Walk in our shoes…

Today in my post, I would like your understanding and for you to spend a couple of minutes humouring me …

Read the original document below – it is from Great Dunmow’s churchwardens’ accounts of 1530 so is the financial records of a church. Read it aloud, without stopping (don’t bother with the Roman numerals for the shillings and pence at the end of each line). Don’t make notes but just read it in straight through in one attempt. If you stumble, just carry onto the next line. Everything you are reading is an English word or person’s name still in use today and all lines should make absolute perfect sense as you read it.


How did you get on? Could you read it? If you could, did you understand exactly what you are reading? Now you’ve finished, can you remember what you read and précis it to someone else? What if you were under pressure reading this in a roomful of your peers who found it easy-peasy? Would it make you break-out in a cold sweat of inadequacy and failure?

Unless you are very experienced in reading Tudor hand writing or you are a palaeography expert, then I suggest you found it very difficult – if not impossible. Not just reading it, but also understanding and remembering it. Did some of the words come in and out of focus – not just literal focus – blurry one minute but clear the next – but also mental focus? One minute you understood something but the next minute you couldn’t and its meaning simply vanished into the deepest depths of your mind?


Thank you for humouring me and walking in my severely dyslexic child’s shoes. The difficulty you had in reading this 500 year old document is exactly the same experience my child has every day of his life reading modern English whether in a book, on a favourite iPad game, or written by hand.

Dyslexia is horrible. Not only do dyslexics have to cope with the difficulties you have just experienced but suffers are called “lazy”, “stupid”, “academically challenged” and “thick”. And to top it all, many dyslexic children, such as my child(ren), are denied a proper education suitable for their needs.

I should know. I am dyslexic too. And as a dyslexic, I had absolutely no trouble in reading the extract above because I have no pre-conceived ideas about the English language and ‘spelling rules’.  Much like our Tudor accountant who most certainly didn’t know about modern-English spelling – just how many ways can anyone spell ‘church’! I spotted three different spellings just within that one little sample.  Also, just look at the last word on second line (before the shillings & pence) and look at our Tudor scribe’s spelling of ‘house’ – ‘hawys’!  And our Tudor accountant didn’t know that correct modern grammar meant he should have written ‘from’ or ‘for’ instead of ‘of’!

My child would certainly not make a good Tudor accountant. He’d be able to add up everything in his head without the need of a paper abacus because he’s a whiz at maths, but won’t be able to write it down in any comprehensible way.  Oh, and if you think I was mean in displaying the extract in a strange black & white visual, then you may be surprised to know that many dyslexics also suffer from visual perception problems too. My son does. His is called Irlens Syndrome – black ink on bright white paper causes his eyes considerable stress. Not a good syndrome to have when you are also severely dyslexic.

These are  just the problems a dyslexic faces when reading.  There are equally severe problems with writing, which, for my child, is not helped by his dysprexia which makes pen control very difficult.

But for now, until his needs are properly met, there’s the misery of the school years for him to stagger and lurch through.


Thank you for walking in my son’s shoes


Speak roughly to your little boy,
And beat him when he can’t read:
He only does it to annoy,
Because he knows he can really

Chorus: Wah! Wah! Wah

I speak severely to my boy,
I beat him when he can’t read:
For he can thoroughly enjoy
Reading when he pleases!

Chorus: Wah! Wah! Wah

(Written with tongue firmly in cheek and apologies to
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
but dedicated to everyone everywhere who doesn’t ‘believe in dyslexia’
or thinks that dyslexic children are lazy or ‘aren’t trying’.)


You may also be interested in
– School Trip Friday – St Michael’s Mount and the Tudor Pretender, Perkin Warbeck
– School Trip Friday – Weald and Downland Open Air Museum
– School Trip Friday – Chapel of St Peter’s on the Wall, Bradwell
– School Trip Friday – Imperial War Museum Duxford
– School Trip Friday – Of Cabbages and Kings
School Trip Friday – Hadrian’s Wall
School Trip Friday – Messages from England’s Roman Past
School Trip Friday – What did the Roman’s ever do for us?

© Essex Voices Past 2013.

This entry was posted in School Trip Friday and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Walk in our shoes…

  1. Cyber hugs to you and your son.
    That said, I found your sample to be an interesting read. The first go round, I only got a few words — and wondered if he was spelling church different ways! The second go round, I did better. I’m not dyslexic, but I’m unfamiliar with Tudor handwriting, yet fascinated… I have a copy of a page of a weather diary from 1793 someplace, and even many words of that were difficult to decipher. (That may have been due to the person’s handwriting as much as the era when it was written.)
    Back to dyslexia — What a pity the schools are not more adapted to the needs of different children, not just dyslexics, but visual vs. auditory learners, etc.
    I spent a year in England as a child–this was long ago–and I remember one of the boys in the class. He could hardly read and was considered stupid, yet his intelligence was obvious (to me, anyway–I had a huge crush on him). Such a waste of a brilliant brain!!

    • The Narrator says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment Barbara.

      Trouble with schools is that with all their targets and league tables, they tend to go for one-size-to-fit all. For most school, whatever gets them the best grades they go for – and dyslexics don’t tend to get the best grades. It’s very sad because nothing much has changed since I was at school in the 70s and my eldest daughter was at school in the 90/00s.

      Now schools can spot dyslexia and other special educational needs quite quickly but then they haven’t got a clue what to do next if the child is complex or severe. In my son’s case, he was spotted at 4½ years old but then the next 4 years they didn’t have a clue what to do with him until we all reached absolute breaking point. Sadly, because of the way the education system works in this country, the only place to turn to after that was our local education authority. And there in lies another story of the all too common failure of these bodies to act correctly, morally and even legally. But that story will have to wait for another day.

  2. An excellent lesson in empathy which deserves a wide audience. Warmest wishes to you and your son.

    • The Narrator says:

      Thank you for your comment Christine. Yes, empathy is certainly what is needed with dyslexics and all children with special educational needs. Having dyslexia is one thing, but the ignorance and intolerance of people is quite another.

  3. Valerie says:

    As mother of a dyslexic daughter and grandmother of her dyslexic son, I know all too well what you’re talking about. We had great difficulty getting the help she needed where we live, and ended up sending her to boarding school, where they did help – though I think, now, they could have done more. Anyway, she’s done alright. Fortunately her son (14) is in a local school where they are extremely helpful and understanding. Like your son he is good at maths, even if reading the questions and writing word answers is a problem. But he is given a scribe and that has been a great help.

    • The Narrator says:

      Thanks for your comment Valerie. My eldest, also severely dyslexic, has done really well in her adult life and chosen career. It’s just so sad that the school years are so horrendous for dyslexics – unless you’re really lucky in live in an area where provision is good.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *