Dealing with Dyslexia

21 April 2005

Publication: Southend Evening Echo

Proud mum Denise Gummer has four very special daughters. One has just become a teacher, one has landed a job as an air hostess and her two younger daughters are defying the odds to battle through mainstream school.

But their future could have been a lot bleaker if it wasn’t Denise’s determination to ensure that they got all the help and support they needed, as well as her discovery of a specialist drug.

Her eldest daughter Emma Louise, 24, glided through her education and has just become a teacher at Belfairs School in Leigh.

But for her three younger sisters, things have not been so easy.

Chloe, 20, Harriet Kate, 14 and Georgia, 11, all have dyslexia which is a result of a difference in the part of the brain that deals with language.

It was after starting school that Denise, of The Saltings, Hadleigh, noticed something was holding Chloe back.

Denise, 46, said: “She wasn’t reaching the milestones like her older sister.

“She was articulate and bright and clever, but just couldn’t cope with reading and spelling. I would teach her how to spell a word and the next day she would have completely forgotten. Her verbal ability didn’t match up.”

The pair went to the Dyslexia Association and Chloe was tested for the condition. The results showed that she had a severe case. Denise tried to convince Chloe’s school to recognise and help with her difficulties, but hit a brick wall and turned to a private tutor instead.

When Chloe moved to Hadleigh Junior School, Denise said that teachers recognised her battle and decided to take the tutor on once a week. The school then trained a member of its own staff to deal with children like Chloe. Denise also decided to train as a reading therapist which has now been her job at Belfairs Secondary School for seven years.

Denise said: “When we found out about Chloe the whole family was devastated. We had this intelligent child becoming depressed because she was different. It really knocked her confidence. She was a bright, lovely child, but was failing at her school work.”

Denise was delighted when Chloe achieved 15 GCSE A-D grades and went on to study a GNVQ in leisure and tourism. She now has a job as an air hostess at Southend Airport.

But as Chloe was pushing the boundaries, she couldn’t help noticing that her two younger children were also showing signs of dyslexia.

Harriet Kate was able to read and write but could not spell. Both her school and Denise noticed, and she was diagnosed with mild dyslexia. Georgia’s signs came a lot earlier.

Denise said: “From a young baby her balance was out completely. She had a real problem with co-ordination and had a constant tremor.”

Georgia was tested for various conditions but nothing could be found. At 18 months old, she was struck down by septicaemia – blood poisoning. She pulled through at Southend Hospital but was later diagnosed as having dyslexia and dyspraxia – delayed development.

Denise admitted: “We thought we were going to lose her.”

Georgia continued to have balance problems until Denise discovered a product called Efalex, containing polyunsaturated fatty acids to help maintain all aspects of brain and eye function.

Denise checked with doctors at Great Ormond Street before prescribing Efalex to Georgia and Harriet Kate. She said she would recommend Efalex to anyone and said that the whole family now took it.

She said that it was also important to look at a child’s diet and help to build their confidence. She was also adamant her children got the support they needed. She spoke to every specialist that she could and researched the condition. She still hires a private tutor and helps the children herself.

She said: “It was frustrating because some parents don’t know where to start to look for help. I do still worry about the girls’ future. But if they haven’t got their parents behind them, they are set to fail.

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