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TX: 19.05.08 - Kenny Logan, what disability means to him

PRESENTER
: WINIFRED ROBINSON

Downloaded from www.bbc.co.uk/radio4
THE ATTACHED TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A RECORDING AND NOT COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT. BECAUSE OF THE RISK OF MISHEARING AND THE DIFFICULTY IN SOME CASES OF IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL SPEAKERS, THE BBC CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS COMPLETE ACCURACY.


ROBINSON
Government figures suggest about 18% of the population, or around 10 million people, have a disability. The definition outlined in the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995 includes a range of conditions from blindness to mental illness. All this week we'll be hearing from some well known figures about their experience of living with a disability. In our first interview the rugby player Kenny Logan, who recently scrubbed up beautifully for Strictly Come Dancing, talks about his severe dyslexia.

LOGAN
When you're young and sort of five, six, seven year old you don't think about reading and writing, you just think everything's fine, it's an easy world isn't it, you don't worry about anything. But when I was like seven I started realising that I wasn't doing the simple things that everybody else was doing, I was running around and catching the rugby ball, football or whatever but I couldn't do the simple thing like copy from the blackboard, I just thought that would come. But as I got older I realised the other children were flying ahead and I was still stuck as a six, seven year old boy who couldn't read and couldn't write. I suppose you think it's just going to come, don't you, but things like that don't happen, you know, because you've got to work hard at things.

ATKINSON
And what were the teachers saying - I mean ...?

LOGAN
Yeah but I worked hard at school, you know, I tried - I used to wake up in the morning and go right I'm really going to try hard today and within 20 minutes of being in the class, just where I was the day before. I remember once I gave myself a black eye and I came down the stairs and my mum said - What's happened? - and I said - I hurt it playing rugby - and I was actually punching myself in the mirror because there was something - I was saying why is my head not taking this in. I can hear it, I can see it, why can I not read it and why can't I hear something and process it. When I went to high school I was in the bucket of the school, I was down in the remedial class, I was stuck in there, just basically wait till he gets to 16 and we'll get rid of him, that's how it felt you know. The teachers tried but I could have been into the school all through the summer, every minute of the day, but it just wouldn't stay in my head.

ATKINSON
In terms of the teachers I've read that the teachers and other pupils were sort of saying stupid, thick - words that we perhaps shouldn't use but that's what they were saying because they just thought you couldn't be bothered.

LOGAN
Yeah, I think teachers get frustrated - you're so stupid, you're so thick sometimes - you know. I remember Gabby said to me - You're thick. I'd go - What you saying, why are you calling me that, I'd get quite aggressive about it because it was immediately attacking that six year old boy, attacking that person who's never grown up. And now that little boy inside me has grown up, he's getting stronger and he's taking in new information everyday.

ATKINSON
When you came to doing your GCSEs that's when the real sort of horror opened up, can you just describe what happened when you walked into that exam room?

LOGAN
Do you know what, it's funny, it wasn't the worst day of my life, it was probably one of the best days because I stood up for myself and thought what am I doing, why am I sitting here, I can't even read the top line of the first question, all I can read is some little words in there - I can read my own name. And I stood up after five minutes and I walked to the front and the teacher said - Where are you going Mr Logan? - I said - I'm going home, in fact I'm leaving school and I'm never coming back. I left with no qualifications whatsoever. I read my first book when I was 16 with a teacher that my mum got in after school. I got to say to her look I can't even take this in, I've had enough of school, I've had enough of trying to learn, it doesn't go in my head. And I read a book - it took about a year - it was Lassie, which probably a seven year old, eight year old would read and it took me so long and I could have read the same page everyday and it still wouldn't stay in my head.

ATKINSON
In terms of the types of dyslexia and the severity of dyslexia would you say that yours is particularly severe?

LOGAN
Up until I was 30 I still had my address in my wallet so I would copy it down, I couldn't read one little bit. I learnt my vowels this year for the first time. And I phoned up Gabby and I said - Gabby, I can do the vowels. And she went - I'm in an interview at the moment. I said - No, no you don't understand, I know what a vowel does. And she understood that I was basically so excited that I could understand the vowels and I was 31 at the time, in fact no I wasn't, it was this year, 34. So you know it was amazing to go through that experience at that age and I shouldn't - you shouldn't be going through that experience. If children have got issues at seven year old we should be addressing them then and by the time they're eight, nine these issues they had have gone, disappeared.

ATKINSON
That's extraordinary isn't it. You talked about taking your address round in your wallet with you to copy down. How do you manage to cover up all these other things - gas bills, paying the telephone bill - how did you hide it?

LOGAN
I remember when I used to have to go for scans for Wasps, I had to turn up and I used to say I've dislocated a finger and I can't write, could you fill it in for me, and my finger - there was nothing wrong with it, I put tape on it sometimes to look as if I'd hurt my hand, just to try and get people to fill forms in. But when I first moved to London I was really scared. I wasn't scared about playing for one of the best teams in Europe, I was scared about how can I fill in a gas bill, how can I rent a house, how could I buy a house? I'm on my own, I'm 24, I can't read and I can't write, how can I go to a big city if I can't do these things? And I used to send my mum the gas bill and send her all the forms then I realised you could do direct debit and I was telling people direct debit's amazing and the people were saying Ken, it's been there for 10 years. I remember in a Scotland team room, the first thing I looked at was blackboard, right, could be doing some stuff up there, pens - there's 20 pens, there's 20 players - right how are we going to do this. And when I had coffee I had water over the stuff, then I'll go out and clean it and I'll come in late and would never get asked to stand up and say anything because they're annoyed at me. And I did that through my whole rugby career and then I would speak to the players after and get as much information out of them as what happened in the team meeting and I was the little kid sitting in the toilet who was going to go out that weekend and play against England in a cup match.

ATKINSON
In terms of what you're reading now and all the things you never were able to do before, I mean are you reading books, are you passionate about books or does life get in the way like everyone else who says they're going to read but actually they don't?

LOGAN
I read a lot more e-mails that's for sure. My big problem now is I've fallen into such bad habits of scanning, quickly looking for something, which a lot of people do and when I go on holiday I don't scan I just read a book. Reading used to be hard for me, it was like somebody saying right I want you to run a marathon everyday, I'm not doing that so you wouldn't read, you wouldn't run. But for me now it's not a marathon anymore, it's so much easier, it's getting easier all the time. I think the big thing for me now is I can write lists of things I've got to do and the next day go to that list and actually read what I've written. But before if I tried to write I would spell it thinking that's the way you spell it, the next day I wouldn't even know what it said, wouldn't have a clue what it said.

ATKINSON
And had you managed to cover this up from your wife Gabby Logan as well?

LOGAN
Yeah I did manage to cover it up.

ATKINSON
How did that happen and how did she suss you?

LOGAN
She was reading an article about herself, she doesn't do it all the time, this is very early on and she said - Oh have a look at this article, it's really good. And I read it, well I pretended to read it, I was looking at the pictures and then said oh this is a really good article, I think I maybe read it for five minutes. Gabby says - You're a quick reader aren't you. I said - Yeah, I'm a really quick reader. She went - You're dyslexic. I went - No I'm not. She went - Well read that. And I tried to read it and I said - I'm dyslexic. Started crying. She put her arm round me and said - Why, are you ashamed? I said - No, leave me alone, leave me alone, let me face up in my own time. And she said - You've faced every opportunity in your life, I've never met somebody as determined to face things as you are and this is one thing that could change your life and you don't want to face it. She's inspired me to move forward.

ROBINSON
Kenny Logan talking to Carolyn Atkinson.

And it’s to the Dore Programme an exercise regime designed to improve balance, coordination and repetitive movement, that he attributes his improvement. Some people might be surprised to hear dyslexia classed as a disability, but it is included in the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995. Judy Stewart is the Chief Executive of the British Dyslexia Association. Judy, what is dyslexia?

STEWART
Well listening to Kenny he’s got it absolutely right, it’s about processing. It’s a specific learning difficulty that’s neurobiological of origin, it affects literacy, language, and for some people concentration and organisational skills.

ROBINSON
There are people though aren’t there, and some education professional who dispute whether it really exists as a condition. We’ve just, while we’re on air, had this email from Edwin Webb. He says, ‘It’s a lovely label and it sounds so much better than saying low intelligence. Parents use it to abdicate their personal responsibility. People get more time in exams and free laptops at Uni for saying they are dyslexic. But dyslexia does not exist’.

STEWART
Well I think often it comes down to semantics of what we’re going to call one thing and another. If you are dyslexic, you can go and have an assessment by an educational psychologist who can do an intelligence test, he can do other tests, or she can, for dyslexia. And most dyslexic people are highly intelligence but just have this problem with processing.

ROBINSON
But is it really a disability, because we had MENCAP on this programme a couple of weeks ago, describing it as a ‘learning difficulty’.

STEWART
Well they’re right to describe it as a learning difficulty, but it is part of the Disability Discrimination Act that came out in 1995 and it was updated in 2004.

ROBINSON
Why was it included then in the Act?

STEWART
Well I think it was included because in some ways it’s very sad that it’s included, because a lot of people who are dyslexic including myself, don’t want to be labelled as such. But, you just listen to Kenny and many others like him, people are not getting the support they need either in school, through education, or in the office in employment situations. In which case it does need to be made part of the Disability Discrimination Act so that people get the support and the barriers are taken down so that they can perfume as others can.

ROBINSON
And this right to help in the work place or at school, does that cover all forms of dyslexia or only people who are really severely affected?

STEWART
It covers severe or mildly severe. It’s got to affect every part of your life. Now it’s a bit like the conversation about what are the reasonable adjustment, and what affects every part of your life. And that’s something you have to prove to the court. And you might be interested to know that actually just this March, there was a landmark case between the Metropolitan Police and David Patterson, where he won his case for dyslexia, David was a Chief Inspector, wanting to take exams and took exams which he failed to become a Superintendent. And it was only by taking this case to court, that he won his case, he went back and resat his exams and now he is a Superintendent.

ROBINSON
Kenny Logan has found something to help him, the Dore Programme. How widely available is that?

STEWART
Well I think you’re probably better to ask the Dore programme how widely available it is. I certainly know it’s in the UK and across many parts of the world. And what we’d say as the British Dyslexia Association, the most important thing you can have is good teaching. You need to be able to be supported with your reading and your spelling, and how it affects other parts of your life, and that’s a number one thing that you can use to adjust and support yourself. After that there are lots of things that various people find helpful.

ROBINSON
Judy Stewart, thank you.
And tomorrow in our ‘What Disability Means to Me’ series, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Williams, on his partial deafness. But we also want to hear from you. if you have a personal experience of disability that you’d like to share with us, then please do contact us through the usual means. That interview will be available as our disability podcast. If you’d like to download it, just go to our website, bbc.co.uk/radio 4.



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