This is for my brother the champion; our pride.
But it is also for every mother with a child who may be going through what my brother went through many years ago.
I have just one brother and I know he didn’t have it easy when we were growing up.
He grew up as the only boy among three girls who didn’t give him any special treatment because he was the only son. We fought him for everything and to be honest, he was a gentleman from the get go. He almost always just gave in to us, me especially, I gave him a tough time. My parents didn’t treat him in any special way because my father expected him to take his turn to wash his car, like the rest of us just as my mother gave him duties in the kitchen; he had cooking days as well as us girls.
But my brother had a bigger challenge we didn’t know about. He was dyslexic. He had reading and writing challenges. Growing up everyone thought him to be unintelligent. He couldn’t read and write well and by age seven, when his younger sister, my parent’s last born, could spell Britannica at the age of five, my brother still struggled to read and write.
According to Wikipedia, Dyslexia, also known as reading disorder, is a learning disability characterised by trouble with reading despite normal intelligence. Different people are affected to varying degrees. Problems may include difficulties in spelling words, reading quickly, writing words.
Dyslexics are not dunces or retards or disabled in any way, their brains are simply wired differently from the rest of us. My parents weren’t so lettered, so even if they had suspected anything unusual, they wouldn’t have known how to seek help for my brother, instead, they did what they thought best, they beat him often because they could not understand why he couldn’t grasp the basic rudiments of reading despite their best efforts. They however insisted he stayed in school especially when some nosey-parkers advised he be sent to learn a trade.
To compound his woes, my brother was also left handed. Back then it was thought to be a taboo if you were left handed, eewo! Our people erroneously believed that the left handed person had his brains screwed left and such a person was considered useless. Isn’t that the hand we use to clean our butts? Ehen, so how can a left handed person ever succeed? So my brother got beaten sorely every time he used his left hand to write, which came naturally to him.
Some years ago, I noticed the same trend in my son. He was still in nursery class when the proprietor of the school called me aside. She noticed my son was flipping his 7s and 5s, what experts call mirror images. The boy couldn’t tell the difference between small letters b and d, letter p was a problem as well as reading and writing. I was worried and began to get irritated with him for these repetitive ‘silly mistakes’. I thought he was being absent minded or plain stupid because you see, my son could speak very well and answer intelligently.
I will always be thankful for that wakeup call from the proprietress, Mrs. Agunbiade of Tender Cradle Nursery and primary school.
“I think your son may be dyslexic,” the woman told me.
“Huh?” I knew there was an issue here but I had never heard the word before, not even sure I could spell it but I went online and what I read encouraged me. I learned about it, I got my son tested and stopped needling him about his repetitive mistakes, instead, I spoke words of encouragement to him daily. I told him he was my champion and I knew he could learn to read, even better than his younger sister, who was already scoring high at Spelling Bee Competitions.
I then spoke to my son’s teachers about this, many were clueless, so I changed schools because I had some teachers even telling me to consider an alternative educational approach to him, aka vocational learning, (e no go better for those teachers!)
But I kept looking for the right place, the right people to teach my son, and that was how I met angels like the Proprietress of Sunnydale at GRA Ikeja, who took him on and even got special teaching aids like audiblox from the UK. She also assigned teachers to teach my little boy and a few other children who had foundational learning challenges. Teachers like Mr. Ekeno, Mrs. Ade Fakoya, Mr. Moses, Mrs. George and Mr. Fadare to mention just a few took him on as a project they had to succeed at. And they did.
While I was researching on my son, my aunt told me my cousins, both of whom are pilots, are also dyslexic. My aunt, one hell of a super mum had taken it upon herself to ensure her sons got all the encouragement and attention they would need to succeed in a harsh terrain like ours. You should see the way the rest of us pose beside these guys when we meet at events, we are all very proud of them.
And I bet you didn’t know that Tom Cruise is dyslexic or that Ik ‘Wildchild’ is also dyslexic? How about Keanu Reeves, Richard Branson, Jennifer Aniston, Mohammed Ali, Ted Turner, Steven Spielberg, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Harry Belafonte? They all beat it to become achievers and superstars.
Today, my brother’s story is an awesome one. He overcame these challenges first by the grace of God and through sheer hard work and never giving up. He fought against all odds; flunking school twice and starting all over again. He never blamed anyone for his failures, he simply picked himself up and continued. I know many who would have given up. Then he went abroad and challenged himself in the medical field and graduated a radiologist/nurse. Not done, he pushed himself some more and today he’s a licensed GP in the US and a successful one at that, too.
There are millions of such success stories out there. It’s about never giving up, never blaming your environment for your failures, standing up as a human and taking responsibility for your future.
I doff my hat to my brother Ladi and every other Ladi out there!