Author hopes book will be ‘go-to authority for anyone linked to dyslexia’

Mike Styles and his book about dyslexia. Photo/David Haxton

The “go-to” book about dyslexia has been written by a specialist in the field.

Mike Styles, from Paraparaumu, said the aim of Congratulations – You Have Dyslexia! Great Minds Think Differently was to change people’s mindsets about the learning disorder.

“Many people think that if you can’t read, write or spell well you must be a bit thick – but you aren’t – there are literally thousands of examples worldwide of very intelligent people who struggled.

“Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg, Richard Branson, and John Britten have all been successful for a reason.

“They succeeded not in spite of their dyslexia – they achieved it because of it.”

Styles said the focus was to also highlight that “dyslexia is a difference, not a disability.”

“We should stop judging people with dyslexia for their bad spelling and look instead at their skills and talents.”

Styles used to be a school teacher before focusing on low adult literacy and numeracy, then immersing himself in the dyslexia world for the last 12 years.

“I have been lucky to get involved with some research [dyslexia] projects and have reported the findings of those in conferences around the world.

“That has led me to this stage where I thought it was about time I wrote a book about it.”

Styles was “very happy” with the book and praised editor/designer Pat Sandbrook for “turning my average words into something a bit better.”

“The vision is that the book will be the go-to authority for anyone linked to dyslexia wanting some advice and support.”

The book looks at dyslexia in education and the wider world, especially the workplace.

He said on the negative side were people who couldn’t read an email, fill in an application form, and so on but “on the upside is we are wasting a lot of creative talent.”

“People with dyslexia are creative, innovative, skilful, empathetic, problem solvers and are great people readers.

“The positive side is the exciting part of the story but we’re wasting the resource at the moment because we’re not acknowledging it.

“And employers need to be trained a little bit about how to recognize these people and put them to best use.”

Styles has created a petition to get the government to instigate an inquiry into dyslexia not just in the education system but across the economy.

The petition (Google dyslexia petition) has been live for a month and has nearly got the 5000 signatures Styles wants before submitting it to the petitions committee in Parliament.

Mike Styles book on dyslexia.  Photo/David Haxton
Mike Styles book on dyslexia. Photo/David Haxton

Styles said it had only been in the last few generations that dyslexia had begun to be understood.

Dyslexia, caused genetically by a different wiring in the brain, affected about 10 per cent of the world’s population.

“Dyslexia is a condition where otherwise intelligent people struggle with text.

“They struggle with reading, writing and spelling.”

Styles said Kāpiti was one of the best-supported areas, coincidentally not through design, for people with dyslexia.

“The coast is perhaps the best place in the country to have dyslexia.

“In the business world it would be described as a center of excellence, an incubator or innovation centre.”

He said parents of children with dyslexia had come to the coast over many years “to access the dyslexia-friendly learning environment provided at Kāpiti College.

“The positive environment there has encouraged many children with dyslexia to discover their skills and talents and to thrive in education.

“Kenakena School is known for the constructive way it supports younger children with dyslexia in their formative years with their Davis programme.

“Paraparaumu College is also providing excellent support for dyslexic learners.

“Kāpiti Youth Support is one of only three institutions across New Zealand to be awarded the Dyslexia Friendly Quality Mark (DFQM).

“The DFQM is an independently verified standard of excellence that confirms that an institution holding it follows best practice in supporting young people with dyslexia.

“Capital Training Ltd (which also has a DFQM), provides quality training for young people who have not succeeded at secondary school.”

But unfortunately throughout the country “most kids, in most schools, don’t get it (dyslexia) identified and many drop out of school early and disengage with education”.

Moreover, “many adults with dyslexia don’t know they have it, and many that do struggle to hide it because they’re embarrassed by the fact they can’t read, write or spell, and they would have been mocked in school because of it”.

Styles did a research project a few years ago in New Zealand prisons where he screened 130 inmates for dyslexia.

“Fifty per cent of prison inmates show up as positive for dyslexia.

“It’s an inordinately high number but it’s similar to other countries.

“The reason is pretty simple and that’s because someone who has been shortchanged in the education system and sidelined from the world of work, who is otherwise clever, finds another way to make a buck.”

Copies of the book ($40) can be ordered via mike.styles@dyslexia-consulting.com.

Styles is launching his book at Te Raukura ki Kāpiti on May 24, at 7pm, where he will be giving a presentation called The future is bright for children with dyslexia.

Entry is free. Register at Eventfinda.

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