Ricardo Brown: Dyslexia overcomer, now mentor
Today, Ricardo Brown is a graduate of the College of Agriculture, Science and Education and now works as a specialist teacher at the Bustamante High School, focusing on agriculture and integrated science.
However, he has had to beat the odds to get to where he is now. From as far back as basic school, he can recall his grandmother, Phyllis Smith, commenting that he was slow, but still expressing pride in him.
“My relatives and teacher had to rest their hands over mine to help me to form and write the letters of the alphabet ... . My basic-school teacher expressed that I was very slow in writing, and even at grades two in the primary school the same feedback was given to my mom, Dorothy Hall,” he shared.
Brown said it was in grade two when he realised that he had a challenge pronouncing words. He said even though he was taught phonics, he couldn’t at the time break words into syllables. That, he shared, earned him a good whipping from his teacher for not being able to pronounce them.
Things changed for him in the fourth grade as his teacher, Mrs Roache, made a big impact on his life, he said, noting that he was able to skip grade five because of her interventions. However, he started to realise something was off when he performed poorly in spelling as, he said, if he did not ‘see’ the words in his mind, he could not spell them.
DIAGNOSING THE DISORDER
It wasn’t until he finished college, worked at Longville Park Farms for more than 13 years, then went on to work as an agricultural instructor at Ebony Park HEART Academy in Toll Gate, Clarendon, that he discovered that he had a disorder.
“I was researching learning style disorders to impact the students’ training, when I realised that everything I saw about dyslexia spoke to my issues then and now,” he told The Gleaner.
He said he would normally ask his students to recheck his spelling in class. He noted that one day he misspelled a word and his student pointed it out.
“The student said, ‘Sir, are you dyslexic? because I am dyslexic and you behave that way,’” Brown shared.
Back in the day, Brown said he had never heard the expression before, never knew he had it, as he always found a way to master his schoolwork and stay on top of his grades, even when he wondered why it was so difficult. He thanked God for the teachers who went out of their way to assist him and today, he gives back by being a positive influence in the lives of students and young people who need it.
It is for that reason that he is now a trained community facilitator with the Children First Agency under the Spotlight Initiative, which seeks to end family- and gender-based violence against women and girls.
Brown also offers his services to mentorship programmes Empowered to Soar Mentorship and the recently formed Men’s Action Committee for Clarendon, which aims to provide support for men in the parish.
HELP FOR PARENTS
He is also taking the opportunity to reach out to parents, as he wants to prevent them from making the same mistakes others did in not helping their children the way they should.
“Parents make the mistake of calling their children ‘slow’, ‘dunce’, ‘pretty dunce’, ‘lazy’ and ‘stupid’. What they need to realise is that dyslexia is a gift, and the best thing you can do for your child when you suspect a reading, writing, a learning challenge [is to] get him/her assessed. It is best to be in the know. It will boost the child’s self-confidence, because one of the negatives of the condition is low self-esteem, which I have struggled with for years,” he highlights.
Pointing out that most teachers are equipped with the skills to recognise that they may be a challenge, he said enough is not being done to ensure that these children are assessed and strategies designed to reach them.
He said he has come across high-school students who cannot spell their names, a situation that brought tears to his eyes.
It was this shortcoming, which he did not understand at the time, that led him into teaching agriculture, as former church sister Melisa Allen-Morgan (now deceased), convinced him to try working as an agricultural instructor after he confessed to her that he would not teach because of his fear of the English language.
“She said that you are not going to teach English but agriculture. I reluctantly applied and was successful. I taught for over four years and worked as the farm supervisor for the remaining period. I had serious issues in lesson planning and writing, not that I did not understand the concept, but feared writing and being evaluated, and being told you have not reached the mark,” he shared.
Today, Brown still has challenges, but now that he is aware of what he is dealing with, he fights harder and develop new ways of learning.