Sun | Jun 13, 2021

Dyslexia ‘not the end of the world’

Published:Thursday | June 10, 2021 | 12:16 AM
James Watson, who has dyslexia, says he is living proof that persons with reading disorders can overcome and thrive.
James Watson, who has dyslexia, says he is living proof that persons with reading disorders can overcome and thrive.
James Watson, a dyslexic entrepreneur: “The iPhone reads to me all my emails, dictates to me, I dictate to my iPhone,” sa
James Watson, a dyslexic entrepreneur: “The iPhone reads to me all my emails, dictates to me, I dictate to my iPhone,” sa
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Gadget guru James Watson can read success backwards and forwards.

And the 49-year-old, who was born with dyslexia, is writing a new chapter on life with the launch of his electronics and photography business.

Watson has sought to push the boundaries of his limitations and is committed to spreading the message that persons with special needs can thrive.

“It’s not the end of the world,” said Watson, the principal and founder of Computer Consultants.

Dyslexia is a learning disorder marked by difficulty reading and identifying speech sounds.

Watson doesn’t wear the disability on his sleeve, learning to roll with the punches and adapting technology to fill the vaccum.

His iPhone is his window to the world.

“The iPhone reads to me all my emails, dictates to me, I dictate to my iPhone,” said Watson, explaining that he could not face the challenges that come with dyslexia without the smartphone and its voice-recognition features that gave him his “golden opportunity”.

Watson reminisced on his days of struggling immensely with Nokia and BlackBerry phones and needing to research with gizmos that did not aid him much in reading and writing.

At one year old, Watson left Jamaica for Bermuda before moving on, at six, to a special-needs school in Europe. After attending four different schools for children with dyslexia, he returned to Bermuda with a certificate in hotel management, inspired by the family business.

His father, Anthony Watson, co-owned the Plantation Inn Hotel in Ocho Rios, and his late mother, Gene Watson, operated a charity gift shop. He helped out at both whenever he was back on holidays.

“My mom and dad gave me a lot of support. My mom guided me. She helped me with my reading and writing. She was a big aspect of my life,” he said, sobbing.

In the same breath, he lauded his dad for being a constant source of support over the years.

Watson, who tries not to dwell on memories of discrimination when he was younger, said he has been very keen on stepping away from persons who try to take advantage of him.

“When someone tries to use me and I know my capability, I back away from it,” he said.

Chairman of the Randolph Lopez School of Hope, Linton Smith, estimates that approximately five per cent of Jamaicans have dyslexia.

In 2017, the International Dyslexic Association suggested that between five and 10 per cent of the world’s population is dyslexic.

UNDIAGNOSED

Smith said that many cases go undiagnosed.

“It is when some parents find out that their children are not doing what they are supposed to be doing for age and grade that they get an assessment, but most times nobody wants to admit that there is something wrong with the child,” Smith told The Gleaner on Wednesday.

Randolph Lopez School of Hope is the largest and oldest school for children with intellectual disabilities in the English-speaking Caribbean. The majority of its students have been diagnosed with Down syndrome and autism.

Before launching this technology company, Watson worked as a sporting goods and equipment salesman for 17 years at Training Camp, working 9-to-7 each day.

Though the doors to his business at Annette Crescent, St Catherine, opened last February, he has been in operation for three years.

This evening’s storefront grand opening, with Prime Minister Andrew Holness as one of the expected guests, is another huge step on his entrepreneurial journey.

The COVID-19 pandemic, Watson said, has helped to reshape the technology landscape.

“It’s challenging with COVID. We are in difficult times, but I have a lot of hope, and I want to do my best with this company,” he said.

jonielle.daley@gleanerjm.com