Mark talks openly about his own experiences with bullying, growing up dyslexic and how he became a proud ambassador for Dyslexia Scotland.
Last month Scotland celebrated Dyslexia Awareness Week. The objective of which was to inspire and encourage everyone to reach their ‘full potential’ by providing high quality support to people with dyslexia, as well as influencing and accomplishing change nationwide, and most importantly, giving dyslexic people a voice to be heard.
Dyslexia today is no longer a taboo subject - instead of being embarrassed of being dyslexic, it’s now celebrated and supported across the world. However, back when Mark was a child, having dyslexia was one of the main reasons he was severely bullied by both children and adults, which continued through to his adulthood. Let’s take a look at Mark’s personal experiences with bullying to shine a spotlight on the issues that it can cause.
Brooklands Pre-Primary School – When Mark attended Brooklands as a small child, his fellow pupils and teachers were far from kind, in fact, they were horrid and treated Mark cruelly. His teachers would even force Mark to wear a dunce hat (a white cone with the letter ‘D’ on the front), back then, a dunce was a person considered incapable of learning. The hat was a form of punishment and humiliation, and Mark would sit at the front of his class wearing the hat for most of the day. As an incentive, the school allowed Mark to have a half day off if he got some of his sums right and the whole school a full day off if he got them all right – however, Mark massively struggled to complete his sums regardless of how hard he tried and therefore the school never had a day off as a reward which caused further bullying. It was at this time, unknown to Mark and the people surrounding him, that he was dyslexic. Fortunately, Brooklands Pre-Primary School no longer exists, and the school building has since been restored into a family home.Brooklands Pre-Primary School
Drumley House School – Mark attended Drumley House which was 9 miles away from Mark’s family home. For a while, three fathers from the school used to take it in turns to carpool Mark and two of his fellow pupils in the mornings. One day, on the way to school, Mark was sat in the backseat of his school friend’s car when suddenly, the car came to a screeching stop on a grass verge. The father (Known as Mr X for privacy and confidentiality reasons) asked Mark’s two school friends to get out of the car and instantly gave them a stern telling off as he’d overheard the schoolboys teasing Mark for struggling to read and write. Mr X asked the boys “what right do you both have to bully and treat your friend Mark in that way?!” He then told the boys firmly “You cannot judge what Mark is able or not able to do in his life”. This was the result of years of bullying and told he wouldn’t make anything of his life. Mark describes the moment Mr X defended him as lifechanging for no one had stuck for him before. Drumley House is no longer standing, it was demolished in 2013.Drumley House
Brickwall House School, now known as Frenwen Collage – This was Mark’s favourite school, he reveals that it “totally changed the direction of my life for the good”. When Mark started, he had very little confidence and zero belief in himself – this was the result of years of bullying. At Brickwall House, the headmaster and teachers had a completely difference outlook on life which is why it was an exceptional school that helped Mark learn and develop in a way that he could understand. Not only was he treated with kindness and care (something Mark hadn’t experience much of before), his fellow pupils and teachers gave Mark the trust and respect he deserved - no bullying, no teasing.Brickwall House
Additional education – Back in the 1960s, Mark used to get extra help for his reading and writing with a retired Headmistress who lived on the same road as him (we will call her Mrs X for privacy and confidentiality reasons). Mark adored her and together they built a great friendship. When Mark was finally diagnosed as dyslexic, Mrs X was informed. She went onto tell Mark’s parents that she had “failed as a teacher and headmistress” as she had not realised that some of the children she had previously taught had in fact been dyslexic themselves, and because of her, they had ended up in a home or become institutionalised.
Job interview – Unfortunately, Mark’s bullying didn’t end once he left school, he was bullied by work-colleagues too. In one particular story, Mark recalls a job interview with a leading life insurance company in the 1980s. Mark was engaged to be married and after excelling in his job interview, he was told the job was his as his “image fitted the company perfectly”. He was then asked to meet the managing director which at the time was a huge deal. During the meeting, the MD suddenly declared to Mark “you have some kind of problem” and stuck a newspaper under Mark’s nose and asked him to read aloud. When Mark had finished the MD said, “we can’t employ someone like you”. This was a result of Mark’s dyslexia and the slight trouble he still had in reading. After being unfairly told he was unemployable and the job offer overturned, Mark stopped buying the newspaper and spiralled into self-doubt, low self-esteem and the engagement was broken off.
Here is where the story changes and positivity emerges. During Mark’s journey from childhood to adulthood, he has seen first-hand the impact and support dyslexia charities and organisations have had. Mark credits those establishments and the network of volunteers with moulding him into the successful artist and designer that we know today. Mark teamed up with Dyslexia Scotland, a charity in Stirling that aims to enable people with dyslexia, regardless of age and ability, to reach their potential in education, employment and life. Since that partnership began, Mark has worked with the charity and was honoured to receive an invitation from the then First Minister of Scotland, to attend a reception at Edinburgh Castle to celebrate the work he, alongside Dyslexia Scotland, has achieved. In 2012, Mark was asked to join Dyslexia Scotland as a high-profile ambassador, to further help raise awareness of the issues faced by people with dyslexia.
Mental health – the impact undiagnosed dyslexia can have on people usually crosses over with bullying and can result in mental health issues. It’s paramount to get help if you feel you struggle with learning difficulties such as reading and writing. There are several tools that can be utilised to help give an indication of possible dyslexia. Dyslexia can be formally diagnosed through a Diagnostic Assessment that is carried out by a certified assessor. For more information you can visit the British Dyslexia Association, the NHS website or search Google for your local dyslexia support organisation. It is possible to undergo a dyslexia assessment for both adults and children. There are several routes to choose when organising a test for dyslexia. It’s highly recommended that you contact the helpline of your dyslexia organisation as they will be able to provide you with the appropriate expert advice. We have included some of these helpline numbers below.
The moral of this story and in Mark’s own words “never judge anyone and a little kindness can make a massive difference to someone’s life”.BACK TO NEWS
...or commission your own bespoke sculpture