By Lara Pickford-Gordon, firstname.lastname@example.org
As a child Archbishop Jason Gordon had to endure being called names like “dumb” and “silly” because of difficulties spelling, reading and writing.
A guest speaker last Wednesday on I95.5 FM’s ‘Take Two’ programme with Wayne Chance and Natalie Legore, Archbishop Gordon said the issue of hidden disabilities was a “passion” for him because of his experience with dyslexia, which remained undiagnosed until he was at college.
At the time no one knew about dyslexia: “all they knew was that you could not spell and you could not read and could not write”.
Archbishop Gordon said the child’s self-esteem is undermined if they are not performing well in the classroom, “at that age everything about your life is evaluated by how you do in school”.
Young people with learning disabilities find ways to cope. At primary school almost every week he was ill with a headache, or stomach ache, and was taken to the doctors but they could find nothing wrong. Archbishop Gordon said children can use “destructive means” as their coping mechanism and to gain recognition lacking in the classroom.
The archbishop has spoken to many groups of teachers to help them understand the student’s perspective and the need to help the child reach their full potential. He added, “How you do that is exploring disabilities, hidden and not hidden, and exploring different methodologies for teaching different types of children who learn differently”. He said teachers do not know if the child sitting before them could be the next prime minister, archbishop or brain surgeon.
Kitts Cadette, the principal of Eshe’s Learning Center who was also on the programme said, “We have children who are unable to help themselves and whom adults in their environment seem unable to help or don’t recognise that they have a challenge.”
The Catholic Religious Education Development Institute (CREDI) is hosting a conference on Hidden Disabilities titled ‘What you cannot see’ May 16 and 17 at The Government Campus Plaza, Richmond Street, Port of Spain.
Archbishop Gordon said renowned speakers will address hidden disabilities in the classroom, “so we change the culture of the classroom”.
Cadette explained, “There is a focus on some of the areas that fall under the umbrella of hidden disabilities and giving teachers, parents and stakeholders tools with which to treat with some of these”.
She listed some hidden disabilities: dyslexia, auditory processing, visual processing dysfunction, language disorders, ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), and executive functioning disorder, “those persons who are totally disorganised”.
Anyone interested in attending the conference can call 623-2895 or 627-9247.