Mrs Green, my second-year Physics teacher, once declared, “There’s no such thing as dyslexia; it’s just an excuse rich parents make for their lazy kids.”
I think she spoke for most teachers there, frustrated that the school had allowed entrance to idiots like me, so clearly unsuited to such an esteemed seat of learning.
She may have been right, or wrong. What I do know is that the second part of this unqualified diagnosis came to define my entire youth and experience of education.
For me, dyslexia was never on the cards. It never came up. My Maths teacher once suggested dyspraxia, but that was midway through his standup comedy routine, deriding me in front of the class for a catastrophic piece of homework.
But the latter diagnosis — lazy kid with rich parents — was repeated so often by every adult I engaged with throughout my youth that I accepted it to be certain truth.
Even when I was diagnosed with a condition that might have made sense of those learning experiences, I chose at the time not to make those associations.
Plenty of research since then has determined that the presence of that extra chromosome, or the consequential hormone deficiencies, has a substantial impact on academic achievement for reading and writing in school-aged boys.
Parents of boys diagnosed prenatally or in infancy are nowadays recommended a range of targeted interventions to overcome known developmental delays, whether the acquisition of langage or subsequent educational challenges.
Such interventions were not available to me, but fortunately I had the rich parents unwilling to make excuses for their youngest son. Perhaps their high expectations were the next best thing, counteracting the worst of those deficits.