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April 2010's Articles

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Dyslexia and The Archers

I have been trying for many years (off and on) to get The Archers to take an interest in the subject of dyslexia. Teaching in a rural area, I have been struck by the high proportion of farming children on my list of pupils - far higher than the normal range of parental occupations.

For a while I tried to think of a way of researching this phenomenon, but couldn’t come up with a method that didn’t appear offensive. I have a huge respect for the many talented dyslexic people I have met and the fascinating way in which the dyslexic brain functions, but there is still something of a stigma amongst those who don’t understand it and who still see it as a disability.

However, I have been determined to educate the scriptwriters on The Archers to see that fifty years of farming stories without a single dyslexic appearing is weird to say the least. I did receive a letter from a producer on the show some ten years ago, who was actually dyslexic herself and was only too familiar with the sense of frustration and failure at school which I had suggested as a plot line.

Since then I have had zero success in contacting the show. I write emails to the website which are either completely ignored or treated to the standard ‘we can’t cover everything’ line. I would be happy for them to make this decision if I felt that they had actually considered the problem, but just writing it off without hearing what I have to say is, in my opinion, the arrogant approach of a literate person with no understanding of the horrors of life as an unrecognised dyslexic in full time education.

But - I managed to speak to a real person this week who was both charming and interested. He agreed that dyslexia is a subject that would be worth covering and seemed to understand its importance to farming families. He asked me to send him more information (which I did at once) and will discuss it with the scriptwriters. I do hope that they run with this; it’s an important story and it could mean that dyslexic children get the specialised help they need at the time they need it and avoid years of damaging failure.