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Friend’s suicide after failing Grade 8 spurs dyslexic pupil to support those with same condition

Liam Jooste partnered with the Red Apple Dyslexic Organisation to try and offer support to children who have the same condition after his friend, who also had dyslexia, committed suicide after failing Grade 8. Picture: Supplied.

Liam Jooste partnered with the Red Apple Dyslexic Organisation to try and offer support to children who have the same condition after his friend, who also had dyslexia, committed suicide after failing Grade 8. Picture: Supplied.

Published Oct 21, 2020

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When Liam Jooste was in primary school, he struggled with his reading and writing but didn’t know what the problem was.

It was only when he was in Grade 5 and had to change schools that he got a professional assessment that diagnosed him with dyslexia.

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“I struggled a lot until I moved schools in Grade 5 and had to do a screening to see where I was between grades – whether I was on par or not. My maths was above average but my English and comprehension skills were below. And they referred me to get checked for dyslexia and that’s how I found out.

“It gave me an answer to why I was struggling and it made me almost feel more normal finding out that it wasn’t me. That I had a problem. It gave me closure,” he said.

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month. The Grade 10 Pretoria Boys’ High school learner has partnered with the Red Apple Dyslexic Organisation to try and offer support to children who have the same condition.

One of the reasons he started working with the organisation was because his friend, who also had dyslexia, committed suicide after failing Grade 8.

“It almost put something on my shoulder. I don’t want to say I do it for him but it definitely gives me a reason to do and try and change how dyslexic people are seen.

“With the Red Apple I want to build awareness for dyslexia. You need to be tested in order to be granted concessions at school. What the Red Apple is doing is trying to make these tests cheaper and more available to more learners,” he said.

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Learners with learning disabilities can be given concessions like getting a reader, rest breaks or writing in a different venue depending on their needs.

Liam explained how dyslexia affects his learning.

“When I read I have trouble putting the words that I read into a sentence that will make sense. I also think a lot but I struggle to put it on paper. I struggle to express myself in language and I misread a lot of things. A very simple example is ‘who’ and ‘how’. They are very similar and when I read them wrong it changes the whole sentence. It takes me a couple of seconds, especially during a test, to stand back and think what is actually being asked. I also have a very bad handwriting,” Liam, 16, said.

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He said to cope, he had to come up with ways to make learning easy for him.

“One of the things I do subconsciously is I memorise words like four-letter words like ‘four’. I don’t read them, I look at them and have a picture of them in my mind. But it negatively affects me when it’s words that are similar like ‘excited’ and ‘exited’.”

Liam said despite his learning disability, he copes well with other subjects. “I have never had a problem with maths, physics and I do IT. It’s actually Afrikaans and English where I fall behind,” Liam said.

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He said what helps him cope now is the support he receives from his school and teachers. It is this support that he hopes other learners with dyslexia could get.

“They allow concessions for me. Instead of me going to the library and choosing a book that I can’t read at my level they give me better options to practise. They give me books that are more suited to help me learn. Instead of giving me a novel of 600 pages, they give me one of 160 pages that can help me read better,” he said.

After school, he hopes to study engineering.

“I am naturally inclined to maths and science but I understand that at university there is a large volume of work. It will not be easy but I am up for the challenge,” Liam said.

The Star

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