Posts Tagged ‘Dyslexia’

Chris Sterry Reblogs Article in Autism Magazine on How American Parents Can Get Help

September 26, 2017

One of the great commenters on this blog, 61chrissterry, also blogs himself about disability issues. Looking briefly at his site just now, I found an article he’d reblogged from Autism Parenting, an American magazine for the parents of children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders. These disorders cover autism, which can vary greatly in terms of severity, and Asperger’s, which is now increasingly seen as simply high-functioning autism. It’s a condition that affects many children. The current policy is to include autistic children, except when severely disabled, in mainstream schools, and teacher training now includes course on special needs children. These include autistic, dyslexic and children with Attention Deficit Disorder. The article in the magazine discusses ways parents can get help. It talks about the social security budget and the available funding for children with autism, and Medicaid. The article is about a course the writer attended in South Carolina.

I don’t know if this will be any help to anyone over the other side of the Pond with an autistic child, or has friends or relatives that do. But I mention it because it might, and it may interest British and European readers, who want to keep informed about what is going on internationally in the way autistic people are being treated by the state.

https://61chrissterry.wordpress.com/2017/09/02/securing-the-future-for-your-child-with-special-needs-autism-parenting-magazine/

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Credo! Pat Mills on 40 Years of Thrillpower!

September 14, 2017

Pat Mills is one of the great creators of the British comics industry. In this video from 2000 AD on YouTube, he talks to host Tony Esmond about his career in the comics industry, politics and his determination to give readers working class heroes. The interview was at the 40 Years of Thrillpower convention earlier this year (2017).

Mills is best known as one of the creative forces who seriously upset the establishment with Action before going on to reoffend with 2000AD. Before then he started off writing for the 1970s children’s comics, like Corr! The experience of writing for them was not happy for him. He states that the people behind them had no particular interest in them and very much had a production-line mentality to their creation. He describes how one writer once asked him how many stories he could write in a day. When he said about one every two or three days, the other writer boasted that he wrote three in a day. And then went on to say, probably quite truthfully, that he was making more money than the prime minister. Mills states that the writers at IPC were able to do this because they wrote very much to a formula. He preferred the stories their competitors at DC Thompson produced. Although their comics were also stuck in the past, the stories were better crafted. He describes one strip about a man going around the country having adventures with a horse. As a concept, he says it wasn’t even at the level of afternoon television. But it was well done. The IPC comics, on the other hand, were soulless. It depressed him so much, that, when he and John Wagner, who also later went on to become one of the founders of 2000AD, were writing in a garden shed, he wrote all his scripts on a roll of wallpaper so they formed a continuous strip and he wouldn’t have to go back and read them all again.

British comics in this period were very much stuck in the past, even as British society changed. This was a time when the German experience of the war was appearing in the books of Sven Hassel, reflected in Action’s strip, Hellmann of Hammer Force. But yet Mills found it impossible to launch a strip whose hero was Black. This was to be a strip about a Black boxer. He was told that it wouldn’t work. People would not accept a Black hero. They’d accept a Black supporting character or friend. But as the central character, never. He also thought of introducing one about a Black football player, and that would have been even more controversial. There was a Black football player in one of the London clubs at the time, and he had been treated with racist abuse from the balconies.

Politics and satire have always been an important element of Mills’ work. He says that at one point he became dissatisfied writing for 2000AD, as the management were trying to shift the comic away from its traditional satirical stance, and this very much went against Mills’ own nature. He and Esmond discuss at one point Mills’ memory that, when they launched 2000AD, the management told him that they should imagine a future that they would actually live in. And now, he states, they’re living in it with Donald Trump’s presidency of the US, which Mills compares to the infamous Judge Cal. Cal was the mad Chief Judge in Judge Dredd, modelled on Caligula, who appointed his pet fish as a judge, called in the alien Kleggs to suppress any opposition in Mega City 1, and had another judge pickled. Perhaps we need to be very glad that NASA hasn’t made contact with intelligent aliens yet.

Mills remarks on how very many of the heroes of British literature, from Sherlock Holmes to John Buchan’s Hannay, have been members of the upper and upper middle classes. There are too many of them, and too few working class heroes. He’s been actively trying to redress this imbalance in his strips. It’s why Marshal Law, in his alter ego, used to be unemployed, but is now a hospital orderly. He’s not even a nurse.

He states that as he grew up in the ’50s and ’60s, he read many the authors that were around then, like Dennis Wheatley and John Buchan, all of whom were members of the upper classes. And with some of them, it was actually quite sinister. Buchan was a major propagandist for the First World War, in return for which he was rewarded with the governorship of Canada. And he did it very well. Later on in the video, in response to a question from the audience he remarks on how there is a very definite campaign in this country to suppress anything with an anti-war message. He was asked what the research was for his story in Charley’s War about the British invasion of Russia in 1918-19. He states that there were only two books he was able to get hold of at the time, but since then he got hold of a very good book, which is a much fuller description. This describes how the British officers sent in to overturn the Russian Revolution behaved like absolute animals. This episode has largely been airbrushed from British history. He contrasts with the British media’s refusal to publicise anti-war stories with that of our cousins across le manche. Attitudes there are much different, and Charley’s War, which ran in Battle and was about the experiences of a working-class Tommy in the First World War, is more popular in France even than Britain. This bias against anti-war stories is why you didn’t see Blackadder Goes Forth repeated in the centenary year of the War’s outbreak.

Mills is also critical of the way the indigenous mythology and legend of the British Isles has been suppressed in favour of myths from further south – Greece and Rome, and ancient Egypt. Mills’ background, like Kevin O’Neill, was Irish, and his family were very patriotic. He grew up knowing all about Michael Collins, and his middle name is Eamon after the first president of Eire, Eamon de Valera. Yet it wasn’t until he started researching the Irish, as well as the Scots and Welsh legends, that he learned about any of those stories, and was shocked. Why didn’t he know about the warpspasm – the ultra-berserker rage that transforms the Celtic hero Slaine as he goes into battle? He also talks about how, in legend, London was founded by the Trojans as New Troy, and briefly mentions his treatment of this in the story he is or was currently writing for the Slaine strip. He states he wanted to produce a barbarian strip that was set in this country, complete with its grey skies and rain.

Mills has a deep admiration for these Celtic legends, but remarks on how they differ considerably from the other mythological tales. They don’t share their structure. If you read the Norse tales or Beowulf, there’s a structure there. But the Irish – which he uses to include also the Scots and Welsh stories – read like they’re on acid. He’s particularly impressed with the Tain, otherwise known as the Tain Bo Cualnge, or in English, The Cattle Raid of Cooley, and recommends the translation by Kinsella. He’s also particularly interested in finding the bits that were suppressed by the Christian clergy who wrote them down in the Middle Ages. He gleefully quotes one clerical writer, who says that the stories contain much that is true, much that is false, some lies, and some devilish invention, and some which is only fit to be read by idiots. Yeah! he shouts, that’s me!

He has the same mischievous joy when telling how he came to be persuaded to write the Invasion strip, in which Britain was invaded by a thinly disguised Soviet Russia. The management asked him if he wanted to write it. He said he couldn’t get up much enthusiasm. They urged him to read Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago. So he worked his way as best he could through that. He still wasn’t enthusiastic. Then they asked him if he’d like to write a scene with Maggie Thatcher being shot by the Russians on the steps of St. Paul’s. His response: Yeahhh!

He also talks about how the brutal education he received at a school run by the De Lazare order inspired him to write the Nemesis the Warlock strip. The Terminators, and to a lesser extent Judge Dredd, were modelled on them. They were fanatical, and were quite sinister. He remarks that if you go on the internet you can find all sorts of tales about them.

He also talks about an abortive crossover story planned for Marshal Law and Batman. Marshal Law was a bitterly satirical, extremely violent and very funny strip published in the 1990s about a superhero in the devastated San Francisco of the early 21st century, who hates other superheroes. The superheroes in the strip were created for a Vietnam-like war in South America, and have come back disillusioned and traumatized by the conflict. As a result, they form violent street gangs, and Marshal Law is recruited by the police to clean them up. It was a very dark comic that relentlessly parodied superhero comics from a left-wing, feminist perspective. When DC announced they wanted to make the crossover, Mills thought that they weren’t really serious. But they were. So he and O’Neill decided that for the cover, they’d have the Marshal standing on a pile of bodies of the different versions of Batman from all across the alternative Earths of the Multiverse. Then DC’s management changed, and their story policy did too, and the idea was dropped.

Mills also discusses the various ways comics have been launched, only to be merged with other comics. With 2000AD the comic was merged with Tornado and then Starlord. It was a very cynical policy, as from the first these comics were intended to fail, but by merging them with 2000AD and other comics, the management presented it as giving their readers something new, even though it wasn’t, and they felt it was an intrusion. He also responds to another question about which comic he felt folded before its time. The obvious answer to this was Action, which upset the establishment so much that it was banned, before being sanitized and relaunched. Mills said that they knew the comic was doomed. The new editor, who was given control of it had previously edited – and this is almost unbelievable – Bobo the Rabbit – and so didn’t know what he was doing. Mills said that before then they had skated over what was just about unacceptable and knew just how far you could go. Because this new editor hadn’t had that experience, he didn’t, and the comic folded.

The comic that he really feels shouldn’t have folded, and could still have carried on today, was Battle. As for which comic he’d now be working on instead of 2000AD, if it had proved more successful, these were the girls’ comics, like Misty. They vastly outsold the boys’ comics, but ultimately folded because ‘the boys took over the sandbox’. The video ends with his answer to the question, ‘What is his favourite strip, that he wrote for?’ He thinks for a moment, before replying Nemesis the Warlock to massive cheering.

It’s a very interesting perspective on the British comics industry by one of its masters. Regarding Slaine, Mills has said before in his introduction to the Titan book, Slaine the King: Special Edition, that the achievements of our ancestors, the Celtic peoples, has been rubbed out of history in favour of the ‘stern but fair proto-Thatcherite Romans, who built the roads and made the chariots run on time’. I think part of the problem is that the legends Mills draws on – that of Gaelic Ireland and Scotland, and Brythonic Wales – are those of the Celtic peoples, who were defeated by the expanding Anglo-Normans, who made a concerted attempt to suppress their culture. As for the very frank admiration for the Romans, that partly comes from the classics-based education offered by the British public schools.

As for the very staid attitude of British comics in the 1970s, this was a problem. It was actually a period of crisis, when many of the comics were folding because they hadn’t moved with the times. Mills’ idea for a strip about a Black boxer is clearly modelled on Mohammed Ali, the great African-American athlete of the ring. Everyone knew Ali, and he was universally admired, even by kids like me, who didn’t understand or know much about the racial politics behind Ali’s superstardom. Ali said that he wanted to give his people a hero.

Even so, the idea of having a sympathetic Black supporting character was an improvement. Roger Sabin, in his book Comics, Comix and Graphic Novels: A History of Comic Art, published by Phaidon, notes just how racist British comics were in the 1960s. This was very controversial, as Black people naturally objected. Sabin cites one strip, in which the White hero uses two racial slurs for Blacks, and another abusive term for Gypsies. And showing the type of strips that appeared in the 1920s, there’s an illustration which shows the Black characters from a strip in one of D.C. Thompson’s comics, either the Dandy or Beano at the time. This was The Colony N*gs. Only they don’t use an asterisk to try to disguise the term.

As for his experiences with the monks running his school, unfortunately he’s not the only one, who suffered in this way. I’ve met a number of former Roman Catholics, who were turned off religion, and in some cases became bitterly against it, because of their experience being taught by monks and nuns. Several of Britain’s most beloved broadcasters from the Emerald Isle were also turned off religion because of this. Dave Allen, who regularly poked fun at religion, and particularly the Roman Catholic church, said that he became an atheist because of the cruelty and the way the priests tried to scare their young charges at his old school. And that mainstay of British radio, Terry Wogan, in a series he presented about Ireland and his life there, said exactly the same about the effect the hard attitude of the teachers at his old Roman Catholic school had on him.

The Roman Catholic church does not have the monopoly on the abuse of children, and I’ve heard some horrifying tales of the brutal behavior of some of the teaching staff – and prefects – in some of the British grammar schools. Dad has told me about the very harsh regime of some of the teachers at his old school – not Roman Catholic – in Somerset. He describes the teachers as sadists, and has a story about how one of the teachers, when one of the boys couldn’t answer a question, threw the lad out of window. Brutality seems to have been built into the British educational system, leaving mental scars and bitter memories.

I’ve very mixed feelings about the British force sent against revolutionary Russia. Perhaps if we’d succeeded, the forty million Soviet citizens butchered by Stalin would have been able to live out their lives, and the peoples of the Russian Federation free of the shadow of the KGB and gulags.

But that’s with hindsight. That’s not why British troops were sent in. The Bolsheviks were anti-democratic and determined to suppress all other parties and factions except their own, even when these were Socialist or anarchist, like the Mensheviks, the Trudoviks, the Socialist Revolutionaries the Left Communists, Anarcho-Communists and syndicalists. But we sent in troops because Britain and the rest of the capitalist world felt threatened by the emergence of a working class, aggressively socialist state. Britain had many commercial contacts with pre-Revolutionary Russia, and Lenin had argued in his pamphlet Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism that global capitalism depended on European imperial expansion. These nations enslaved and exploited developing nations like Russia. A socialist revolution in these countries threatened international capitalism, as it was here that the capitalist system was weakest. Hence the Bolshevik slogan, ‘Smash capitalism at its weakest link!’

Ordinary Russians, let alone the conquered nations of the Russian Empire, were oppressed and exploited. If you want an idea how much, and what ordinary Russians endured and struggled to overthrow, read Lionel Kochan’s book, The Russian Revolution, published by Paladin. This was the grotty system British troops were sent in to restore.

On a more positive note, one member of the audience in the video thanks Mills for encouraging him to read. The man says he was dyslexic, but it was the comics he consumed as a child that got him reading. He is now a teacher, who specializes in helping children with reading difficulties, and uses comics in his teaching.

This is really inspiring. Martin Barks in Comics, Ideology and Power, discusses how comics have always been regarded with suspicion and contempt by the establishment. They were regarded as rubbish, at best. At worst they were seen as positively subversive. I can remember how one of the text books we used in English at school included a piece of journalism roundly condemning comics as rubbish literature with bad artwork. And this was reprinted in the 1980s! My mother, on the other hand, was in favour of comics because they did get children reading, and used to encourage the parents of the children she taught to buy them when they asked her advice on how they could get their children to read if they wouldn’t read books. This shows how far comics have come, so that they are now respectable and admired.

Boycott Workfare’s Day of Action against Jobcentre Bullies

February 22, 2015

Boycott workfare have called for a day of action against jobcentres up and down the country on the 25th. This is in support of an activist with the Scottish Unemployed Workers Network, Tony Cox, who was arrested at Arbroath jobcentre. Cox had accompanied a female claimant, who suffers from severe dyxlexia and reading problems. She was having several severe panic attacks every day caused by the stress of filling five Universal Job Match applications every day. Cox was there to represent her. The jobcentre refused to consider reducing the numbers of applications she should make, and insisted that signing up to UJM is compulsory. It is not. They objected to Cox’s presence, and he was arrested when he left the building.

The article begins

Solidarity with unemployed activist arrested for representing a jobseeker – call out by Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty.

Take part in a day of action at job centres Britain-wide, 25 February 2015.

Scottish Unemployed Workers Network activist Tony Cox was arrested on 29th January after Arbroath Jobcentre management called police to stop him representing a vulnerable jobseeker. We urge you to join a Day of Action on 25th February at Jobcentres round Britain to show your solidarity.

We must fight back against this clear attempt to intimidate claimants and deny us the right to be accompanied and represented. Tony will be in court in Forfar on 25th February facing charges of “threatening behaviour, refusing to give his name and address and resisting arrest”. That same day we call on people to descend on jobcentres round Britain to show their solidarity with Tony and distribute information to claimants urging them to exercise their right to be accompanied and represented at all benefits interviews.

As we face unprecedented sanctions and benefits cuts, it’s more important than ever that we support each other and stand up to the DWP bullies. The Scottish Unemployed Workers Network, Dundee Against Welfare Sanctions and other groups have established a strong presence at the Jobcentres in Dundee and in nearby towns and cities like Arbroath, Perth and Blairgowrie, supporting claimants in opposing sanctions and harassment.”

The article gives details of individual protests in Scotland, and provides links to leaflets that can be given out outside the jobcentres. There is also another link to a petition you can sign. They also urge you to write in support of Mr Cox to Noel Shanahan, the Director of General Operations at the DWP.

This is a major issue. As Mike over at Vox Political and Johnny Void have repeatedly covered in their blogs, there are major issues with privacy and protecting the civil rights of claimants with Universal Job Match. It is not compulsory, and contains any number of defects and flaws. Such as false, spam offers of jobs by agencies seeking to increase their profile on the Net. And also, I think you’re entitled to want to avoid it as it’s IDS vanity project. It’s been set up by the man responsible for 51,200 deaths per year due to his sanctions regime.

And the jobcentres definitely hate anybody coming in to give support to claimants. Before I was effectively thrown off benefit, I used to come in with my mother. The last time I went there, a woman on the ground floor told me that only I could go up to the interviewing area. Mum had to stay downstairs. I really do wonder what they’re afraid of, when they object to the presence of a respectable lady in her mature years.

Their cowards and bullies and definitely need to be tackled.

The Tories’ Cuts to the Disabled Students’ Allowance: Chriswaynepoetry’s Story

May 23, 2014

A few days’ ago I reblogged a piece from Mike over at Vox Political reporting the government’s proposed cuts to the Disabled Students’ Allowance, which helps support disabled people study at university. The government is proposing to reform this, so that only the most severely disabled students would be eligible for the grant. Those with milder disabilities, such as dyslexia, are to be excluded under the proposed new rules. This is another, alarming example of the government’s attacks on the poorest and vulnerable in society, particularly as the amount saved will be virtually negligible. It’s simply another example of Tory spite. Many of Mike’s readers expressed their extremely strong disapproval.

One of those was Sasson Hann, who gave their account of how the grant allowed them to study for and gain a very good degree in music, despite suffering from a severe handicap that later required them to leave work altogether. I took the liberty of posting their account up here, as it was an example of the way the government’s reforms would punish hardworking, creative people like them for absolutely no reason other than that their disability is perceived as making them a financial burden to the state.

Chriswaynepoetry, one of the commenters to this blog, also commented on this post, describing how he had also been helped through uni by the grant. He wrote

I have experience of this as without the grant, I would not have the necessary equipment I need to help me through lectures. Indeed without this allowance I would have had to pay for the test which diagnosed me as dyslexic (which would have cost me £400).

One caveat I would like to add onto that is that while I think the removal of this grant is plainly not right, there is a wider issue with regards to disabled students getting the best education within the school system. This may have changed, but when I was going to school, teachers always used to say to me that though they thought of me as a critical thinker, my written assignments did not articulate what I used to say in class. There may have been teachers who considered me dyslexic then (I was not diagnosed until I was thirty). The problem is, teachers could not tell me if they thought that this was the case, as if I took the test and it shown signs of dyslexia, any assistance would have had to come out of the school’s own fund, not from a specialised grant system for students that the school could apply for.

I am not sure if this is still the case, but if it is, then surely this needs to change.

He’s not alone. I know a number of extremely bright, creative people, who suffered from some form of disability, from dyslexia to very severe handicaps that left them almost totally paralysed. The cuts to their education, which will leave all but the rich unable to afford higher education are a false economy. Despite their handicaps, the disabled people I know were intelligent and talented, and very able to contribute to society. In the case of the physically disabled, the emergence of the ‘knowledge economy’ of IT and related industries has meant that they have been able to excel in careers, which simply did not exist earlier in the last century, where physical strength and performance is not required. Society will most definitely not benefit – indeed will actually be impoverished – by the exclusion of the disabled and their talents from higher education and the opportunities it provides.

Chriswaynepoetry second point is an extremely good one, and probably would not occur to most people, myself included. The government’s policy of making schools individually responsible for their limited budgets in his experience has led to children like himself with dyslexia going undiagnosed because of the extra cost this would place on them. As a result, children’s education is suffering. This clearly needs to be addressed, so that all Britain’s pupils and students can achieve their true potential and have lives enriched by learning.

Education should most definitely not be for the privileged. We are all the poorer when it is.
Which is another example of the effects of the Tory and Tory Democrats’ austerity programme. It’s leaving us poorer both physically and morally, to go with their own moral bankruptcy.

DPAC on Cuts to Disabled Students’ Allowances

May 7, 2014

DPAC on their website have reported that David Willetts, The Conservatives’ minister for universities and science, has announced that they are modernising the Disabled Students Living Allowance. This was set up to give support to the thousands of disabled students who would otherwise be unable to attend university. It has, according to DPAC, given out £125 million of funds to 53,000 students.

Willetts has, however, declared that from now on students with dyslexia and dyspraxia will only receive support ‘where their support needs are considered to be more complex’. In other words, those, who aren’t judged to have such serious needs will be denied support from the fund. Responsibility for providing this instead will fall to the universities. As the report says, the richer universities will be able to afford it, but the poorer will not.

This is absolutely correct. A number of universities are actually contracting or cutting courses after the massive expansion in Higher Education in the 1990s. I was shocked to hear from a fellow volunteer at an event at Bristol City Museum that the University of West of England has cancelled many of the MA courses. And UWE is one of the leading members of the new universities.

DPAC have also noted that the Tories’ excuse for cutting support for the disabled is the usual, tired cliché of ‘concentrating them where they are most needed’. It’s the same excuse they use time and again for the same cuts attacking the poor, the working and lower middle classes, the sick and disabled.

DPAC’s report can be read here: http://dpac.uk.net/2014/05/yet-another-cut/.

One of the points ‘Red’ Ken made in his book, Livingstone’s Labour, is just how far ahead Germany was in providing education, especially in science and engineering in the 19th century. He contrasts this with the attitude of the Tory premier, Lord Salisbury, who sneered at the provision of free primary education as ‘cramming learning into louts’.

The Tories: keeping people poor and ignorant since the 19th century.