Kara Tointon is an actress from the UK who happens to have dyslexia. I didn’t know who she was until I found Don’t Call Me Stupid, but fans of East Enders may recognize her. This documentary is about the ways dyslexia influences Kara’s life.
Like many people, she grew up under false assumptions about dyslexia, namely how it only had an impact on reading and writing. During the course of the documentary, she undergoes an fMRI, reassessment and starts going to a therapist to help change her daily habits.
Don’t Call Me Stupid was one of the first of its kind that I found, but I still remain very fond of it. Kara demonstrated very well how the various mechanisms we come up with to cope with effects of dyslexia can cause much more stress than we really need to go through.
A great example from the documentary is how she memorized lines. Over her time as an actress, she devised a system of reading the lines, then writing them after reading them a minimum of seven times each, and finally, reading over them out loud with her family.
After seeing the therapist, she learned a different method, in which she used body movements and color association to memorize lines. This cut down on memorization time and frustration.
Although the film followed her journey, she also went a specialized school for dyslexics and talked to some of the students there. The two boys she spoke to enjoyed a swift turn around in both their academic and social lives once they were given the accommodations they needed.
The older boy demonstrated just how devastating unidentified dyslexia can be. At the age of seven, he was suicidal, thanks to how terribly he was treated by everyone and the fact he couldn’t figure out why he was struggling so badly. His dyslexia was discovered, and he was transferred to the new school shortly before the film was made.
She also talked to a man in his 20s who wasn’t identified until well after he left school. He was severely dyslexic and was completely unable to read or write because of it. It was only after he had been arrested a few times that a parole officer caught on and sent him for testing.
He admitted that his choices hadn’t all been because of his dyslexia, but the fact that he hadn’t been able to learn how to read early on is what guided him towards that desperate place. If you stop to think about how much reading we all do on a daily basis, this makes sense. Even minimum wage jobs require some degree of literacy.
There were, however, two things that I really disliked about the documentary.
The first is how the writers constantly referred to dyslexia as a “condition”. That word rubs me the wrong way because it implies that dyslexia is actually an illness. Although it may occur in a minority of people, that doesn’t mean we’re sick because of it.
The second was the sound track. The music just annoyed me. Of course, that’s more a matter of taste than anything else.
I could only find this documentary on youtube, but you may be able to get ahold of the DVD through the BBC or your local library.