Ken joins debate over special needs kids

WHEN Cabinet minister Ruth Kelly admitted sending her dyslexic son to a private boarding school it immediately prompted a reaction from two prominent people in Comet country. Both Mid Beds MP Nadine Dorries and millionaire author Ken Follett, husband of S

WHEN Cabinet minister Ruth Kelly admitted sending her dyslexic son to a private boarding school it immediately prompted a reaction from two prominent people in Comet country.

Both Mid Beds MP Nadine Dorries and millionaire author Ken Follett, husband of Stevenage MP

Barbara Follett, sympathised with the minister's decision as their lives have also been touched by dyslexia.

The MP admitted she had fought dyslexia and had paid to send her dyslexic daughter to a special school.


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Mr Follett revealed he had gone to the Department of Education and lobbied ministers and civil servants how they could solve dyslexia problems in schools.

"So far, they have not taken action. I hope the Ruth Kelly story will change their minds," said Mr Follett.

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"Ever since 1997 I have gone into the Department of Education with representatives of Dyslexia Action and explained to ministers and civil servants how they could solve this problem at low cost.

"One of my stepdaughters is dyslexic and I also have two nephews who suffer from the same problem, one severely, so I'm familiar with the problem personally.

"Also, I've been a governor of Roebuck Primary School in Stevenage for 10 years, and I've seen the same problem there.

"The tragic thing is that we know how to teach dyslexic children and adults to read and write. That problem was solved years ago.

"Yet dyslexics are still failing in school because they don't get the help they need."

Mr Follett added: "Mildly dyslexic people, such as my stepdaughter, may overcome the problem by sheer persistence - though many become convinced they are 'thick'.

"Severely dyslexic people, such as my sister's son, must have special help. In primary school, they need one or two hours a week of one-to-one teaching by a specialist.

"If they get that, they will catch up with the rest of the class - but if they don't, they won't.

"We proved this at Roebuck when we brought in the charity Dyslexia Action, funded by a grant from Barclays Bank, and showed a sharp improvement in the reading skills of our dyslexics."

MP Nadine Dorries, who still suffers from dyslexia, said: "Dyslexia is a nightmare. My dyslexia still presents me with huge problems. If it hadn't been for computers I would never have been able to run a business or be an MP.

"My daughter did have specialist help. She attended the Green unit at Kingham Hill School which we had to pay for.

"Dyslexia is only one special needs problem. The real difficulties are with autism and Asperger's. These are children who find the mainstream environment frightening and rather than learn, withdraw, and make life more difficult for the teachers and everyone else in the classroom.

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