexics now).

In society as we know it there are good guys and bad guys and we need Protection from bad guys. Well Who will be our most Recognizable bad guys? Answer: Our public schools' Drop Outs. This is a fact, Prisons are built based on this Equation, and the whole business of police, courts, judges, Correctional facilities, transportation and health care for these individuals is all tied up in a dyslexic student dropping out of public school. And these students do so because they were ashamed and not understood by their teachers and worst not helped by their teachers who weren't taught how to teach Dyslexic Students in teachers college, ( now there's where we can add new business growth). Dyslexics can be great leaders, and people will follow them, like Rex Ryan head Coach of the NY Jets or George Washington Father of our nation by popular vote, to the best and greatest Entrepreneur and Businessmen and women in the world, or a public school drop out turned gang leader on the streets of Chicago.

To the idea that only some Dyslexics are Privileged enough to be enrolled into Private Schools for just only dyslexics with all the Wealths and benefits that only private schools can afford and Indulge is a business and a Segregation of the haves and have nots. Why is it that many of these Private establishments that have been in Existence of a couple of decades have only been Exclusively for the few that can and not for all Dyslexics?

I am not Bashing the teachers but I am asking for their help, for it will be because of their support and love to teach and not to be failures themselves as teachers; but to learn as our teachers how to teach dyslexics; that it is with the greatest of hope and the strongest of pleas I ask that Teachers support Dyslexics students, support yourselves and help help change the society statement that for Decades that has been The Business of Dyslexia.

Sarah Jones said...

I am a mum of a 11year old boy who has just had the text and found out he is dyslexic your blog was good for me to read . Have you watched the Cara Tointon documentary I found that covered a lot of the aspects you mentioned .

Rog T said...

Hi Sarah,

I haven't seen the documentary, but I will check it out.

Thanks for the comment.

Henri Page said...

I found what you had to say very interesting, as a dyslexic leaner myself who is currently at Uni my research project is about how dyslexic leaners feel about it and their education. There has not been much research into it at all and I feel you should do a documentry as you have some very good points to make. I look forward to viewing it hopefully!

Rog T said...


Thanks for the comment. There is a documentary in there. I've spoken to a couple of people but thus far they find what I have to say a bit too hardcore for a nice happy program, which seems to be the flavour of the day.