Complaint to The Independent

Good morning

I am writing to you to complain about an article I read in your online edition on levels of exercise in four-year olds.

The article, once in its body and once in a photo caption, states that “dyslexia, dyspraxia and ADHD – conditions which can be improved with the correct levels of physical activities”.

I’m afraid that this statement (which is not backed up with any evidence – and the only study to “prove” it has been rubbished by experts) is highly dangerous to people like me who are dyslexic.

Dyslexia is often an inherited condition, it effects the wiring of the brain.  It cannot be corrected or cured.  Most improvements dyslexic people achieve come from extremely hard work on their part, and trial and error.  However dyslexia does not go away.  Certain situations, like being under stress or having a bad night sleep means that the dyslexic persons coping mechanism can break down.

As an employee I have been discriminated against at work due to my dyslexia. In one PR company in which I worked I was told dyslexia wasn’t a disability, that my dyslexia didn’t count, I was criticised for the results of a report from a dyslexia test they sent me on – which found me dyselxic, just like the three times before in my life when I’ve been tested.  Directors refused to make reasonable adjustments and my line manager presented me with a list of “mistakes” I had made with the monetary costs to the company of each one. 

All this happened while the Director who refused to make adjustments kept on telling me what a great place it was to work.  Funnily enough after I brought my union in on the dispute the company made me redundant.

This bullying, based on my disability – a protect characteristic – had a severe impact on my mental health. Of course the stress meant I could not effectively apply coping mechanisms and it made my dyslexia worse while I worked there.

The reason I am telling you this is to demonstrate how employers who would bend over backwards to assist an employee with a visible disability, will see nothing wrong with with discriminating against hidden disability.

This position has happened because of decades of dyslexia “jokes” (jokes my own family members made), myths and misconceptions. These are “jokes” which we still see on TV – we’re the only disabled group who it is socially acceptable to poke fun at because of their disability.

Unfortunately your article will feed those myths and misconceptions. There will be another dyslexic out there who when they ask for reasonable adjustments, will have them refused and be told to exercise more by another clueless and ill equipped boss.  This will impact on their ability to do their job, their mental health and self confidence.

While I understand that The Independent generally champions the causes of disabled people, with this article you’ve added another brick to the considerable wall we have to climb.

Could you please, please write about dyslexia with more thought and consideration of the damage you can cause people.

Many thanks
Mairi

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Reiew. Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary


Being dyslexic I have always found non-fiction, with its impossibly small and curly fonts difficult to read.  Audiobooks being really expensive to buy I had accepted that this was a genre that was mainly off-limits, apart from the occasional graphic novel.  However I’m now able to plunge in thanks to the excellent service Edinburgh City Libraries offer in downloads.

Continue reading

“No sugar” breakfast muffins, and the myth of no sugar


As the world has gradully woken up to the fact that sugar is one of the worst substances on the face of the earth for your health there has been a prolifiration of no sugar baking books.  As someone who is trying to reduce her sugar intake but still have the odd sweet treat the no sugar claims have become increasingly frustraiting.

Many people will gush about how wonderful the latest no sugar baking book is, only when I open it to find that all the recipies are made with maple syrup or honey.  Let’s be clear, maple syrup and honey are sugar.  They are a less refined form of sugar.  They probably have a few trace minirals which makes it ever so slightly more nutrionally dense than refined sugars.  They are slightly sweeter so you can use less than refined sugars.  But they are sugar.  Just packaged in a different way.  Therefore if there is maple syrup or honey in your recipie, it is full of sugar.

One other, and my prefered”no sugar” alternatative is to use a home made date paste, prunes or apple puree – using the sweetness of the fruit.  However this still uses sugar.  Fruit is full of fructose, and anything ending with “ose” is sugar.  Because this sugar is wrapped in the form of fruit it also has vitimans and minerals and most importantly fiber.  Fiber will help slow down the absorbtion of the “ose” into your body, and means you are much less likely to hit a sugar high then dip.

It’s really important to be careful with what we label sugar free as it’s not just the worried well who are persuing no sugar diets, but people with medical conditions such as diabetes.  For diabetics this mislabelling could have sever consequences – so it’s important to know what really is and is not sugar.

It’s also important to recognise that if you eat plently of fruit and veg you will also be eating sugar – it’s practically impossible to be totally sugar free in your diet.  The real key is to be aware of what you are eating and do your resarech, then adjust as you see necessary.

The best “no sugar” baking book I have found is Sensationally Sugar free by Susanna Both.  Only one recipie uses honey, all the rest either stevia (a no calorie sweet alternative) or combinations of date pastes and fruit.

The only gripe I have with Booth’s otherwise excellent collection of recipies is that the technique often creates an inferior product.  The Seeded Breakfast Muffins, are made by putting all the incredients into a blender.  While this is certainly baking that works for the busy person, it’s not baking for those who enjoy the texture of cake as much as the flavour.  However it’s easy to adapt and I’ve included my adaptions for the muffins below which turns them from a breakfast muffin into more of a carrot cake muffin.

Seeded Breakfast Muffins

7.5 oz plain flour

5oz sweetcorn (frozen or canned)

5oz soft pitted prunes

20oz sunflower seeds

20oz carrots peeled and grated

8oz sultanas

8fldoz almond milk

4fld oz sunflower oil

3 eggs

3 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 teaspoons baking poweder

1 teaspoon cinnimon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds


1. Sive the flour spices and baking powder together in a bowl

2.  In your blender add the oil, vanilla extract, almond milk, prunes and sweetcorn.  Blend until smooth and combined.

3.  Add the wet mixture to the dry and stir until intigrated.  

4.  Beat the eggs lightly and add to the mix.

5. Add the grated carrot, sultanas, sunflower seed and half the pumpkin seeds, and stir until combined.

6.  In a muffin tin, place muffin cases and spoon the mixtuer evently between all of them.

7.  Finally top with the remaining pumpkin seeds, pressing them into the mix slightly to make sure they adhear.

8.  Cook in an over at 180c/350f/Gas mark 4 for about 25mins or unti lrisen and golden brown.


Not cool, Picturehouse Cinema, not cool.

Many of you will remember my blog about Picturehouse Cinema’s and the poor choice they offer for families when it comes to tickets and/or membership.  This was sparked of initially by my wanting to attend their Studio Ghibli season with my daughter, but finding it very expensive.

Despite the staff member I was in contact with telling me she would let me know the outcomes of my suggestion I heard nothing back, so today I decided to enquire.  After several emails with a staff member who could give me very little information I was finally contact by their Head of Customer Services with the following email.

Emailfromcameo

Of course, this wasn’t the response I had hoped for.  The most disappointing part of it is the “so we have gone with the norm” phrase, which negates the earlier reassurance that they understanding that family units are “ever evolving.”  Or rather that they understand but are mistakenly still using language which describes some families as normal, which implies others are abnormal.  My reply to them is below.

I wonder how many other companies stick to the two adults/two kids family ticket, just because everyone else does, and what do we really need to change the culture that there is a “normal family”?  I’m going to start writing to other companies and organisations around Edinburgh to find out who is willing to go the extra mile for parents and children, and embrace different families and who does not, as well as what the barriers for companies are.

replytocameo

 

Review: The Outrun by Amy Liptrot

As soon as I heard about The Outrun by Amy Liptrot I knew I had to read it.  Liptrot is around my age.  Like me she was brought up in rural isolated Scotland.  Liptrot on Orkney, me on the Black Isle. Liptrot always felt like an outsider, English in the Highlands and Islands when the term was used like an abusive word.  I never felt I fitted well with my peers on the Black Isle, and I to had “English” thrown at me as an insult – despite the fact I am born and bred Scottish.  Like Liptrot I escaped south, and like her I returned to Scotland.  I also felt that the story of her descent into alcoholism and recovery to sobriety may have some emotional match with the issues dealt with in my pamphlet of poetry.  Oh, yes.  We’re both writers too.

The tone of The Outrun is thoughtful, and reflective. Liptrot spends her time on the Orkeny islands exploring all they have to offer, sea swimming, snorkling, attending festivals, walking the coast, building dry stone dykes, visiting other islands, learning about geography, gazing at stars, whipped by wind and searching for wildlife.  Liptrot not only returns to Orkney but decides to live on one of it’s furthest islands, Papay.  A self imposed exile on which she not only becomes deeply intimate with the landscape around her, but also with herself.

Throughout the book Liptrot returns to the theme of The Outrun, a coastal field the furthest away from the buildings of the farm she grew up on.  It represents being on the edge, being an outsider.  Despite her references to feelings of otherness in many ways her story could not be more Scottish. The bright lights and temptations of Edinburgh, Glasgow and London have pulled the young people out of the north for generations.  Alcoholism is the mental health issue of choice.  What really makes The Outrun stand out as a work not just of Scotland, but one fundamentally of the Highlands and Islands, is where Liptrot finds her redemption.  All Highlanders know, and much Highland literature tells us, that there is only one place where we can find salvation.  The land.  In that way Liptrot is at root very much, one of us.

 

You don’t deserve love, or happiness.

Deserve is a word I hear a lot now-a-days, and one I’ve come to actively dislike.  My theory is that it’s come into such common usage through self-help and core beliefs work.  Core beliefs are little, simple things that we hold to be true at the centre of our being. Often they have been there since childhood.  Most of the time we are unaware of them.  Because of our unawareness they are often what drives self-sabotage and unhealthy behaviours.  No surprise that for those on the path of personal growth or spiritual improvement core beliefs become a focus.

Of course, what they are can vary from person to person but there are some common ones that have negatives effects on those who hold them.  I’m broken.  I’m not enough.  I’m not lovable.  I don’t deserve good things/love/success etc…  For many people the negative belief has to do with deserving.  So to counter this other people have started to talk about what you do deserve.  You deserve to see the reward of your hard work.  You deserves love.  You deserves happiness.  Kind of like a poorly thought through cheer leading squad.  They’re well meaning, but essentially superficial comments.

The problem with deserve is that it is a wholly and utterly judgemental word.  If you behave in a way or are the sort of person who “deserves” love, then it is logical that you can behave or become the sort of person who does not deserve love.  Someone from whom love can be taken away.  This gives the person who tells you you “deserve” whatever, way too much power in your life.  It’s rarely their decision.

Deserve also feeds into a poverty mindset.  If you deserve love, but you don’t have it as you’d like it yet, maybe that’s because someone else has taken your fair share.  How dare other people steal your love!  What have they done to deserve that love!  If you still don’t have it maybe your still inadequate, or they are just greedy!

When human beings get into that scarcity mindset they stop sharing, they become closed off, ego flourishes like bacteria in a petri dish and they people into themselves – they do the exact things that stop them getting whatever it is they want, love, happiness, success.

There is a better word to use, at least where love is concerned.  Birthright.  When born it is everyone’s birthright to be loved and cherished.  If that is taken from you before you understand it, it is something you can find again, because it has always been yours.  You can’t do anything that means another person can take it from you.  Although you can make sure you make it as hard as possible for yourself.  You can block it, abuse it, shame it, distance yourself from it, ignore it, and try to do the same to others – but if you chose to claim it, it will always be there patiently waiting for you.  You are the only person standing in your way.  It’s a typical human arrogance to think that we ourselves influence the ebb and flow of love in our lives.  It just is.  If you let it.

All the beautiful, different families (and Picturehouses cinemas)

There are points in my life when I become acutely aware of the fact I’m a single parent. The dread I feel at the idea of going to my daughter’s school’s family ceilidh, when the Parent Teacher Council organise photographers to take family portraits to raise funds, and when a family ticket for anything only ever covers two adults and two children.

It’s pretty standard across the UK that families are seen as two adults and two children for events, attractions and transport.  Yet at the same time the idea of the nuclear family is really an aberration within the history of family.  If you think back before the mass use of antibiotics many people died early deaths.  At the same time women were most likely to die in childbirth (this is still an issue).  Add to this the large amount of men who would die in war, or from poor working conditions etc,  then what you have is a lot of children who lose one or both parents.  The lone parent would remarry, or move in with siblings, or parents, the children were sometimes given to other relatives to bring up.  In some cultures there has been a strong tradition of Levirate marriage.  The idea of the blended family appears very modern, but it is in fact very, very old.  The only difference now is that often the blended family has happened because at some point one parent chose to leave a relationship that could no longer thrive or survive healthily, rather than the catalyst of change being death.

Today I was discussing with a friend booking tickets for the Cameo’s Studio Ghibli Season.  My daughter has got massively into anime this year, and we’re quite excited to see some of the best being shown on Edinburgh big screens.  Attending a season is expensive.  While my friend has chosen to go for a Cameo membership to keep costs down, there is no children’s membership and being a one adult one child family there is no family ticket that suits me.

I’ve spent some of the afternoon emailing Picturehouses who own the Cameo, and several other independent cinemas across the UK.  I have to say their customer service was first class as the staff member I communicated with wanted to genuinely help me find an option that may work out for me.  Unfortunately there isn’t one.

Rather than admit defeat, and give into the feeling I so often get that my family isn’t a “proper” family (and all the guilt and shame that carries with it) I decided to make another suggestion.  The Cameo has a membership option of Adult + 1.  It could be possible to have an adult membership (transferable between two adults) at the normal price of £45, but on which the adults could then add as many children on to that membership at whatever cost the Cameo thought was appropriate.  I’d suggest something like £20 per child, some people have four kids after all.

The staff member I spoke to is now going to take this idea to her managers for them to consider.  They might not make a decision in time for My Neighbour Totoro on Saturday, but I’m really hopeful that we may be able to achieve a better, more flexible deal for families.

If you think that this is a good idea, and you’d like to see Picturehouses introduce it, then you can show your support by emailing enquiries@picturehouse.co.uk.  You don’t have to be a parent to believe families could have better access, or have your own children to believe that services, attractions and entertainment can find ways to acknowledge all our families and their different shapes and sizes.